Historic Building of the Week: Herreshoff Castle

The building at 2 Crocker Park Lane looks like it was built hundreds of years ago in Europe– it is a castle after all.

But Herreshoff Castle, formerly known as Castle Brattahlid, was built in the 1920s, only one hundred years ago, by artist Waldo Ballard. When he and his wife, Joan, had an idea to build a castle in Marblehead, they traveled to Europe for inspiration. They found that inspiration in Norse history.

Along his travels, Ballard learned about viking Erik the Red’s castle at Brattahlíð, in what is now Greenland. Using extensive written descriptions of the castle, as it had since fallen apart, Ballard tried to capture the centuries old viking castle in his hometown of Marblehead.

Various accounts of the interior of the castle state that there are painted walls and floors, a pantry, cook room, large banquet hall, and even a dungeon. The castle also has some Gothic flair in its style, which is uncharacteristic of Erik the Red’s time and place, but adds to the both whimsy and majesty of the building.

In 1945, the Ballards sold the building to L. Francis Herreshoff, a globally acclaimed yacht builder and contender for the 1930s America’s Cup sailing race. Herreshoff also owned cars that drew the awe of locals. One local recalled seeing “gull-winged Mercedes and a couple of Ferraris.” This Marbleheader was Michael H. Rubino.

The Herreshoff Castle on Crocker Park Lane was built in 1920s.

Herreshoff lived in the castle until his death in 1972. He passed the castle down to his assistant, whose daughter sold it to the Rubinos in 1990. Rubino made some renovations to the building and opened it as a one-unit bed and breakfast.

Those who stayed in the castle have noted a 200-pound oak door, plants creeping up the exterior stone facade, gargoyles, a set of armor, and a coat of arms. Legend has it that in addition to a dungeon, there is also a secret staircase somewhere in the castle. Rubino did not confirm this though, saying on the bed and breakfast’s website, “My response to these questions is always the same, “If I told you whether or not a secret stairway or secret dungeon existed, it would no longer be a secret.”