FROM THE HEART
10 Lavish Monuments to Love
Who said it's the thought that counts? Throughout history, romantics have constructed elaborate monuments to show just how much they cared—though the love-story endings weren't always so happy.
Thornewood Castle, Lakewood, Wash.: Built with three shiploads of treasures from Europe
When his wife expressed a desire for a castle of their own, early-20th-century millionaire Chester Thorne—one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma—didn't need to think twice. He commissioned noted architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter to indulge his bride's wish and sought out the finest European materials. The resulting 54-room Tudor-Gothic manor brings together three-inch-thick solid oak doors and a grand staircase from a 16th-century English manor; red-brick facing from Wales; stained glass from the collection of an English duke; and Florentine marble for the fireplaces. Three supply ships transported the precious cargo to Washington State via Cape Horn. But Thorne's ambitions went beyond the castle walls; he enlisted the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm (of Central Park fame) to design a formal English garden complete with wisteria and climbing hydrangea—and then hired a staff of 28 gardeners for the upkeep. Eight available suites start at $275 a night; 253/584-4393, thornewoodcastle.com.
Petit Trianon, Versailles, France: A re-gifted, hedonistic hideaway for many loves
Louis XV originally commissioned this Ange-Jacques Gabriel–designed "little" chateau on the grounds of the Palace in 1762 for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. But the king's beloved passed away four years before the building was finished, so he presented it to his next mistress, Madame Du Barry. The elegant, neoclassical manse achieved most of its notoriety, however, when young Louis XVI gifted it to his bride, Marie Antoinette. She wasn't exactly known for her gratitude. From 1774 until the couple's violent end, the ostentatious queen used the house as an escape from the formality of court life, open only to her inner circle—mostly a circle of rumored lovers. Marie let her imagination run wild; notable touches included a table carved with images of her pets, a lantern adorned with paste diamonds and symbols of Cupid, and mirrored shutters in her private quarters to deflect prying eyes. Petit Trianon is open as part of a complete Versailles tour or independently; tickets are $24 and $13, respectively, 011-33/1-30-83-78-00, en.chateauversailles.fr.
• Related: World's Most Beautiful Castles
Coral Castle, Miami, Fla.: A lovesick man's secret 28-year handiwork
Ed Leedskalnin became engaged, at the age of 26, to his true love, 16-year-old Agnes Scuffs. But she had a change of heart—the day before the wedding ceremony. Ed fled from his native Latvia, eventually settling in Florida, where he began construction of a monument to his lost gal. From about 1923 until his death in 1951, Ed—who stood just over five-feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds—single handedly carved, sculpted, and moved over 1,100 tons of coral rock, usually under cover of night, with just a lantern to guide him. Since no one ever saw him actually construct the castle, and there was no visible machinery on the property, Ed's methods remain a mystery; rumors persist that he accomplished the feat using "magnetism," "perpetual motion holders," or even supernatural abilities. When asked how he did it, all Ed ever said was: "It's not difficult if you know how." And when asked why he did it, he would answer that it was for his "Sweet Sixteen." Open daily for tours; $9.75 for adults, $5 for kids 7-12, 305/248-6345, coralcastle.com.
Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan: A wife honors her husband and his love of tea
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a 16th-century warlord, made his name as one of Japan's great unifiers by consolidating political clans, reforming class structures (including the ban of slavery), and waging war on neighboring countries. Often on the go, he would exchange letters with one of his favorite wives, Nene, the daughter of a samurai—and a valuable source of strategic advice and connections. After Hideyoshi's death, Nene built this complex, in what's present-day eastern Kyoto, in his memory. The main temple houses artwork and lacquer furnishings and is surrounded by a memorial hall with carved images of the couple, a mausoleum, a bamboo grove, and several formal gardens said to have been designed by 17th-century Zen landscape architect Kobori Enshu. Nene paid tribute to Hideyoshi's fondness for tea ceremonies by installing two still-functioning tea houses. Open year-round, $7, 011-81/75-561-9966, kyoto.travel.