When I was a boy, my parents took me to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  It is a fabulous castle structure made entirely of reinforced concrete.  It was designed and built by Henry Chapman Mercer.  He was an archaeologist from Bucks County, PA.

Exterior of the Mercer Museum

Exterior of the Mercer Museum. Photo by Jeffrey Totaro.

He decided to restore a colonial barn on the family farm.  He was lacking sufficient metalware to complete the restoration, so he went to his neighbors to search for authentic, handcrafted, iron hinges and latches.  His neighbors all had the same response, which was to search their barns and he was welcome to what he found.  In doing so, he found old tools that he did not know the purpose for.  Seeing that his own culture was being lost, he switched his archaeological work from Prehistoric Culture to American tools about 1900.

Central Court in the Mercer Museum

Central Court in the Mercer Museum. Photo by Carla Klouda.

He amassed the first major collection of American tools, inspiring both Henry Ford to build Greenfield Village in Michigan, and Electra Havemeyer Webb to build the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.  No museum was fireproof enough to house his collection, so he built one of concrete.

Not content with just the first effort, he then built a tile factory in the form of a Spanish Mission, to produce art tiles.  He was part of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early twentieth century.

He then went on to build the gem of his architectural efforts, another castle, his home Fonthill. This last structure seems to have rooms and spaces carved from stone, rather than formed and poured from concrete. Rooms are not just on different floors, but are on many levels, seemingly placed at will within the structure.

Exterior of Fonthill Castle. By 2daysphotos.com.

Exterior of Fonthill Castle. Photo by 2daysphotos.com.

Here in Northern New Hampshire, an all concrete structure would not be thermally efficient, so Tarleton Castle is a wood post and beam structure.  It is being clad with traditional stucco, a lime plaster.  This is not the Portland cement structure of today, but what has been used for thousands of years.

I hope that this new structure will in turn inspire others to act on their ideas and make art and objects that inspire still more.

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