Friday, April 16, 2010

Mercer Museum & Fonthill

Jonathan and I have a sort-of list of historic places in Bucks county that might be neat to visit. Mercer Museum was on this list, and I had it as a suggested place we go with his parents (that list never actually made it to them, but that's beside the point...) since there was supposed to be a large tool display, I thought his dad might like it. Well, I was right.

With over 10,000 tools and artifacts in the four-story museum, it was packed. Each room in the castle-like structure was dedicated to a type of exhibit - like sewing materials, cobbler materials, kitchen tools, etc. Larger items, like Conestoga wagons, stagecoaches, canoes, and giant bellows, hung from the ceiling or near the rails of the 2nd and 3rd floors. There weren't always great descriptions of what items were, but each was numbered and there were a set of corresponding books that were organized by number and gave information about what each was, how and when it was acquired, etc.

The poured concrete castle was built by Henry Mercer, eight or ten other guys, and a single horse. And Mercer collected the items because he saw new things coming out and thought it would be interesting for future generations to see objects that were written out of use.
these lanterns were neat for me since they reminded me of a craft that we did at a friend's birthday party in high school. We had tin cans that had been filled with water and frozen, and we took nails and a hammer and made designs. Then when the ice melted and we poured out the water, we put candles inside and had similar lanterns.
look at the fire engine
Jonathan's dad demonstrating the correct way to guide a rig
a vampire-killing kit
the exterior of Mercer Museum

After Mercer Museum, we went to see Henry Mercer's home at Fonthill. It's a 44-room castle, and you can tour about a third of it. The interesting things about the castle are the fact that he even built his bookshelves and things out of concrete, and also all of the tile work from around the world that he used to decorate. He also had other types of artifacts (like pottery) from other countries. The castle had some neat innovations, like a call system that connected the kitchen to several bedrooms, and multiple skylights which allowed for the place to have excellent light. Finally, because the entire thing was concrete, Henry Mercer started a bonfire on the top terrace when it was complete to show everyone that it was done and that it was fireproof.

We were not permitted to take photographs inside Fonthill (reasons were unclear, and it wasn't a hard-set rule, since they had an article up about how they allowed a high school photography class to take pictures), but I did get some nice shots of the exterior of the estate.

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