New York Castles: Proof That Dynasty Didn’t Die With Democracy
By Susan Sims
Published February 7, 2015
Updated May 4, 2021
Local entrepreneurial families, including the Duponts, Rockefellers, and Goulds, built castles that are monolithic representations of America's redefined royalty.
If you want proof as to how much Americans still love European architecture, just visit some New York Castles. As beautiful as they are to look at, their histories are often more riveting than the structures themselves.
The best part? No need to time travel back to medieval Europe! Unique and noble castles exist all over the United States, and you’ll find some of the most breathtaking examples right here in the Empire State.
Most of these castles are open to the public. Whether it’s for a day trip or a whole weekend getaway, a visit to one or more of these places won’t disappoint.
However, if you live outside the area, like most of us do, don’t fret. Here are ten of New York’s most resplendent castles, and their storied histories, in a nutshell.
And if you liked this post, be sure to check out these popular posts:
1 of 31
Huntington's Oheka Castle is a French Chateau style castle on a massive 443-acre plot.
2 of 31
The sprawling mansion sits atop the the highest point on Long Island — in Cold Spring Harbor. Grace Ormonde
3 of 31
The castle was constructed between 1909 and 1914, and has 127 rooms. It cost an estimated $11 million ($158 million in today’s currency) to build. Fast Business Lifestyle
4 of 31
In 1934, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller reconstructed his own Game of Thrones set in Fort Tryon Park. The Cloisters contains pieces from five separate European abbeys shipped to the United States, which he integrated with other buildings to create his own castle.Metropolitan Museum
5 of 31
The cloistered gardens were constructed around medieval horticultural knowledge, and feature herbs used at the time. Wikimedia
6 of 31
The resulting home is now an extensive collection of Medieval European art and artifacts belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pompei Hotels
7 of 31
Wings Castle is a live-in art project still under construction by owners Peter and Toni Ann Wing. Colorado Explorers
8 of 31
The castle is fit for a king but made with a pauper’s mindset. Approximately 80% of the building is made from recycled and repurposed materials. The Other Hudson Valley
9 of 31
Nestled in Millbrook, the castle doubles as a bed and breakfast, offering visitors rooms to act out their own Lord of the Rings fantasies. Note that this is an adult getaway spot — no kids or pets allowed.Wings Castle
10 of 31
Boldt Castle rises over the aptly named Heart Island, which lies in the Thousand Islands region on the Saint Lawrence River. Love These Pics
11 of 31
Built by George Boldt, the general manager of the opulent Waldorf-Astoria, it wasn’t a testament to money, but love. Blogspot
12 of 31
Boldt commissioned the six-story castle’s construction for his wife in 1900, but everything came to a screeching halt when she unexpectedly died just before the Valentine's Day reveal. Love These Pics
13 of 31
Singer Castle sits on Dark Island, located on the Saint Lawrence River. Frederick Bourne commissioned his castle home in 1905.Wikimedia
14 of 31
Bourne was a self-made millionaire from his success at the Singer sewing company when he asked renowned architect Ernest Flagg to design the castle.
