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American Folly's: 10 Folly's found in the United States of America

Updated on June 5, 2014
Belvedere Castle, Central Park, New York. Source: centralpark.com
Belvedere Castle, Central Park, New York. Source: centralpark.com

What is a Folly?

In architecture a folly is an eccentric extravagant structure built primarily for decoration or to make a view more interesting. They are generally non-functional and in some cases left deliberately unfinished. Although especially prevalent in the United Kingdom they are also found around the world.

Folly’s can take many forms such as Medieval Towers, Classical Temples, Egyptian Pyramids, Castles, Abbeys and Mills. They are often over exaggerated structures built to a smaller or larger scale than the real architecture they are supposed to resemble.


● Bancroft Tower (Worcester, Massachusetts)

Bancroft Tower is a 17 metre (56 feet) high tower constructed from granite and stone and resembles the portcullis part of a castle. It is located in Salisbury Park in the city of Worcester.

It was built in 1900 in memory of George Bancroft (1800-1891) by his friend Stephen Salisbury III and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

It is usually locked but still appeals to photographers due to the impressive backdrop, and is apparently used by the city at Halloween as a haunted house.

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts
Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts

● Belvedere Castle (New York City)

Belvedere Castle is located in Central Park in Manhattan on top of Vista Rock among the woodlands of The Ramble. It contains exhibition rooms and an observation deck with views across the park and New York City.

It was constructed in 1869 and is a building made from Manhattan Schist (bedrock), quarried from the park, and covered with gray granite. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in a Gothic-Roman hybrid style.

The displays inside are on the theme of nature and It has become very popular with bird watchers and others who are encouraged to enjoy the panoramic views from its two balconies.

Special events are often held at the Castle, including astronomy talks, storytelling and a haunted castle theme at Halloween.

Belvedere Castle, Central Park, New York
Belvedere Castle, Central Park, New York

● Bishop Castle (near Pueblo, Colorado)

Bishop Castle was originally a family project and is situated in the Wet Mountains of Southern Colorado in the San Isabel National Forest.

The castle, constructed from stone and iron, is named after its builder Jim Bishop who began construction in 1969. He originally planned to build a family cottage but when neighbours suggested that it looked like a castle he then started to build it as a castle.

It has three-stories of interior rooms with a Grand Ballroom, towers, bridges and a gift shop.

The route to the castle along the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway climbs to 9,200 feet above sea level.

Bishop's Castle, near Pueblo, Colorado
Bishop's Castle, near Pueblo, Colorado

● Cabazon Dinosaurs (Cabazon, California)

The Cabazon Dinosaurs, also known as Claude Bell’s Dinosaurs, are vast sculptured roadside attractions visible to the north of Interstate 10 at the Cabazon exit.

The site has “Dinny the Dinosaur” a building shaped like a larger than life Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) and housing a gift store and museum, and “Mr Rex” a Tyrannosaurus Rex which contains a T-Rex museum. You can climb to the top of both dinosaurs from the inside.

Construction on the dinosaurs began in the 1960’s by artist Claude K Bell to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Café.

“Dinny” took 11 years to complete and is made from metal, salvaged from the construction of Interstate 10, and concrete. It is 13.7 metres (45 feet) high and 45.7 metres (150 feet) long. “Mr Rex” took 7 years to construct from metal and concrete.

Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, California
Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, California

● Chateau Laroche (Loveland, Ohio)

Chateau Laroche, also known as Loveland Castle, is a building located on the banks of the Little Miami River, constructed in the style of a historic European Castle. It was built from stones pulled from the river by Harry D Andrews and construction began in 1929. He named the castle after a military hospital where he was stationed during World War One in France.

He worked on the folly for over 50 years and when he died in 1981 he bequeathed it to his Boy Scout troop, The Knights of the Golden Trail who still manage it today.

The walls of the upstairs chapel feature many of the stones Andrew’s brought back from his world travels. Outside there are gardens and a greenhouse.

There are many tales of the castle being haunted. There are reports of sightings of five different ghosts: Sir Harry, Sir Joe, Sir Bill, Lady Christie and Lady Donna.

Chateau Laroche, Loveland, Ohio
Chateau Laroche, Loveland, Ohio

● Italian Barge (Villa Vizcaya, Miami, Florida)

The Italian Barge was sculpted in the shape of a gondola from coral stone by Alexander Stirling Calder as a breakwater to protect boats visiting the villa.

It is located in the water at the front of the Villa Vizcaya in Miami and is decorated with carving representing mythical Caribbean creatures.

It is part of the Vizcaya House Museum and formal Italian Gardens which were built by James Deering between 1914 and 1916 in the Italian renaissance style.

Italian Barge, Miami, Florida
Italian Barge, Miami, Florida

● Kingfisher Tower Castle (Otsego Lake, Cooperstown, New York)

Kingfisher Tower is a folly built in 1876 by Edward Clark on the eastern shore of the Ostego Lake at Point Judith.

A Gothic Revival miniature castle it stands 18.2 metres (60 feet) tall and was built to “beautify the lake”. It is on private land and no tours are available but it can be easily viewed from the lake.

Kingfisher Tower Castle, Cooperstown, New York
Kingfisher Tower Castle, Cooperstown, New York

● Korner’s Folly (Kernersville, North Carolina)

Korner’s Folly is a house of unique design completed in 1880 by Jule Gilmer Korner.

Now a museum, no two doors or windows are exactly alike, there are 15 different fireplaces and 22 rooms with ceiling heights varying from 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) to 7.6 metres (25 feet).

Korner's Folly, Kernersville, North Carolina. Source: discoverkernersville
Korner's Folly, Kernersville, North Carolina. Source: discoverkernersville

● Lawson Tower (Scituate, Massachusetts)

Lawson Tower was built in 1902 by Thomas W Lawson originally to hide a large water tank, though this is no longer used. It is in the style of a European castle turret and stands 46.6 metres (153 feet) tall and has 123 steps leading to the top.

It is popular among tourists for its sweeping views of the South Shore, lighthouses and the nearby First Parish church.

Lawson's Tower, Scituate, Massachusetts
Lawson's Tower, Scituate, Massachusetts

● Usen Castle (Waltham, Massachusetts)

Usen Castle, also known as “The Castle”, is a four-story gothic style castle constructed in 1928 by John R Smith. It was designed to create “an aura of mystique” and to mimic the details of Windsor Castle.

It is located upon Boston Rock in Waltham and is part of the campus of the private research university Brandeis.

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@ 2013 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)

Usen Castle, Waltham, Massachusetts
Usen Castle, Waltham, Massachusetts

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