Imagination brought to life
By nancy hill
9 Jul 2011
I recently had the good fortune to visit a castle that a man with an incredible imagination built out of concrete. No two rooms are on the same level. Narrow stairways lead from one room to the next, and huge windows frame the beautiful grounds on the other side of the castle's walls. The man—Henry Chapman Mercer—lined his castle walls, stairways, and ceilings with countless tiles he designed himself. The tiles are arranged to tell both mythological and historical stories.
Entering what was once Mercer's private residence, I felt I was entering an imagination that had sprung into being. Everywhere I turned, I saw evidence of whimsy, curiosity, and a staggering appreciation of life. It was as if Mercer's head, his heart, his soul had materialized into a three-dimensional reality.
This castle is only one of three concrete structures he built nearly 100 years ago using only a small crew of laborers. One of his two other buildings is a museum full of tools, utensils, iron doors from old stoves, musical instruments, and numerous other items that captured his attention. The third of his buildings is a factory he designed and built to manufacture tiles. (The photo of the music room in this essay is actually in the museum, not the castle.)