15 of 31
Flagg created an imposing structure that watches over the St. Lawrence River like a fortress — an impressive visual for a loving family home, occupied by the Bourne family for many years. Info Barrel
16 of 31
Once the home of the Hudson Valley landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, the Olana mansion served as his source of inspiration.Wikimedia
17 of 31
The castle overlooks a working farm and has tremendous views of the Catskills and the Taconic Range. Wikimedia
18 of 31
The unique castle was inspired by a fortress treasure house in Armenia, combing features of Moorish, Persian and Victorian architecture. The New York State Office of Parks currently manages the castle that’s also a residence, studio and estate complex. Wikimedia
19 of 31
In Beacon, New York looms the imposing Bannerman Arsenal, built by arms dealer Frank Bannerman in 1908. Wikimedia
20 of 31
Bannerman designed trails and gardens on the island, along with a residence and multiple other buildings. The island was transferred to the state of New York in 1967.Headfirst Adventures
21 of 31
In 1920, two tons of explosives blew up part of the castle. Then in 1950, a cargo ship crashed on the shore, causing more damage. Native Americans in the area believe the island is inhabited by hostile spirits. Blog CDN
22 of 31
Financier Howard Gould, son of the hated railroad tycoon Jay Gould, commissioned his castle built on Sands Point, in 1902 as a replica of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. Wikimedia
23 of 31
Gould's wife, stage actress Katherine Clemmons, didn't like the castle. Gould then added the Hempstead House for her. The Sands Point Preserve
24 of 31
A decade later, Gould accused his wife of improper contact with the famed showman Buffalo Bill Cody. (The two had worked together and had a prior history.) Alas, the Gould's divorced, and the estate was eventually sold to the Guggenheims. News Day
25 of 31
Newspaper editor and author Whitelaw Reid had the epic Reid castle built in 1892, with landscaping done by none other than the Central Park landscape artist, Frederick Law Olmsted.The Writer's Loop
26 of 31
The gardens are decorated with trees imported from France and England, while he halls are decorated with items acquired when Reid served as ambassador to both beforementioned countries. Wikimedia
27 of 31
Eventually, the castle was bought by Manhattanville College, when it moved from Manhattan to Purchase in 1952. Art Stor
28 of 31
Belvedere castle was originally built as a folly in 1872, with no real purpose other than being a lookout tower to Central Park. 'The Belvedere' means beautiful view in Italian.Wikimedia
29 of 31
The U.S. Weather Bureau made it a weather station in 1919; adding doors and offices. Temperature, wind, and rainfall are still measured here with remaining outdoor equipment.NYC Architecture
30 of 31
Today, the castle belongs to the Central Park Conservancy and is host to nature programs, serving a more important purpose than just a visual one. Central Park
New York Castles: Proof That Dynasty Didn’t Die With Democracy
History Of New York Castles
As history books so often explain, the United States is the product of a relentless desire for self-governance and a retreat from the European monarchy. Yet, new concentrations of dynastic power would soon emerge in the U.S. — generating much of the nation's wealth (and absorbing most of its resources and influence).
Business tycoons started erecting their own versions of European-style castles in the United States during the Industrial Revolution. This time in history bolstered the wealth of already prosperous people. Their new castles displayed wealth, importance, and circumstance.
Appropriately, no state in the U.S. has as many impressive tributes to the architectural genre as the Empire State. Local entrepreneurial families, including the Duponts, Rockefellers, and Goulds, built castles that are monolithic representations of America's redefined royalty.
Visiting these grand castles, you get to immerse yourself in a different time and place. Back when 'old money' was still new. When the well-off were literally building their empires from stone and mortar.
From the bustling city to picaresque islands, even into the rural mountains — New York castles appear almost everywhere. That is if you know where to look. A few are tucked away on a small upstate region called the Thousand Islands region. In its day, this isle was a playground for the famous and wealthy.
The Hudson River and highlands also host a fair number of castles. It's also regarded for its historic vineyards and orchards. Is there a better setting for a large chateau than one overlooking sprawling acres of fertile farmland?
There are many, many examples of wonderful old architecture in the state, but some of these structures rise above the rest.
New York's Standout Castles
Oheka Castle in Huntington is the second largest residence in the U.S. at 109,000 square feet. You may recognize it as Xanadu in the opening montage of the film Citizen Kane. The Cloisters, constructed by John D. Rockefeller, is now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval Europe. Wings Castle is a unique and rustic bed and breakfast in Millbrook. What makes it special is that it's made from 80% recycled or repurposed materials.
Boldt Castle may take the award for most tragic; George Boldt built it as a Valentine's gift to his beloved wife. Unfortunately, something unexpected happened before the big reveal. Singer Castle was the home of the sewing company president, and its location on the border boasts a Canadian sunset and an American Sunrise. The gorgeous Olana Mansion was the vision of famed Hudson Valley landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church.
Bannerman Castle in Beacon looms as an imposing fortress that was once a giant military surplus storage unit. Castle Gould in Sands Point is a striking replica of Ireland's Kilkenny Castle, and the lady of this house had a questionable relationship with Buffalo Bill.
The owner of the New York Tribune, Whitelaw Reid rebuilt the stately Reid Castle in Purchase, New York after an unfortunate fire. Lastly, Belvedere Castle was erected to solely be a façade with no other purpose than to be a pretty lookout spot. Now, it's so much more.
The stories behind these New York castles make for some fascinating historic reading — even if you can't visit.