Great Things to Do in South Hero, VT - Find the Castles!

Fairies have come alive in the imaginations of children for generations and continue to be popular today. You can easily find all sorts of fairy books, potions, and garden kits galore to delight fairy believers.

But it’s not only the young who enjoy getting lost in the magic of these tiny mythical creatures. In 2020, a woman pretended to be a fairy by leaving presents and letters in a young girl’s fairy house for 9 months during the pandemic.

You can say she was the modern-day Harry Barber. Barber was a South Hero, Vermont local who brought magic to the town by building fairy castles throughout the island in the first half of the twentieth century for people to enjoy.

If you’re looking for things to do in South Hero, take a cruise around the island to see if you can spot the castles, scattered around on private property. The castles are listed below with historical information and fun facts about each courtesy of John Lake, South Hero Historian, and Fred and Gladys Lane, South Hero residents. 

For the exact location of the five castles located in South Hero, check out this castle map from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the Champlain Islands Bikeways.  

Things to do in South Hero

things to do in south hero vt castles

Photo courtesy: Library of Congress

Why Did Harry Barber Build Fairy Castles?

Barber was a stonemason born in Switzerland in 1899. He was quite the character known for his creativity and ability to bring people joy through his masonry, yodeling, accordion skills, and singing. He created the tiny castles after immigrating to Vermont as a tribute to his homeland. The castles were a way to remember where he was from. Many resemble castles in Europe. 

So, how did Barber end up in Vermont? Barber left Switzerland to embark on a journey to Chili after suffering a work injury and receiving a government settlement. Many Swiss people had immigrated to Chili already and he dreamed of going. But, after being robbed in France, he had to take a job on a boat to America. Unfortunately, it was not going to South America. It was going to Quebec City. When he arrived in Canada with no money and no identification, he still thought he could get to Chili by walking.  

Fortunately, a woman selling oranges in Rousses Point, New York named Beverly Rocque caught his attention and fed him. He had never had an orange before. They married when she was 16 and he was 37 years old. They settled in the Champlain Islands of Vermont where she was originally from. Barber started a stone masonry business with his first job being on Providence Island, a small island off the shores of South Hero that was once home to a resort. 

Barber also worked for Colonel Horatio Jackson of Crescent Bay Farm in South Hero, now home to a bed and breakfast and Snow Farm Vineyard. It was Barber's job to gather the cows each day at the dairy farm, morning and night. He always carried two buckets to pick up small round stones that interested him.  

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How Were the Castles Made?

The castles were commissioned by local landowners, with the exception of the two he made at his homes. Each castle took three to six months to make. He mixed the stones with his special recipe for stone mortar using the sand on the beach at Crescent Bay Farm. Some of the towers were built around mayonnaise jars. He made the largest ones in several different sections and assembled them on site, being sure to always put the Swiss flag on top as the finishing touch.

The castles were created from his imagination and his memories from family vacations to France. One castle is like the Chateau Barbier which is now a winery in the South of France. Another castle resembles the Neuschwanstein Castle, constructed by the Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria in 1870.

When Barber was commissioned for a job, he often got room and board but very little pay. His love for masonry was his true life-calling. In the 1960s he wanted nothing more than to be granted the contract for the castle gardens at Shelburne Museum and was ultimately rejected.   

Barber had a life filled with hard work and the art and skill of creative stone masonry. This life did take a toll on his body and mental health, and the disappointment from being rejected by the museum was too much for him. Barber died by suicide in 1966. He was laid to rest in the South Hero Cemetery. He left his widow with 5 children, the youngest 8 years old.

The castles are now priceless. If you are now on a castle quest, please remember to be respectful to the landowner. You are discovering remarkable treasures as you view the Harry Barber castles of the Champlain Islands!

The Six Fairy Castles

Things to Do in South Hero VT

 The Collins' Castle at Crescent Bay Farm in South Hero

  • The first castle Harry Barber built in the 1930s was for Charlie and Mary Collins at Crescent Bay Farm. The year 1930 is etched in the far west stone wall.
  • He worked on the Crescent Bay Farm and would gather rocks for the castles while bringing in the cows.
  • The castle is about 4 feet tall, was built in 4 pieces, has glass windows, a wooden door, and a chain along the walkway.
  • The roof is metal and shingled with wood and had cupolas.
  • Has granite in the castle came from the nearby Jackson Point Quarry.
  • It had a moat around it with goldfish, electricity, and running water though the fountain was never connected. 
  • He also made stone “Easter” baskets, archways, and the stone cottage on the property.
  • This was his wife's favorite castle.

The Barber’s Castle in South Hero

  • Built at Harry Barber’s first home with his wife, Beverly, in the 1940s.
  • Has no electricity, pipes for the moat only.
  • It was made in tiers and put together in pieces. 
  • The glass windows and doors are intact. 
  • The moat has 4 stone bridges over it.
  • Barber also created a wishing well, a birdbath, and a fireplace.

The Brigg's Castle in South Hero

  • Built in 1945 or 1947 when Barber was a caretaker of the South Hero Inn for the Briggs Family.
  • This is the only castle ever moved from its original location to a different property. The South Hero Inn where it was originally is now a Community Bank. 
  • It was moved by a flatbed in 1973.
  • It was made in three tiers and put together in pieces. 
  • No electricity or water.
  • The only castle with an intact clock.
  • Barber was paid by being allowed to take the garbage away for one summer to feed to his pigs. He was offered $500 and refused the money, as he needed to feed his pigs.
  • This castle is very similar to Chateau Barbier, now a winery in Southern France.

The Gifford's Castle in South Hero

  • Built in the early 1950s in one piece. 
  • Had electricity, and lights.
  • The roof is made of stones and painted light grey/green and the floors are painted dark green.
  • Water flowed down and around the walkways. The moat is now filled in with cement.
  • This castle was originally made for the Folsom family. The castle was lent out to their neighbor Dr. Gifford, who lived across the road, to pay a debt. Dr. Gifford had saved the life of one of the Folsom children.
  • The castle was never moved back to the Folsom property.

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Things to Do in South Hero VT_ Find the Castles

Photo courtesy: Don Shall, Flixr

Corbin’s Point Castle in South Hero

  • Built in 1958 and is the best condition of all the castles.
  • It was made in one piece and moved to the point by wagon and tractor.
  • It originally had no water or electricity. Later the Corbin’s put electricity in.
  • The wall was made specifically for the castle because it is directly located on the waterfront.

Photo courtesy: Don Shall, Flixr

The Barber's Castle in Milton, Vermont

  • This was the last castle Barber built before he died. It was built in 1963 at his home in Milton, Vermont. 
  • It has electricity and the largest clock with a painted red roof.
  • He built flowerpots, stone walls, a fireplace, and stone siding on the house.
  • He let his 6-year-old son help lay the stones.

Are There Actually Fairies in The Castles? 

We keep a close eye on our castle at Crescent Bay B&B at Snow Farm Vineyard and it’s possible that we’ve seen little lights on at night. Of course, these might be fireflies! But who knows? 

As Only In Your State explains, there's magic in the South Hero Islands!

To see what’s up for biking, events, and other great things to do in South Hero go to our calendar page!

For more great things to do in South Hero see:

Great Things to Do in South Hero - Go For a Bike Ride!

Great Things to Do in South Hero - Grand Isle State Park!

 

Things to Do in South Hero VT_ Find the Castles

Photo courtesy: Don Shall, Flixr

Things to Do in South Hero Vermont Bigger Castle

Photo courtesy: Don Shall, Flixr

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