Virginia March 25, 2015
Most People Don’t Know These 9 Castles Are Hiding In Virginia
Perhaps it’s because Virginia’s history was so tied to the Old World England, that when we got our independence from King George, we rejected the palace fortresses and stone compounds so common in Europe. Instead, Virginia adopted her own architecture, moving away from Georgian influences and opting for structures of wood and local stone that blended more aesthetically with the geography of the New World.
But for some Virginia residents, the romance and intrigue of a real-deal castle, complete with turrets and towers was just too much to resist. And who can blame them? These 9 gems in Virginia range from historical landmarks to modern-day medieval and are used for everything from offices to residential homes. But regardless of their current purpose, they are all full of romance, mystery and lofty ambitions – just like castles should be.
Melrose Castle, Fauquier County, Virginia
Built c.1853 by Scottish brothers, James and Edward Murray, Melrose castle was named after Melrose Abbey and served as both a Confederate hospital and a Union Army camp during the Civil War. This real-life castle comes complete with a three-story tower, parapets and a spiral staircase leading to the roof. The home cycled through a number of owners until it went into foreclosure in 2013. Sorry to say for all of you who dream of owning your own castle, you missed your chance when the house sold again later that year – at a discount, no less. I guess for some people, fairytales do come true.
Bacon's Castle, Surrey, Virginia
Built in 1665 by the Allen family, Bacon’s Castle has more than one claim to fame. Not only is it the oldest remaining brick home in the United States, but like any good castle, it comes with some political intrigue. The castle was given its name in 1676 when supporters of Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of Bacon’s rebellion, drove the colonialist Allens from their home. Fortunately, they returned and the home remained in the family until 1844. The castle is now held by Preservation Virginia and is open to the public.
Pratt Castle, Richmond, Virginia
Although this architectural beauty was demolished sometime between 1958 and 1962, it was one of the most remarkable – and remarked upon – houses in Richmond. Built in 1854 by William Pratt, the house survived multiple fires, the Civil War and more than 100 years of use before it was torn down to make room for office buildings. But legends remain and history books record that Pratt’s Castle was full of mysterious passages, hidden tunnels, secret staircases and even a concealed room where observers could watch others through the eyes of a painting. Now if that’s not straight-up creepy castle goodness – I don’t know what is. Pratt's Castle shows the value of efforts to preserve our historical monuments - it's a shame we lost this one.
Maymont, Richmond, Virginia
Also known as “Maymont Mansion” or “The Dooley House”, this 12,000 square foot castle was built by James Dooley in 1893 on 100 acres of farmland overlooking the James River during what was known as the “Gilded Age” of Richmond. He named the house after his wife, Sally May, and together they lived there for 32 years. When Sally died in 1925, she gave the house and land to the city where it is now one of the most treasured parks and historical museums in Richmond. The house and park are open to the public and show a near-perfect preservation of Victorian elegance.
Bull Run Castle, Loudon County, Virginia
They say a man’s home is his castle – but for John Miller, a castle is his home. Tired of working for others, John Miller quit his job in 1986 and set about livin’ the dream – and that meant building his very own castle/antique store/bed-and-breakfast combo right off Route 15 in Loudon County. Miller has since sold the property and it is closed to the public. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look – and lucky for you, it can be seen from the road. Trust me, it may not be Windsor Castle, but it definitely provides a distraction from the afternoon commute.
Burruss Hall, Blacksburg, Virginia
Ok, maybe I’m cheating a little bit here, because this isn’t TECHNICALLY a castle. But you have to admit, it’s pretty amazing. Burruss Hall serves as the administration building for Virginia Tech and houses several academic departments, as well as a 3,000+ seat auditorium Completed in 1936, the hall was named after then President of Virginia Tech, Julian Burruss. I think all you Hokies out there can agree with me, it’s an auspicious sight and one that never gets old.
Virginia House, Richmond, Virginia
This castle-like home was designed and built in 1925 by Alexander and Virginia Weddell using material from a 16th-century English Manor house that had been deconstructed and shipped to Richmond. But before you go on Amazon for your own mail-order castle, keep in mind that the Virginia House took nearly 4 years to build and cost close to $250,000 – a hefty price tag back in the day. The house is now run by the Virginia Historical Society and is open for tours and special events.
Old City Hall, Richmond, Virginia
No, the word “castle” is not in this building’s name. But that’s a castle if I’ve ever seen one. And like most historical castles, Old City Hall in Richmond served as a place where politics played out, serving as the city seat from 1894 until the 1970’s. Built from local granite, the Hall features an atrium, arched cloisters, a grand staircase and a stunning clock tower – I guess bell towers were out of fashion by then. Shame, really.
Pythian Castle, Norfolk, Virginia
What could be more appropriate for the Knights of Pythias than a castle? Built c. 1898 to house the fraternal order of Pythias in Norfolk, Virginia, the building was sold in 1979, but added to the National Register of Historic Places a year later. Apparently, the first floor is now a pub. Drinks in a castle? Yes, please.
When we think of castles, we think of kings and queens, knights and ladies, and most definitely shadowy dungeons and murky moats. But castles come in all shapes and sizes – and while these 9 castles in Virginia may not have fair maidens trapped in towers or dragons guarding a treasure, what they do have is character and no shortage of their own Virginia flair. Please remember that some of these castles are private home and should be respected as such, but for those that are open to the public, few things could be more fun than walking through a bit of history and old world style. Just don’t forget to pack your tiara.