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Berkeley Castle (Suit Cottage)

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Suit Cottage
1885–1891, attrib. Alfred B. Mullett. West side of WV 9, on the east flank of Warm Spring Ridge, overlooking Berkeley Springs State Park
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Although not a distinguished work of architecture, this stone edifice testifies to Berkeley Springs's late-nineteenth-century aspirations to become a major summer resort. Or at least it testifies to the aspirations of Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit of Washington, D.C. A description in the Morgan News gave an idea of what he had in mind: “Nestled among the cliffs and on the beautiful slope of Warm Spring Mountain, surrounded by primeval forests, it gives one the impression of the grand old Scottish castles we read of in history.”

The building is of locally quarried roughfaced stone, laid in an attempt at regular coursing. The design incorporates the usual panoply of decorative motifs suggesting a medieval heritage: rounded tower, battlements, crenellations, turrets, incised crosses, and a modest amount of machicolation. Still, the overriding impression, at least from the front, is simply that of a big, blocky stone house. Because of the steep hillside site, the rear elevation is only one story above grade.

The attribution to Mullett is long standing, although no documentation has surfaced to prove or disprove it. “Colonel” Suit's military title dated from the time he operated a distillery in Kentucky. He later gained a fortune in securities trading but died in 1888 before completing his castle. His widow finished it several years later and hosted lavish parties until she ran out of money. The property was sold in 1913, used as a boys' camp in the late 1930s, and became a house museum in 1954. It was being advertised for sale in the summer of 2002.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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