Miniature Castles of South Hero – South Hero, Vermont - Atlas Obscura

Miniature Castles of South Hero

A gardener's enduring labor of love is spread throughout a small Vermont town. 


South Hero is a small, island town of fewer than 2,000 people, but its unique collection of miniature stone castles gives it a grand, fairytale feel. The castles were the passion project of Harry Barber, a Swiss immigrant-turned-local gardener, who built the stone fortresses as tributes to his home country.

Barber left his native Switzerland at age 21 after losing part of a finger in a mining accident. Accounts of his journey to North America vary, but he eventually settled in South Hero after marrying a local. He would work various jobs there for the rest of his life, carving out his legacy by adding these castles to the properties he gardened.

After the first few castles showed up, demand grew quickly. Each was made modestly from fieldstone, yet each is unique—some even have electrical wiring and running water in the moat! Others have drawbridges, glass windows, flags, and long spiral staircases. Local lore has it that the castles were so beloved by locals that they even became bartering chips.

Barber tragically died by suicide in 1966, but a selection of his castles continues to beautify South Hero to this day. They do honor to both his native and adopted homes.

Know Before You Go

The easiest way to see these castles is by biking around the island. There are several scattered along the main roads that are visible to passersby. The island is about a 25-minute drive from Burlington. 

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