A Brief History of Searles Castle
Searles Castle was built under the direction of Edward F. Searles, an interior decorator and antique collector. Having traced his ancestry to the Oxfordshire Harcourt family, he engaged the prominent architect, Henry Vaughn to design the castle in the style of Stanton Harcourt Manor in Oxon County, England. The building was completed in 1915 at a cost estimated to have been in excess of $1,250,000. The castle, located at 21 Searles Rd. in Windham, NH, contains 20 rooms.
Searles is said to have employed the finest masons and woodworkers to construct the castle, and imported marble and artifacts from Europe to furnish it. Examples of the fine work are found in the carved oak balcony, and the marble fireplaces. Edward Francis Searles was born on July 4, 1841, In Methuen, Massachusetts. At the age of thirteen he went to work in a cotton mill to support his widowed mother and his brother. His love of art and music, later to be his hallmark, were in evidence early in his life. At the age of twenty-one he was teaching piano and organ in Bath, Maine.
In 1875, after an apprenticeship with a Boston firm, Searles became an interior decorator for the prestigious Herter Brothers of New York City. In 1881, he met Mary Hopkins, a Herter Brothers client, in San Francisco. Her husband, Mark Hopkins, part-owner of the Southern Pacific Railroad, had died in 1878. He left his wife an inheritance of sixty-one million dollars. Mary Hopkins commissioned Searles to design the interior of her Nob Hill home, and to work on Kellogg Terrace in her birthplace of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They were married on November 8, 1887 in New York City. He was forty-seven; she was about sixty-seven. From Mary's death in 1891 until his own, Searles was involved in building projects in Methuen, Massachusetts, as well as Salem and Windham, New Hampshire. He died in 1920.
Searles willed the castle to his secretary, Arthur T. Walker, who died in August of 1927, leaving it to his brothers and sisters. They sold it to Mr. And Mrs. Frank Andrew of Methuen, Massachusetts, in 1930.The Sisters of Mercy acquired the castle in 1952. Since then it has been used as a novitiate for young women entering the Sisters of Mercy; a retreat house; and administrative offices. Castle College held classes in the castle for over twenty-five years.
Because the building needed extensive repairs, Castle College moved to a wing of the Sisters Of Mercy motherhouse on the property, and the castle was closed for five years. During those five years, repairs were made to the roof and building. In 1991, in an effort to restore the interior of the castle, a "Decorators' Showcase" was held. Through the generosity of those interior designers and contributions received over the years from many benefactors, the interior of the building has been refurbished. Since that time, the castle has been available to the public for social, cultural spiritual and business events.
In November of 2001, the Sisters of Mercy contracted David and Linda Kolifrath of Salem, New Hampshire to organize and manage events held at the castle. At this time it was decided that operations would be expanded to include weddings and receptions in the castle courtyard in an effort to better utilize the facility, better serve the needs of the public, and to raise additional funds to further the charitable programs of the Sisters Of Mercy.
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