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Cooperstown, New York

Kingfisher Castle

A sewing machine tycoon built this miniature castle for the people, to better beautify a lakeshore.  

Sitting in the midst of the Glimmerglass Historic District on Otsego Lake is a mini-castle built by the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Rising from the edge of the lake, the “Kingfisher Tower” was built by Edward S. Clarke around 1876 with the intention of making the lake more aesthetically pleasing for the public. Constructed in the Gothic Revival style, Clarke’s folly measures 60 feet in height and was designed in conjunction with American architect Henry J. Hardenbergh Esq., with whom Clarke and his eponymous Singer Sewing Machine-cofounder Isaac Meritt Singer had previously worked to created The Dakota in New York City. 

The structure was built of stone from the shores of Otsego Lake, and in its earliest days boasted a drawbridge and portcullis made of solid oak. Though this feature has been lost to time, the rest of Kingfisher Tower remains as it ever was. Its diminutive base measures only 20 square feet in size, with the main floor seeming to float just five feet above the lake’s surface. Ten feet above that sits the tower’s first platform, from which rises a smaller, pyramid-shaped roof with a window on each side.  All throughout the castle, the windows are decorated with stained glass bearing a heraldic shield at their center.

The tower is located about three miles north on the east side of Otsego Lake at Point Judith and can only be reached by boat, as it is hidden in a forest with barbed wire fence. For those less drawn to wooded paths and prohibitive fences, a view of the folly can be enjoyed from land at Lakefront Park, or aboard local boat tours.

 

Know Before You Go

The mini-castle is on private property and the structure itself is not open to visitors.

The best way to view Kingfisher Castle is from boat or Lakefront Park, at the southernmost tip of the lake. It's also there one can purchase tickets for The Glimmerglass Queen's daily (seasonal) boat tours. Kingfisher Tower is difficult to view from other public spots; although it's across the lake from Brookwood Garden, it's hidden by a fringe of trees.