|Fonthil, now on the National Register of Historic Places (left). Rollo's footprints are a permanent memorial (right).|
Dogs were not the only creatures for whom he cared. In 1914, Fonthill was established as a bird sanctuary. Mercer allowed trespassing bats, spiders and other wildlife the use of his home, and he abhorred fashions that exploited birds and their feathers. Today, the 60-plus acre property, supervised by Bucks County Park System, is still a haven for deer, hawks and wild turkeys, among other wildlife. Its grassy fields, garden plantings and wooded trails are a heavenly destination for Doylestown dogs.
Mercer may have been a loner, but he wasn’t alone. Knowing what I know now, I can see the muddy paws of his dogs—of which his father was said to be quite intolerant—snaking throughout the maze of the castle. I see his hand resting on the broad head of one of his beloved Chessies as he pursues his scholarly work in the studio. I imagine him walking through the kitchen, opening a large tin on the counter and tossing a biscuit to Rollo or Larry or Jack or Sailor or Janet or Captain or Rory or Lady. And if he were gazing out the upper story window in the Columbus Room today, watching the Retriever who’s playing fetch in the park and wagging his tail madly, he would surely be smiling.