Bucks County has long been an artist enclave, particularly for impressionist painters from nearby New York City and Philadelphia. In 1983, world famous author James A. Michener gave a large gift of money to convert the abandoned 19th century Bucks County prison into a world class art museum to house a large collection of native work. Besides the interesting collection of art, the unique architecture of the former penitentary makes this an interesting place to visit. The museum's holdings have become large enough that a satellite facility has been opened in the nearby, famous tourist town of New Hope.
This large concrete "castle" was built by an eccentric patrician in the early part of the 20th century. The museum was built to house his collection of farm implements, household implements, craftsmen tools and other artifacts from what he (rightly) considered to be the vanishing way of rural life in his own time. Mercer also was interested in concrete as a building material, which was revolutionary at the time. He constructed his museum, house, and tileworks from concrete and they remain Doylestown's unique castles. Mercer Museum is an interesting look at the everyday artifacts from a vanished way of life.
Next to Henry Mercer's household of Fonthill he erected a low, concrete building for the purpose of a factory to create "Moravian tiles." Mercer was very interested in the old world style of crafting tile from clay. His tiles were adorned with art representing biblical scenes, nature scenes, medieval art and lots more. Mercer decorated all of his buildings with these tiles. His tiles were also commissioned to decorate lots of other famous buildings. The County of Bucks owns and maintains the tileworks, and artisans still labor there creating tiles in Henry Mercer's "Moravian" tradition. There is a gift shop selling Mercer tile, as well as a factory tour.
Turn of the century patrician Henry Mercer was a "renaissance" man. Archeology, achitecture, art, tilemaking, and anthropology were among his many interests. He was particularly interested in the revolutionary use of concrete as a building material. Fonthill was built as his primary residence. To many it looks like a European castle or manor house. Its winding staircases, towers, and balconies can be toured. It is extensively decorated with Moravian tiles which were crafted at a "Moravian Tileworks" located on the grounds. The house is surrounded by grounds, and woods with a walking trail. In the summer it has been home to Shakespeare plays performed outdoors. An old-fashioned "Fourth of July" celebration is held on the grounds on the holiday.