Chinese New Year at Castle Hill

Not sure how to celebrate Chinese New Year? At Castle Hill we have got you covered. Between February 16th and 22nd, the tasting menu in the Dining Room will once again be the creation of Chef de Cuisine Andy Taur in honor of his Chinese heritage. His parents immigrated to the United States before he was born and owned and operated a number of restaurants.

We also celebrate the style and lifestyle of the original owner of Castle Hill, marine biologist and oceanographer, Alexander Agassiz, who collected works of art from across the globe – a particular favorite being those from China and Japan. Considering that the Castle Hill mansion was completed in 1875, he would have been very much on trend in his decorating endeavors. It was the age of Victorian eclecticism – to the modern eye, rooms were somewhat cluttered and overstuffed. The pieces of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, bronzes, and furniture acquired by Agassiz on his world voyages, could easily have found a home in any of the rooms of the house. Some of those pieces have stayed with the property to this day.

Folding screen in the Agassiz Room at Castle Hill Inn

Agassiz’s interests and endeavors were large and varied, and characteristically, profitable and successful. He established his fortune by reclaiming a derelict copper mine in Michigan and was thereby able to indulge himself in his travels and scientific expeditions for the remainder of his life. His agenda was always twofold if not three or fourfold. A tour of Europe with his wife and family in 1869/70 served as a family vacation as well as an opportunity for Agassiz to study the natural history museums of Europe. In 1874, on a voyage to Peru, his objectives included visiting the copper mines of the area, surveying Lake Titicaca to study its natural history, and obtaining specimens for the Museum of Comparative Zoology, established at Harvard by his father – of which Alexander was curator, director and chief benefactor – as well as collecting human artifacts for the Peabody Museum, also at Harvard.

Agassiz Hall, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University (by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the Chinese porcelains juxtaposed with the Moorish inspired design of the chimneypiece in the lobby of the Castle Hill Inn, immediately suggest a time that is decidedly not modern, when Agassiz spent his summers here at Castle Hill and at other times could be found almost anywhere in the world – on scientific expeditions along the Atlantic American coast in the steamer Blake, or on the other side of Panama in the steamer Albatross, or jaunting around the world to Egypt, India, Japan and South Africa. The New England winter climate was deemed detrimental to his health, but he seems to have never chosen the same destination twice. The worldliness suggested by his decorative art collection was in his case a true reflection of his life as a world-seeker of excellence – in business, science and art.

Lobby fireplace at Castle Hill Inn


via Wikimedia Commons

Come and celebrate the Chinese New Year and the spirit of Alexander Agassiz with us in the Dining Room at Castle Hill Inn as we usher in the latest Year of the Dog, specifically the Earth Dog, so can you dig it?

Shea C Nelson