Aw, c’mon who among us is so cynical as to not secretly enjoy the idea of a castle, even if it is only a rich man’s evocation of medieval glory?
Remember Edward Francis Searles, the aesthetically inclined bachelor decorator who married his richest client, the much older widow of railroad tycoon Mark Hopkins, and embarked on one of the biggest residential building sprees this side of the Vanderbilts, becoming one of the most prolific–and manic—mansion builders of the Gilded Age? We covered Kellogg Terrace, his Great Barrington Massachusetts, estate here
, and Pine Lodge, his Metheun, Mass, estate here.
Mr. Searles and Mother on the colonnade at Pine Lodge.
Gothicist architect Henry Vaughan, primarily an ecclesiastical designer, was Mr. Searles’ architect of choice. In addition to Pine Lodge, Vaughan designed three other residences and a host of public buildings paid for Mr. Searles. Herewith are three more of Mr. Searles’ fantastical creations
‘Dream House’, the Searles summer cottage on Block Island, after devastation by hurricane and subsequent abandonment. Missing in this photo is a domed cupola, destroyed by lightening, that crowned the center portion. Dream house was planned as two mirror image apartments flanking a great hall, separate quarters for Mr. & Mrs. Searles
The bath house on the beach at Dream House, a miniature version of the main house.
The first carillon tower at Pine Lodge. When the spread of wings from Mr. Searles endless remodelings subsumed this formerly free standing structure, Mr. Searles had a new and massive stone carillon tower built on another part of the property to replace it. Photos of both may be seen in the Pine Lodge post here
Although there were extensive service buildings including farm structures, on the Pine Lodge estate, in 1904 Mr. Searles bought land a few miles away in the neighboring town of Salem, New Hampshire, where he built Stillwater Manor, a gentleman’s farm more Marie Antoinette at le Hameau than Old MacDonald, replete with ornamental dairy, henhouses and stables, landscaped with ornamental ponds, and surrounded by another of Mr. Searles’ signature high stone walls, complete with Tudor gate houses. It was rumored that the walls of his Pine Lodge and Stillwater estates once joined, spanning a distance of seven miles. This is urban legend, although the two estates do encompass over two miles of these turreted and castellated walls.
The main house at Stillwater Manor, the simplest of Mr. Searles’ six houses.
A view of outbuildings on the Stillwater estate
A barn at Stillwater Manor
In 1915, to escape Massachusetts taxes, Mr. Searles embarked on his last residential building project, a few miles up the road from Stillwater Manor, in Windham New Hampshire. Having already essayed the Loire Valley at Kellogg Terrace, a range of English Historical Styles from Gothic and Tudor and Jacobean and Burlingtonian Palladian at Pine Lodge, Elizabethan at Stillwater Manor, he now tried out the Scottish Highlands for this house, which he named Stanton Harcourt, for an English estate that he hopefully considered an ancestral seat. Once again Henry Vaughan was the architect. For this project, a quarries in Pelham New Hampshire were purchased to provide the granite and red sandstone that make up the walls and trim. As with Mr. Searles’s other properties, Stanton Harcourt was inherited by his male secretary Arthur Walker, then his heirs and a succession of owners, eventually being purchased by the Sisters of Mercy, who erected the usual yellow brick box in the grounds.
One of the entrance gates to Stanton Harcourt
At another gate, the ubiquitous yellow brick building put up in the sixties by the nuns. Apparently the church gets a discount on yellow brick.
The estate roads wind through an English inspired landscape park, with bridges and ponds and follies along the way. The drive then passes through a pine forest…
…eventually winding uphill beneath the castle complex…
…through the first gatehouse…
…to the second, inner, gatehouse…
…through which can be glimpsed the castle ‘keep’..
An aerial view of the castle. Click pictures to enlarge
The hall features a mantel salvaged from the ruins of the Tuileries palace
The leaded windows in the solarium, complete with modern department store furnishings. Mr. Searles would roll in his grave
At one corner of the Stanton Harcourt property was the neighborhood school. To complete his grounds, Mr. Searles negotiated a deal for the land in return for which he would build a new school across the street, also designed by Vaughan.
Stanton Harcourt has a place as a footnote in American fiction. In 1956, a housewife from nearby Gilmanton, Grace Metalious, wrote a novel that became synonmous with small town scandal and secrets, using Searles Castle as the model for the home of the richest and meanest man in town, Samuel Peyton of Peyton Place.
Today the castle is leased by the Sisters of Mercy to an events company, and is the setting for weddings and corporate events.