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Must See Royal Palaces: North America

Updated: Nov 19, 2020


Good Morning!!

Today we are continuing our new series by looking to North America. I have compiled lists from 5 continents, however some of them are not necessarily "Royal Palaces" but rather they are government buildings or they are places where royalty stays when they are in town. For today we are going to cover North America, I have made a list of 6 different palaces. There are only 2 true royal palaces in North America, however I have included 4 bonus castles to visit as well.

 

Iolani Castle - Honolulu, Hawaii

Iolani Palace is a living restoration of a proud Hawaiian national identity and is recognized as the spiritual and physical multicultural epicenter of Hawaii. Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and served as the official royal residence and the residence of the Kingdom’s political and social life until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.


Registered as a National Historic Landmark since 1962 and one of the the only official royal residences in the United States, the Palace is one of the most recognizable buildings in Hawaii. Meticulously restored to its former grandeur, Iolani Palace tells of a time when their Majesties, King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani walked the grand halls.


 

Chapultepec Castle - Mexico City, Mexico

Chapultepec Castle (Spanish: Castillo de Chapultepec) is located on top of Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City's Chapultepec park. The name Chapultepec is the Nahuatl word chapoltepēc which means "at the grasshopper's hill". The castle has such unparalleled views and terraces that historian James F. Elton wrote that they can't "be surpassed in beauty in any part of the world". It is located at the entrance to Chapultepec Park at a height of 2,325 meters above sea level. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential residence, observatory, and since the 1940s, the National Museum of History.


It was built during the Viceroyalty as summer house for the highest colonial administrator, the viceroy. It was given various uses, from the gunpowder warehouse to the military academy in 1841. It became the official residence of Emperor Maximilian I and his consort Empress Carlota during the Second Mexican Empire (1864–67). In 1882, President Manuel González declared it the official residence of the President. With few exceptions, all succeeding presidents lived there until 1939, when President Lázaro Cárdenas turned it into a museum.


The only other true royal palace.


 

Craigdarroch Castle - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

This legendary Victorian mansion, built between 1887 and 1890 on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria, announced to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest and most important man in Western Canada. He died in 1889, leaving his entire estate to his wife Joan, who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908. The immense fortune of the Dunsmuir family is reflected in the four floors of exquisite stained glass windows, intricate woodwork and fabulous Victorian-era furnishings.


I have been here and it is definitely a site worth seeing. I recommend getting there early though as when I went it got busy really fast. Obviously this was pre covid so I'm not sure what the hours and stuff are now.


 

Casa Loma Castle - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sir Henry Pellatt, the dreamer behind Toronto’s famous heritage site; Casa Loma, was born to his British parents in Kingston, Ontario on January 6, 1859.  Ambitious from his youth, Sir Henry Pellatt left his studies at Upper Canada College when he was seventeen to pursue a career in commerce in the family business. By the age of twenty-three, he became a full partner in his father’s stock brokerage firm Pellatt and Pellatt. That year was also marked by his marriage to Mary Dodgeson, whom he met when he was twenty. Even as a young man, Henry Pellatt embraced the spirit of the family motto “Devant Si Je Puis” or “Foremost If I Can”. When he met his bride-to-be, Sir Pellatt had already achieved local renown in 1879 for beating the U. S. amateur champion of the one mile race. Travels to Europe gave him the love for fine art and architecture, which would spur his vision of Casa Loma-“House on the Hill.” This romantic side was mirrored by his other lifelong passion-his involvement with the military, specifically the Queen’s Own Rifles.


Casa Loma took three years and $3.5M to build. Sir Henry Pellatt filled Casa Loma with priceless artwork from Canada and around the world. Casa Loma stood as a monument to its creator – it surpassed any private home in North America. With soaring battlements and secret passageways, it paid homage to the castles and knights of days gone by. To this day it remains one of the only true castles in North America. Sir Henry Pellatt’s numerous business and military connections demanded entertaining on a large scale. Casa Loma’s romantic borrowing from the past, tempered by necessary modern day conveniences, provided the perfect setting. In the height of their years at Casa Loma, the planning of such a busy social calendar consumed much of Lady Pellatt’s time. In addition to hosting grand social events, the Pellatt’s were involved in a number of philanthropic projects. Sir Henry Pellatt was a trustee and benefactor of Trinity College and a strong supporter of Grace Hospital. The organization of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade in Canada is due largely to his efforts. Lady Pellatt, in spite of her frail health, played an active role in the promotion of Girl Guides of Canada. She was appointed the first Commissioner of the Girl Guides of Canada and in 1919 was honoured with the Girl Guides highest award, the Silver Fish Award. Unfortunately, Sir Henry Pellatt’s fortunes could not sustain the magic that was Casa Loma.


