Monday, August 03, 2009

Medieval castles in the United States

The NPR radio show All Things Considered recently had a feature report on castles in the United States:

A couple of weeks ago, The Miami Herald ran a photo of a fire. The location, according to the caption, was an abandoned medieval castle built in 1925 in Miami Beach, Florida.

Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered, has been struck by references like this, to America's imaginary medieval period, ever since his parents took him to see Gillette Castle in Connecticut, a concoction of glittering fieldstone and a Gothic theatrical imagination.

Siegel set out to explore what in the American psyche inspires people to desire their very own castle.

The builder of the Connecticut castle Siegel saw in his childhood was William Gillette, the fabled stage actor who got rich playing Sherlock Holmes. Gillette died childless in 1937 and left a will that said this about the castle and its grounds:

I would consider it more than unfortunate if it should be in the possession of some blithering saphead who had no conception of where he is or with what surrounded."

This sort of eccentric will may not be all that surprising for a man who built himself a castle. Ultimately, Gillette's castle was turned into a state park.

Castles — not the brick waterworks that look like castles, or the armories, or the hamburger chains, but the real, purpose-built, latter-day fortress just down the road from the strip mall — are scattered all around the United States.

Click here to listen to the report

Click here to read the NPR website article: When a Man's Home Really is His Castle