California isn’t the only state that boasts a castle built buy a wealthy man. Hammond Castle, in the centuries-old fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts was built in the 1920s, and like Hearst Castle, it’s a fascinating stone structure assembled using pieces of European history to create a home perched on a seaside bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Father of Radio Control”
Born in 1888 in San Francisco, John Hays Hammond Jr.’s history is as eclectic as his castle. As a youth, parts of his childhood were spent in South Africa and England. A prolific inventor, his interest in science was fueled by none other than Thomas Edison, whom he met on a visit to Edison’s laboratory. Edison liked young Hammond and took him on an extended tour; it laid the groundwork for a lifetime friendship. Later, while attending Yale University, he became fascinated by the then-new field of radio waves, where he met inventor Alexander Graham Bell, establishing another lifelong friendship.
Edison advised Hammond that inventing could be a money-making proposition. To learn the ins and out of patenting and be on the leading edge of that era’s scientific discoveries, in 1910 he took a job at the U.S. Patent Office. After he left, he founded the Hammond Radio Research Laboratory on his wealthy parents’ seaside estate in Gloucester.
His keen scientific mind led to his being awarded over 400 patents during his professional career, making him a fortune. Known as “the Father of Radio Control” for his pioneering work in the field of remote control, his inventions were used in naval weapons, electronics, national defense, and consumer products. In fact, his name is on the short list of ‘Most Prolific American inventors’.
Hammond’s travels throughout Europe exposed him to art, history – and architecture. He was fascinated by castles, from Medieval to Renaissance. He began to collect artifacts, and exported them back to Massachusetts – an acceptable practice at the time. Stained glass windows, stone archways, carved balustrades, armor, statues, tapestries… and he wanted a place to showcase his collection.
While primarily designed in the Medieval style, he wanted to also incorporate aspects from other centuries. All to be brought together to create an imaginative castle blending history with innovative (for the period) technologies, including a working laboratory in the cellars for his company. The first architectural designs began in 1904, and required years of research. Completed in 1929, the castle took three years to build.
He and his wife Irene lived, worked and entertained friends and famous people at their castle for nearly 40 years. As the Hammonds had no children, it was ultimately transformed into a museum. Today, carefully preserved and maintained as it was when the Hammonds lived there, it is considered one of “America’s Castles” and has been featured on the A&E Network, as well in multiple movies and TV shows. For nearly 50 years, the Hammond Castle Museum has attracted visitors from around the world.
Most important rule when you visit: look everywhere! From the soaring grandeur of the Great Hall and the 15thCentury architectural facade courtyard to the ornate portals and medieval antiquities, Hammond Castle Museum is filled with amazing details. And that includes inventions. Hammond created his own weather in the courtyard: hidden overhead steam-filled pipes are designed to produce a tropical downpour – or a foggy evening.
In the Great Hall is a fully-functioning 8,400 pipe organ, which incorporated many of Hammond’s patents for pipe organ technology, and is considered among the largest in the world. Organists from around the globe both during and after his lifetime have performed on it (he passed away in 1965).
Plan to take at least a couple of hours to explore the building and the grounds. Do take the guided tour, and wear good shoes to continue your explorations (lots of stairs!). The Museum hosts different educational activities, events and activities throughout the year, so do check out their website before you go – www.HammondCastle.org.