Tony and Judi Perino had long dreamed of owning a bed-and-breakfast, but they never thought they’d end up living in a castle. That all changed eight years ago, though, when the Napa Valley natives came to Mt. Savage while looking for a property to purchase on the East Coast.
“When I drove through the gate, I couldn’t believe it,” Tony says of his first visit to the imposing 7,200-square-foot stone residence situated on a steep hillside above the Allegany County town.
Even during the holidays, with evergreen wreaths swathed in velvet ribbon and hung from every window, the Castle—with its arched windows, steeply pitched rooflines, and deep entryways—has something ominous about it.
While the house has operated as a B&B for more than 20 years, its nearly two centuries of history is filled with characters and tales appropriate to the building’s fantasy-like façade.
Originally built as a modest four-room home by the local Union Mining Company in 1840, the house fell into the hands of Scottish-born entrepreneur Andrew Ramsay at the turn of the last century.
“He was invited here by the Mt. Savage Enameled Brickworks Company,” Tony explains. “Ramsay worked there two years and then bought the factory for his own.” At the time, he was 29 years old. He purchased what would become known as “the Castle” at the same time and began a series of expansions on the residence for his bride, Jesse Somerville, also a Scot.
Ramsay’s idea was to make the home a replica of Castle Craig in Scotland. It took five years of construction and some 30 Italian stonemasons to complete the job. Among his additions were large verandas and terraces, all carpeted in the glazed brickwork for which his company was famous; a new wing housing Ramsay’s personal library and a kitchen; a whole third story; a carriage house; and formal, terraced gardens. To finish things off, he surrounded his American castle with a 16-foot stone wall, much of which remains standing today.
The Ramsay family resided in the home until the Great Depression, when Ramsay lost his quickly accumulated fortune. The stately residence was soon sold off, passing through the hands of various owners and taking on an array of identities, including that of dance hall, brothel, casino, and apartments.
But thanks to earlier owners who first used the Castle as a B&B, much of the home’s former glory has been restored.
“There are several Ramsay family pieces in the house,” Tony says, pointing out the remaining four fireplaces, all of which are narrow, having been designed to burn coal, not wood. One of the castle’s bed-and-breakfast rooms, the Ramsay Room, with its eight-foot-tall windows overlooking the garden, features a butler’s desk which once belonged to Ramsay himself.
Three of the home’s bathrooms boast the original sinks and pull-chain commodes designed by Ramsay’s company when he moved into the development of bathroom fixtures. For a time, he was outselling Kohler and American Standard, though Tony claims the fixture business is what ultimately ruined him. “I think if he had stuck to bricks, he would have survived the Depression,” he says.
The Perinos have decorated the home with a mix of Victorian antiques and reproductions and modern pieces. The Queen Anne-style dining room, with its rich magenta walls, glistens with burgundy glassware and porcelain at Christmastime. Many of the ceilings in the formal common areas of the home are scrolled with decorative plasterwork, another of Ramsay’s additions.
B&B guests are welcome to lounge in Ramsay’s former library. The Scotsman was a great reader, and his library is a testament to the business that grew his wealth. The floor is laden with his enameled brickwork, and the windows here are all original leaded glass.