November 17, 2013

Exhibit, castle in Pennsylvania tell of grand times

Grace Kelly fans and others will find plenty of other attractions in a visit to Bucks County.

By Robert Digiacomo
Special To The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Fonthill, a rambling, poured-concrete mansion, was built in Doylestown, Pa., in the early 20th century without blueprints for Henry Mercer, owner of Moravian Pottery & Tile Works. It is part of the Mercer Mile, which includes the Tile Works and a museum to house Mercer’s folk art.

Rosemary Taglialatela/2Days Photos

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A dress that Princess Grace wore to a 1969 ball is part of the Grace Kelly exhibit at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa.

Natalie Wi photo

Additional Photos Below



“From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly – Beyond the Icon” runs through Jan. 26. Admission is $18; $17 seniors; $16 college students; $8 ages 6-18.


Combination ticket for Fonthill and Mercer Museum $20; $12 ages 6-17. Fonthill visit by guided tour only, reservations recommended.


The overall effect is to create a portrait of a very public woman who valued her privacy and never told all, a rarity in the current climate of ready access to celebrity through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other media du jour.

Although it’s not clear whether Princess Grace ever visited Doylestown, she made her professional stage debut in 1949 at the Bucks County Playhouse in nearby New Hope. Her appearance in a production of “The Torch-Bearers,” a play written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning uncle, George Kelly, is part of a concurrent exhibition at the Michener marking the 75th anniversary of the playhouse, which has featured many once-and-future screen and theater stars over the course of its history.

Doylestown, with about 1,200 buildings listed in its nationally recognized historic district, its brick-lined sidewalks and compact, walkable downtown, speaks more to Kelly’s American side than her jet-setting life among the European elite. It’s the place of businesses such as Posh Hair Design, Nicholas and Alexandra Jewelers and a boutique called Tres Bien, with nary a Gucci, Chanel or Hermes in sight.

Several businesses do have tie-ins to the exhibition. The Doylestown Bookshop, a sprawling space with comfy sofas and a small cafe, has added a stockpile of books about the princess. The County Theater, a restored movie house, is also hosting a mini-festival, with screenings of her three films with Hitchcock: “Dial M for Murder,” “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief.”

Still, Doylestown has its own castle – Fonthill – a rambling, poured-concrete mansion constructed in the early 20th century without blueprints and consisting of a series of crooked rooms that are exuberantly decorated with tiles produced by owner Henry Mercer’s Moravian Pottery & Tile Works.

The castle is part of the Mercer Mile, which includes the Tile Works, a key producer during the Arts and Crafts movement that’s open for tours, and a six-story museum built in 1916 to house Mercer’s collection of 50,000 tools, folk art and other objects from the pre-Industrial Age.

Together, Mercer’s over-the-top holdings make for quite the contrast to Princess Grace’s judicious sense of restraint.

But if Hollywood hadn’t worked out and Rainier hadn’t come calling, it’s not hard to imagine someone of Grace Kelly’s background settling down with a more common prince in a quiet burg just like this one.

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Additional Photos

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A 1967 photo of Princess Grace and her son, Prince Albert, is among the mementos in the Doylestown exhibit.

Natalie Wi photo


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