Fonthill, Concrete Castle Home
The thought of living in a castle appealed to Henry Mercer. So when his rich aunt died in 1905 and left him money, he built one for himself. She didn't leave him that much money, so he built it out of concrete.
Mercer was a bachelor, had no architectural training, and he made up his castle-home, which he named Fonthill, as he went along. Its interior twists and turns, up and down, like a labyrinth, with 10 bathrooms, 18 fireplaces, 21 chimneys, and "at least" 32 sets of stairs, according to site manager Ed Reidell. "When I lead a tour, I tell everyone, 'Don't leave the tour! You could end up in ten different places.'"
Mercer earned money by making decorative -- sometimes ghoulish -- tiles. He had his best examples mortared into Fonthill's concrete walls and ceilings. Wealthy customers would get personal tours of the house, since Mercer hoped that someday they, too, would want to live in concrete castle-homes lined with his tiles. "The idea never caught on," said Ed.
(Mercer eventually used what he learned from building Fonthill to build his massive Mercer Museum).
Highlights of the house tour include a claustrophobic spiral staircase to one of its towers (named for one of Mercer's cherished dogs), lots of strange tiles, and a human skull given to Mercer by his sister "to remind him that time is short, be productive," according to Ed.
Time ran out for Mercer in 1930. His death bed is part of the tour, but he is not entombed in his castle walls. "He would have thought that would have been weird," said Ed.