10 Enchanting New York Castles Built By 20th-Century American Royalty

Published June 14, 2021
Updated June 17, 2021

From the fortress of an eccentric sewing machine magnate to the lavish palace of love built by a wealthy hotelier, these castles in New York are an homage to the golden age of American industrialism.

Aerial Oheka Castle
Oheka Gardens
New York Castles
The Cloisters Tower
10 Enchanting New York Castles Built By 20th-Century American Royalty
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Each of these New York castles towers over their territories like relics from medieval Europe.

But as beautiful as these New York castles are to look at, their storied histories might be even more riveting than the structures themselves. From Oheka Castle, the second largest residence in the U.S. that starred in the film Citizen Kane, to Wings Castle, the rustic palace made from 80 percent recycled or repurposed materials, these hallowed halls are sure to amaze.

Most of these castles are open to the public, but if traveling to the Empire State isn't an option, then discover ten of the most resplendent New York castles here.

The History Of New York Castles

Oheka Castle

Wikimedia CommonsThe sprawling grounds of Oheka Castle.

Even though the United States was the product of a relentless desire to shirk European monarchies in favor of self-governance, new concentrations of dynastic power would soon emerge there. In the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, much of the nation's wealth was generated by just a handful of business tycoons.

These industrialists then used their immense capital to erect their own versions of European-style castles. And the grandeur and architecture of these palaces displayed their wealth and influence.

But perhaps no state in the U.S. has as many palaces as the Empire State. Local entrepreneurial families, including the Duponts, Rockefellers, and Goulds, built castles that are monolithic representations of America's redefined royalty.

Visitors are immediately immersed in a different time and place when they come to these palaces. 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 picturesque 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. This region is 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.

Standout Palaces, From Oheka Castle To The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Wikimedia CommonsA garden walkway at The Cloisters north of New York City.

Although all the castles in New York are stunning in their own right, there are certainly some standouts. One is Oheka Castle in Huntington. At 109,000 square feet, it's the second largest residence in the U.S. Eagle-eyed visitors may recognize it as Xanadu in the opening montage of the film Citizen Kane.

And the Cloisters, constructed by John D. Rockefeller, is now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval Europe — not to mention a popular tourist attraction. First built in 1914, the Cloisters drew heavily from 12th to 15th-century architecture. Walking around its sprawling gardens feels like taking a trip back in time.

Then there's Wings Castle — a place that will certainly delight environmentalists. Wings Castle is a unique and rustic bed and breakfast in Millbrook. What makes it special is that it's made from 80 percent recycled or repurposed materials.

Castle lovers will also adore Singer Castle, the former home of the Singer Sewing and Thread company president. Its location on the border boasts a Canadian sunset and an American sunrise.

Further south in the Hudson Valley rests the mysterious Bannerman Castle near the town of Beacon. Anyone taking the train to Beacon from the city will notice Bannerman sitting on its lonely island in the middle of the Hudson River.

Bannerman Castle Stairs

mlaaker/FlickrThe Bannerman castle is currently abandoned but open to visitors.

This imposing fortress was once a giant military surplus storage unit. Today, it's abandoned, although people can visit via boat. Just beware — some think the island is cursed.

Finally, there is Castle Gould in Sands Point. This castle is a striking replica of Ireland's Kilkenny Castle — and the lady of this house had a questionable relationship with Buffalo Bill.

Boldt Castle may take the award for most tragic, however. George Boldt decided to build the castle as a Valentine's gift to his beloved wife, Louise. Hearts adorn the entire structure — Boldt even blasted the island into the shape of a heart.

Aerial Boldt Castle Dawn

TheLastMinute/FlickrBoldt Castle from the sky.

But tragedy struck the family before George could officially gift the castle to Louise. She died under mysterious circumstances in 1904 at the age of 31. Heartbroken, George Bold sent a curt note to the castle's builders: "Stop all construction." His castle was left to rot until 1977 when it was taken over by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority.

Last but not least, 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.

Indeed, the stories behind these New York castles are perhaps even more enchanting than the palaces themselves.

After you see some of the best castles in New York state, see some of the most amazing castles in America, then look at life in the tenements of New York City.

Susan Sims
When she's not fighting crime or cleaning the garbage disposal, you can find Susan writing about travel, science and things that go bump in the night.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.