There are lots of houses built to look like castles or European manors in New England. The one closest to me is the Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire. It was built by Edward Francis Searles (1841 – 1920) and completed in 1915. He was an interior decorator (not unlike the house Beauport, built by interior decorator Henry Davis Sleeper in 1907) who researched his genealogy back to the Harcourt family of England. He told his architect to build it as a 1/4 copy of Stanton Harcourt Manor in Oxon, England.
Edward F. Searles married a wealthy widow, Mary Frances Sherwood Hopkins, in 1887. He was only 47 years old and she was 67, and had inherited 61 million dollars from her first husband, the railroad millionaire Mark Hopkins. She died a short four years later in 1891, and then Searles built his castles in Windham and Salem, New Hampshire and Methuen, Massachusetts. Most of the stone was quarried locally, and it cost about $1,250,000 to construct. The castle in Windham was his summer residence, and his main house was a larger mansion in Methuen.
When Searles died in 1920 he left the Windham castle to his secretary, Arthur T. Walker. He died in 1927 and left the castle to his siblings, who sold it to a family in Methuen, Massachusetts. They sold it to the Sisters of Mercy in 1952. It was a catholic school, Castle Junior College, for twenty five years until it fell into disrepair and the classes moved to a more modern part of the convent. The castle was closed, and in 1991 fund raisers were held for its restoration.
Since the refurbishment, the castle has been rented out for functions and public events, with the money going back towards its maintenance and upkeep, and for the Sisters of Mercy’s charities. Many weddings and parties are held on the castle grounds, and the photographs of these events are fantastic. You can see the photos at the Searles Castle Facebook page or website.
Searles also built the nearby Searles School and Chapel, which is used by the town of Windham for meetings. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is also a Searles Castle in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, commissioned by Mary Hopkins, Searles in 1888. It is now the John Dewey Academy. The Searles Castle in Methuen, Massachusetts is now owned by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and the Stillwater Manor in Salem, New Hampshire was the original guest house for the larger castle. Many miles of stone walls, turrets and gates still exist today in Methuen, Salem and Windham. The Searles mausoleum is on private land in Methuen. Searles donated schools, churches, monuments, a library and many other buildings to the town of Methuen during his lifetime, most in the same Tudor style as his castle in Windham.
Generation 1: Samuel Searles married Elizabeth Tyng
Generation 2: James Searles 1773 – 1857 married Abigail Duren 8 April 1793 in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts
Generation 3: Jesse Gould Searles born 25 February 1805 in Nashua, New Hampshire, died 1844; married to Sarah Littlefield
Generation 4: Edward Francis Searles born 3 July 1841 in Methuen, Massachusetts, died on 6 August 1920 in Methuen, Massachusetts; married on 7 November 1887 in New York City to Mary Frances Sherwood, widow of Mark Hopkins. She was born 8 March 1818 in New York City, died 25 July 1891 in Methuen, daughter of William Sherwood and Lydia Ann Kellogg. No children.
For more information:
Searles Castle, Windham, NH http://www.searlescastlewindham.com/
Searles Castle Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/searlescastle.atwindham
Find A Grave biography of Edward F. Searles, memorial #21449399
The Life Story of Edward F. Searles, by Ray Fremmer, Andrew M. Ellison, and Robert DeLage, 1948 at Archives. Org
A blog post about the Sisters of Mercy mausoleum on the grounds of Searles Castle:
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Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo