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  • Writer's pictureKen Harms

Exploring History's Treasures: Ken Harms' Unforgettable Journey through the Mercer Museum!

Earlier this month, my wife and I spent a wonderful week in historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania visiting our daughter and her family. On our walk to the local coffee shop one morning, I couldn’t help but notice a six-story concrete castle in the distance.

Captivating view of Mercer Castle Museum, a magnificent 6-story castle steeped in history.

Fascinated by the building itself, we spent the afternoon exploring Mercer Museum, one of three poured-in-place concrete structures built by Henry Mercer. As a history buff with over 35 years of experience in the construction industry, I was eager to learn more about the building, including why Mercer chose to build with concrete.

Interior view of the Mercer Castle Museum, showcasing a captivating collection of historical artifacts and architectural wonders.

During our tour, we quickly learned that Henry Mercer chose to build with concrete after the Great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed his aunt’s collection of medieval artifacts that had been housed in wooden structures. Mercer, an anthropologist with a vast collection of artifacts from preindustrial life, personally designed plans for a museum to house his collection in Doylestown, PA. The building was completed in 1916 and is an early demonstration of rebar-reinforced concrete as a structural material. Another fun fact we learned is that all the concrete used to construct the castle was mixed by hand – imagine that!

Interior view of the Mercer Castle Museum, showcasing

historical artifacts.

Mercer’s decision to use concrete was based primarily on its fire resistance. However, there are several more advantages to using concrete in building construction. These include:

Another increasingly important advantage is that concrete is environmentally friendly. It can be made from natural resources, which continue to be abundant, such as limestone and clay. And did you know that concrete can absorb carbon dioxide over time, reducing its overall carbon footprint?

Reinforced concrete continues to be an indispensable material used in construction today. Henry Mercer certainly took advantage of its many benefits after realizing the devastation and loss of meaningful and historic artifacts that a fire had on a wooden structure.

Exterior view of the majestic Mercer Castle Museum, showcasing its unique architectural design

and historical significance.

Concrete’s rich history and ongoing innovations have transformed the built environment, leaving an indelible mark on architecture and engineering achievements worldwide.

At MatriScope, concrete testing and inspections is our specialty. We provide field and lab testing and services on a variety of cast-in-place concrete projects including multi-family complexes, parking garages, state office buildings, hospitals, hotels, and more. Our inspectors and staff are proudly certified by ACI, CCRL, ASNT, ICC, NICET and more. You can find an exhaustive list of our services and accreditations on our website.

Prior to our trip to Doylestown, I had never heard of Henry Mercer or his museum, but I am glad that my curiosity got the best of me and we were able to learn more about the benefits of concrete and the history of Mercer.

Ken Harms pictured with his granddaughter learning about the history of the Mercer Museum.


About the Author

Ken Harms

Senior VP of Business Development and Corporate Strategy, MatriScope

With over 35 years of experience in the built environment, Ken Harms is seasoned at developing sustainable relationships within the construction industry. His proven record of accomplishment implementing corporate initiatives is in perfect alignment with MatriScope’s long-term strategic expansion plans. Ken is responsible for overseeing MatriScope’s strategic growth initiatives as the company expands into new markets and explores additional service offerings. Additionally, Ken enjoys mentoring the next generation of industry leaders, volunteering locally in Sacramento, and giving back to the community.

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