Love Shacks

When the B-52s sang of a love shack in 1989, they weren’t the first to tie buildings to love.  The concepts of a man building a house for his beloved or giving her a house as a present to prove his worth are nothing new.  They cross cultural boundaries and span centuries.  And when loves die, no one questions the erection of a monument.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered together some of the greatest love shacks from around the world.

Osborne House was built for probably the best-known couple of their time: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  The two selected the Isle of Wight location for quiet country retreats and demolished the standing estate.  Albert then designed Osborne House for his wife, and the building was finished in 1851.  Victoria continued to visit the house after Albert’s early death in 1861.

Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Photo:

The Hermesvilla in Vienna, Austria, is another royal palace built as a testament to love.  Completed in 1886, Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I gave his wife Elisabeth (“Sisi”) the villa as a present.  Sisi called it her “Palace of Dreams.”

The Hermesvilla. Photo: Wikipedia

Humayun’s Tomb is thought to be the earliest example of Mughal architecture.  Humayun, for whom the tomb was built, was the second Mughal emperor of India.  After his death, his wife Biga Begum commissioned the tomb.  Finished in 1570, it is also the earliest example of a garden tomb in India.

Humayun’s Tomb. Photo: Archaeological Survey of India

Perhaps one of the world’s most recognizable structures, the Taj Mahal is actually a mausoleum, despite its palace-like appearance.  Located in Agra, India, it was begun in 1631 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Arjuman Banu Begum.

The Taj Mahal. Photo: Wikipedia

Boldt Castle was begun around 1900 on the aptly named Heart Island in Upstate New York’s 1000 Island District.  Commissioned by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel proprietor, George Boldt, the castle was meant to show George’s love for his wife Louise.  When Louise died suddenly, construction on the house stopped and George’s family never returned.  It was finally completed in 1977.

Boldt Castle on Heart Island in the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Boldt Castle

Thornewood Castle just outside Tacoma, Washington, is another house that was built by a man as a gift for his wife.  The couple in this case were Chester and Anna Thorne, married for twenty years when construction on the house began in 1907.  The house is partly built out of an Elizabethan manor that was dismantled in England and shipped to Washington, and a “secret garden” stands on the grounds.

A front view of Thornewood. Photo: Thornewood Castle LLC

The story of Dobroyd Castle in West Yorkshire, England, appears in many places but is never quite the same.  Some say that when John Fielden was courting Ruth Stansfield, she agreed to marry him if he would build her a castle.  So build a castle he did.  Dobroyd Castle was completed in 1869, with the couple’s initials elaborately carved into the building in a dozen different places.

A postcard of Dobroyd Castle. Photo:

Lastly, while not built out of love or given to someone as a gift, it’s hard to leave out the building where courtly love grew up.  Under Eleanor of Aquitaine, the court at the Palace of Justice in Poitiers popularized the idea of courtly love.  Romantic notions that tie chivalry, knights, princesses, and castles to love can be traced back to here.

The dining hall at the Palace of Poitiers was added by Eleanor of Aquitaine around 1200. Photo: Office de Tourisme de Poitiers

Instead of chocolates or flowers, maybe you will get a house from your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day!

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One Response to Love Shacks

  1. Pingback: Chocolate Recipe Round-Up | The Wordy Baker

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