10 Castle-Like Structures in Florida

L. Cane

When one thinks of visiting castles, a trip to Europe may come to mind. After all, Europe has over 10,000 medieval castles. According to Castle Tourist, you'll only find around 145 castles in the United States.

What about Florida? That depends on how flexible you are when you define define the term "castle." Florida does have a handful of structures that look like or were intended to function like castles. Many of them are open to the public and arguably worth a visit.

Castle Warden, St. Augustine: Like many castles, this one was a residence. It served as a winter home for William Warden and his family. Built in 1887, the castle was constructed in the Moorish style, which is still preserved today. The residence became a hotel in the 1940s, and by the 1950s, the hotel was acquired by Robert Ripley of Ripley's Believe it or Not. As a result, it became the first odditorium and still displays Ripley's original collection, which is open to the public. The castle/museum is located at 19 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine, and is said to be haunted. There is a ghost tour that includes it.

Whitehall, Palm Beach: Similar to Castle Warden, this structure was also a private residence. It was built by Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate during the Gilded Age. Whitehall features Beaux-Arts architecture, and the courtyard is modeled after European palaces. You'll find ornate details nearly everywhere you look, and the mansion has also become a museum, housing works of art and offering tours to the public.

The New York Herald once described Whitehall as, "More wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world." Whitehall is located at Whitehall Way in Palm Beach, but you can also take a virtual tour here.

Castle Otttis, St. Augustine: This structure looks similar to castles you might find in Europe because its design was based on ancient Irish castles and it has turrets. (You can see a photo of it at the top of this article.) Because of its appearance, you might not guess that Castle Otttis was built in 1988. The building is meant to be a religious structure. Schools, churches, colleges, universities, and institutions may tour via appointment. The castle is sometimes used for wedding ceremonies and is located at 103 3rd St in St. Augustine.

Loews Don Cesar Hotel, St. Pete Beach: Built in 1924 and open in 1928, the structure was meant to look like a pink castle, which is why it was called the "Pink Lady" or the "Pink Palace" in the past. The architectural style of this building is mixed. You'll see some Moorish as well as Mediterranean influences. The Cesar has had plenty of famous guests such as President Franklin Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Al Capone. Today, it is a full-service spa and hotel open to the public. Said to be haunted, there are ghost tours that include it. The location of the Don Cesar is 3400 Gulf Blvd in St. Pete Beach.

Villa Zorayda, St. Augustine: Like Whitehall and Castle Warden, this structure served as a residence when it was built in 1883. Inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Span, the structure's purpose changed over the years. It once served as a club and became a gambling hall during prohibition. It was later proclaimed a national landmark, and as a result is open to the public. Those who visit can see the ornate details of its interiors and art collection. One of its famous works of art is the Sacred Cat Rug, constructed of the hair of ancient cats. You can find the Villa at 83 King Street in St. Augustine.

Castillo de San Marcos, St Augustine: This "castle" was built as a fortress for the Spanish out of coquina rock. The structure itself is arguably fascinating. Visitors can take a self or guided tour, and there are walking trails along the water. You can find the Castillo at 1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine.

Solomon's Castle: This castle may best be described as quirky and imaginative. Built out of aluminum and "found objects" by artist Howard Solomon, the castle was his home, art gallery, and workshop. Solomon's art is whimsical and covers many different mediums. The castle is open to the public, offers tours, and even has a restaurant and bed and breakfast. You can find it at 4533 Solomon Rd in Ona, Florida.

Coral Castle, Homestead: This structure is entirely carved out of coral rock and is often called "Florida's Stonehenge" because its construction method is a mystery. Builder Edward Leedskalnin allegedly carved 1,000 tons of coral rock to build the structure entirely alone. According to the structure's website, Edward told people that he “knew the secrets used to build the pyramids.” The castle includes a 9-ton gate that swings open using your finger, coral rocking chairs, and a coral telescope. You'll find the castle at 28655 S Dixie Hwy in Homestead.

Cinderella and Hogwarts Castles, Orlando: Both fairy-tale looking castles are located in Orlando's theme parks. Both look like traditional European castles. Cinderella's Castle is at Walt Disney World, while Hogwarts is at Universal Studios.

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