To finance expansion, Pellatt and Pellatt went further and further into debt. The one sure source of income from the monopoly of electrical power vanished when political decisions allowed for public ownership of electricity. In a futile attempt to restore his wealth, Sir Henry Pellatt turned to land speculation. He was convinced that well-to-do Torontonians would rush to build homes around Casa Loma. However, in this case his entrepreneurial sense did not take into account the effects of World War I. During the war, Canadians put their money into war bonds, not homes. After the war the economy slumped, tilting Pellatt and Pellatt into bankruptcy. The company owed the Home Bank of Canada $1.7M – or in today’s terms $20M. With his stock worthless and his business debts out of control, Sir Henry Pellatt was faced with a heartbreaking decision – a decision which he would always claim was made for him by the City’s immovable tax assessors. Faced with an extraordinary tax bill, Sir Henry Pellatt had no choice but to auction off his prized possessions for a fraction of their worth and to abandon his dream of a noble castle. The Pellatts moved to their farm in King township in 1924. Lady Pellatt passed away later that year at the age of sixty-seven. Though he lost a great fortune, Sir Henry Pellatt never lost his spirit of philanthropy, a character trait for which he was honoured late in life. His service of fifty years with the Queen’s Own Rifles was celebrated on June 27, 1926 with a march past 500 men complete with the circling overhead of three military planes. When Sir Henry Pellatt died on March 8, 1939, thousands lined Toronto streets to witness his funeral procession. He was buried with full military honours befitting a soldier who had given so much to his country.


The City of Toronto remains the sole owner of the property.


 

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina, USA

In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt II began to make regular visits with his mother, Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt, to the Asheville area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to build a summer house in the area, which he called his "little mountain escape". His older brothers and sisters had built luxurious summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, the Gold Coast of Long Island, and Hyde Park, New York. Vanderbilt named his estate Biltmore, combining De Bilt (his ancestors' place of origin in the Netherlands) with more (mōr, Anglo-Saxon for "moor", an open, rolling land). Vanderbilt bought almost 700 parcels of land, including over 50 farms and at least five cemeteries; a portion of the estate was once the community of Shiloh. A spokesperson for the estate said in 2017 that archives show much of the land "was in very poor condition, and many of the farmers and other landowners were glad to sell."


Construction of the house began in 1889. In order to facilitate such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite. A three-mile railroad spur was constructed also to bring materials to the building site. Construction on the main house required the labor of about 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. Vanderbilt went on extensive trips overseas to purchase decor as construction on the house was in progress. He returned to North Carolina with thousands of furnishings for his newly built home, including tapestries, hundreds of carpets, prints, linens, and decorative objects, all dating between the 15th century and the late 19th century. Among the few American-made items were the more practical oak drop-front desk, rocking chairs, a walnut grand piano, bronze candlesticks, and a wicker wastebasket.

George Vanderbilt opened his opulent estate on Christmas Eve of 1895 to invited family and friends from across the country, who were encouraged to enjoy leisure and country pursuits. Notable guests to the estate over the years included novelists Edith Wharton and Henry James, ambassadors Joseph Hodges Choate and Larz Anderson, and U.S. presidents. George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898 in Paris, France; their only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, was born at Biltmore in the Louis XV room in 1900, and grew up at the estate. Affected by Congressional passage of a new income tax and the expensive maintenance of the estate, Vanderbilt initiated the sale of 87,000 acres (35,000 ha) to the federal government. After Vanderbilt's unexpected death in 1914 of complications from an emergency appendectomy, his widow completed the sale. She carried out her late husband's wish that the land remain unaltered, and that property became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest. Overwhelmed with running such a large estate, Edith began consolidating her interests and sold Biltmore Estate Industries in 1917 and Biltmore Village in 1921. She intermittently occupied the house, living in an apartment created in the former Bachelors' Wing, until the marriage of her daughter Cornelia to John Francis Amherst Cecil in April 1924. The Cecils had two sons, who were born at Biltmore in the same room as their mother had been.


In an attempt to bolster the estate's financial situation during the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in March 1930 at the request of the City of Asheville, which hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism. Biltmore closed during World War II. In 1942, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were moved to the estate by train from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to protect them in the event of an attack on the United States. The Music Room on the first floor was never finished, so it was used for storage until 1944, when the possibility of an attack became more remote. Among the works stored were the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington and works by Rembrandt, Raphael, and Anthony van Dyck. David Finley, the gallery director, was a friend of Edith Vanderbilt and had stayed at the estate.

