A Very Concrete Example of a Library

Over the years, I have found myself in a number of interesting libraries and literary settings, but today I wanted to share one that is truly unique. The entire room…in fact the entire mansion is constructed of poured concrete. This unusual library is just one of the rooms in Fonthill Castle, the Victorian home of the eclectic and eccentric Henry Chapman Mercer in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

An “archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramicist, scholar and antiquarian,” Mercer had the home built between 1908-1912. It has over forty rooms, extensive grounds, a multitude of fireplaces, and a plethora of windows (including a little one I spotted embedded in a chimney!). The mansion’s exterior and frame was crafted exclusively from poured concrete. Much of the interior is concrete as well, including shelves, desks, chairs, even dressers!

The library was one of the larger rooms we viewed during the educational tour. It was two levels with vast windows and a massive fireplace. You might notice the abundance of tiles. One of Mercer’s passions was ceramics and tile, and he hand-crafted almost every tile you see in his home. Also, if you’re wondering how to get to the second level of the library, shhhhhh there is a secret staircase behind the fireplace.

Mercer was a true scholar. He loved the discovery and acquisition of knowledge. So books weren’t confined exclusively to his private library. He had multiple studies throughout the mansion (he actually followed the path of the sun through his home, capitalizing on the reading and writing light it allowed him). Each study held collections of books and artifacts from his extensive world travels.

The home tour was fascinating, but we were wholly unprepared for Mercer’s other building, a six-story castle (also made of reinforced concrete) that now serves as the Mercer Museum. If a photo is worth a thousand words, I leave you with this, and urge you to see the museum for yourself!

In addition to Fonthill Castle and Mercer Museum, I can also highly recommend Doylestown as a charming and laid back travel destination. There are plenty of shops, eateries, ice cream stands, and parks. It’s extremely walkable, and don’t miss the independently-owned Doylestown Bookshop. It’s fabulous!