- Life and
- Tourism & travel
★★★ About-the-USA.com ★★★
forts and castles in the USA
America and Europe
Think of castles and forts, and you
probably conjure up images of historic buildings in Europe. But America
has history and a historic heritage too, and – some people may be
surprised to hear – this includes historic fortresses and sumptuous
castles too as well as native American heritage sites
To put things in perspective, while many
of the great castles and fortresses in Europe date from the Middle
Ages, before the "discovery" of America, a good number of
Europe's emblematic castles and military forts date from, or
have been substantially rebuilt over, the past three centuries.
Germany's iconic Neuschwanstein castle
the inspiration for the
Sleeping Beauty Castle
was only built between 1869 and 1880, just thirty years after
Portugal's iconic Sintra Palace in the Lisbon area.
. Even England's Windsor
reputed to be the oldest inhabited castle in the
considerably rebuilt in the early 19th century.
One of the most visited castles in the
West of England, Castle Drogo
Devon, was actually designed by the
architect Lutyens and built between 1911 and 1930, a period of much
revivalist castle building in the USA.
As for military fortresses, they
continued to be built in Europe right on up into the twentieth century.
However there was a big difference between Europe and the USA in this
matter. Most places in Europe that required some kind of defensive
had had one since the Middle Ages or even longer. In the USA, this was
not the case.
Over the past 350 years, hundreds of
forts and castles have been built in what today is the USA. Some had a
military function, others were private residences. Many have
disappeared, but others survive, in public or private hands.
About-the-USA.com has picked out some of
the most historic, most interesting, and most significant of these.
1. The greatest historic fortresses
Most of the strategic or
defensive fortresses in North America date from
when the most powerful European nations, Spain, France and
juggling for influence and territory in the New World.
century Spanish fort in St.Augustine Florida
most impressive of all fortresses, actually a complete walled city (and
the only one of its kind in North America) is in Canada, and is Quebec City.
In the USA, the finest
historic military fortresses are:
Castillo de San Marcos
Saint Augustine, Florida.1672 - 1695. Built by
the Spanish, this is the oldest military building
in the USA. It is a
National Monument and open for visits.
Niagara, with historic reenactment
Fort Niagara, on
of Lake Ontario, New York. The current "French Castle" was
between 1726 and 1755 on the site of an earlier defensive position.
Four later it was taken over by the British, who kept it as an outpost
of Canada until 1796, when it was handed over to the United States. It
is a fine example of French military architecture of the time. It
is run by a not-for-profit association and is open for visits.
New York - 1755 - 1757. This is another substantantial
example of 18th century French military architecture, in upstate
New York, between Lake Champlain and Lake George. Originally
called Fort Carillon, it later fell into disrepair, but was restored
in the early 20th century.
It is run by a
not-for-profit association and is open for visits.
Baltimore 1798. Built by the new United States to the design of a
French military architect, this fort was there to control access to
Baltimore harbor, and prevent attack from the sea. It is a National
Monument, and is open for visits.
Fort Alamo, San
Antonio, Texas. The fort was first built as a Spanish Mission. After
the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, it was turned into a barracks and
fortified. It is the site of one of the bloodiest international battles
on US soil, between Texian defenders and the Mexican army. It is now
classed as a UNESCO
World Heritage Site, and is open for visits.
near Savannah, Georgia. This American fort was built starting 1829 as
part of the United States' Atlantic coast defenses. It was later the
scene of a siege during the American Civil War . After capturing the
fort from the Confederates, the Union army was then able to block
access to the port of Savannah, stopping supplies to the Confederate
army. It is a National
Monument, and is open for visits.
American castles and châteaux
Biltmore, North Carolina
A castle does not have to have been built in the Middle Ages. Most of
the "castles" and chateaux to be found in the USA are less
than 250 years old, and are similar in concept to castles built in
Europe at the same time, often extravagant homes, pastiches
the great castles of the past. Some however stand out as interesting
and original buildings in their own right. Here is a selection of the
This is as close that you can get to visiting a French Renaissance
in North America. The grand house was built in the late nineteenth
century for the ultra-rich Vanderbilt family, in the style of the
châteaux of the Loire Valley; and though it was built three centuries
after the French originals, it is faithfully in their spirit. It is
still owned by a
Vanderbilt family company, and is open to the public.
Napa Valley, California (photo
top of page
) can best be described -
like the castle at
Guédelon in France - as a modern medieval castle. It was completed in
2007 by owner Dario Sattui, whose dream was to recreate an Italian
winery in California, complete with medieval Italian castle.
castle was hand built by craftsmen using local stone and antique bricks
imported from Europe. Among its 107 rooms is a great hall with a 500
year-old Umbrian fireplace, and wall paintings by Italian
artists; and underneath the castle are some of the largest
vaulted wine cellars in North America. Privately run - open for visits
and wine tours.
A bit older, and also in California, Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, was
completed in 1947 by media mogul William Randolph Hearst.
had brought back from Europe a large number of architectural antiques,
including whole buildings, which were incorporated by Hearst's
architect Julia Morgan. The overall style is Southern Spanish
Renaissance, and the castle itself is as much a village as a castle.
Today it belongs to the
State of California, and is open for visits.
Estate . Wilmington, Delaware. Another "French"
chateau, built for a
family, the DuPonts of the chemical corporation, whose ancestors came
from Nemours, south of Paris. Effectively it is a French 19th century
chateau designed by Paris-trained American "beaux-arts" architects
Carrère and Hastings. The estate is
run by the Nemours Foundation, and
is open to visitors.
New York. The third-largest home in the USA, this 127-room chateau
dates from the early twentieth century, and is now a luxury hotel. Its
concrete and steel structure is fireproof. Architecturally it
faithfully resembles a French eighteenth-century chateau, complete with
a sunken French garden.
Private hotel, open for visits. Book hotel room
Château Laroche -
Loveland Castle, Ohio. This is a very fake and quirky,
but somehow convincing, stone and brick fortified medieval castle that
built in the mid twentieth century by a rather eccentric medievalist
called Harry Andrews. It
is now open as a not-for-profit museum.
- Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Currently
undergoing restoration. Designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, this
lavish 110-room Neoclassical Revival mansion
was built at the end of the 19th century for industrialist Peter
Widener. It once housed a magnificent collection of old master
paintings. After decades of slow decline, it was bought in 2023 by a
For more background to the USA.....
Book / ebook
Background to modern America
people, places and
that have played a significant role in the shaping of modern
America. A C1-level Advanced English reader for speakers of other
languages, and anyone wanting to learn some of the background
today's USA. Twenty-two texts, with vocabulary guides and
For California, discover About-California.com
, a short