After the Cecils divorced in 1934, Cornelia left the estate never to return; however, John Cecil maintained his residence in the Bachelors' Wing until his death in 1954. Their eldest son, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, occupied rooms in the wing until 1956. At that point Biltmore House ceased to be a family residence; it was operated as a historic house museum. Their younger son William A. V. Cecil, Sr. returned to the estate in the late 1950s and joined his brother to manage the estate when it was in financial trouble. They worked to make it a profitable and self-sustaining enterprise as their grandfather had envisioned. William Cecil eventually inherited the estate upon the death of their mother, Cornelia, in 1976. His brother George Cecil inherited the then more profitable dairy farm, which was split off into Biltmore Farms.


In 1995, while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the estate, William Cecil turned over control of the company to his son, William A. V. Cecil, Jr. The Biltmore Company is privately held. Of the 8,000 acres that make up Biltmore Estate, only 1.36 acres are in the city limits of Asheville, and the Biltmore House is not part of any municipality. The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, and remains a major tourist attraction in Western North Carolina, with 1.4 million visitors each year. After the death of William A. V. Cecil in October 2017 and his wife Mimi Cecil in November, their daughter Dini Pickering is serving as board chair and their son Bill Cecil as CEO. The house is assessed at $157.2 million, although due to an agricultural deferment, county property taxes are paid on only $79.1 million of that.


 

Hammond Castle - Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA

 Hammond Castle was built in the late 1920s by scientist, inventor, and interestingly enough, an art connoisseur of the highest order, John Hays Hammond, Jr. (1888-1965). Hammond was widely traveled, but had been exposed to the art and architecture of old European at an early age. He appreciated the eras spanning ancient times, through the medieval period, and into the Renaissance. He purchased a broad collection of artifacts for display, and created his residence around large stone archways, windows, wooden facades, and other architectural elements from the Old World.  He was aptly described as a man of the future, but who chose to live in the past.  The building he left behind is one of the truly unique structures on this continent, where visitors can experience being immersed in a true old Europe environment without actually being there.


His vision for the building was for it to be medieval in style—yet bridging several periods—so as to incorporate his expanding collection of stand-alone Classical antiquities through 16th century architectural elements.  The project began when he retained the services of one of the preeminent architectural firms of the time, Allen and Collins, formed in 1904, and which maintained offices in Boston.  Hammond’s project eventually came to the attention of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had purchased a large collection of medieval artifacts in 1925, and was so inspired by what Hammond had done, he launched his own similar project on a site above Manhattan. It was to eventually incorporate pieces from five different European abbeys, and is known today as The Cloisters, an arm of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Yet, as might be expected from an inventor, Hammond’s building was uniquely different.  He included many features of his own design that were revolutionary and befitting the structure, and most are virtually indiscernible to the untrained eye.  For example, Hammond’s collection of 15th Century facades was to be housed in the Courtyard being planned by the architects to meet Hammond’s vision of what a medieval village might be.  Given the covered Courtyard was also to include tropical plantings, it was necessary to ensure a suitable level of humidity and space temperature.  A pool was included to be the source of humidity.  Steam pipes installed around the bottom perimeter of the pool to control water temperature, as well as to drive the correct amount of moisture in the air above.  A green dye was also added as a decorative feature to obscure the depth of the water, which in fact, was a swimming pool.  Overhead, steam-fed pipe-racks were installed just beneath the clerestory to offset radiant heat loss through the glass.  Finally, a tropical rain downpour could be summed from above to water the vegetation, or if he preferred, a foggy evening.  


Perhaps the greatest item in Hammond’s residence is the gigantic pipe organ, an instrument designed and built by a collection of world-famous organ builders over a period of ten years.  Consisting of 8,400 pipes it was among the largest pipe organs in the world and incorporated many of the features of Hammond’s 19 patents for pipe organ technology. The design of the wind boxes, as well as the placement and installation of the organ within the Great Hall were in keeping with Hammond’s style. As much as the instrument had meant to Hammond, he could not play it. However, he did invent a device included within the console which could record what was being played, such that it could be accurately replayed, much the same way pianos (a much similar instrument) were beginning to do at the time. The organ was a centerpiece of the Hammond’s entertaining, and some of the greatest organists in the world were invited to play the instrument.  Many returned after his death to give recitals.


 

There we have it 5 different "palaces" that are both amazing in photographs as well as in person. Have you been to any of these palaces? Do you want to visit any of them?


Have an amazing day :)

 

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