Dundas Castle (Craig E Claire)

Ralph W. Dundas

Ralph W. Dundas (Born 1871-Died1921) was born Ralph Wurts-Dundas in Brussels, Belgium of American parents with family connections in  Philadelphia & New York. Dundas had a connection to the Catskills region & was an heir to several fortunes. His paternal grandfather, William Wurts (1788-1858), was a Philadelphia merchant & one of three brothers who built & promoted the Delaware & Hudson Canal in the 1820s to convey anthracite from carbondale, Pennsylvania to the Hudson at angston.

William Wurts later established a mercantile house
in New York before retiring to Trenton. William Wilberforce Wurts (1841-1897), the father of Ralph Dundas, held commissions in the Philadelphia City Cavalry & New York Cavalry during the Civil War. In 1868, he married Anna Maria Dundas Lippincott (d. 1897) of Philadelphia, a granddaughter of Joshua Lippincott (1813-1886), one of Philadelphia's most successful publishers. Soon after the wedding, Wurts legally changed his surname to Wurts-Dundas in Philadelphia. By the time of his son's birth, the senior Wurts-Dundas was living abroad. He served as attache of the United States Legations at Rome under Rufus King and at Paris under Elihu B. Washburne and John A. Dix, & he remained in Europe until his death in Nice.

Ralph Wurts-Dundas

appears to have been the only child to survive to maturity." By the time of his death, he had dropped his father's hyphenated surname in favor of the more socially prominent maternal Dundas name. His maternal great-great grandfather, James Dundas (1786-1865), had been a major figure in legal, commercial & financial circles in early nineteenth century Philadelphia, especially in the development of the coal industry. James Dundas, who was an amateur architect, art collector and prominent horticulturist known for his conservatory, also fell heir to the ancestral manor estate in Scotland in 1828, upon the death of a distant cousin, whom Ralph Dundas appears to have been named after.''

Ralph W. Dundas spent the first seventeen years of his life in Europe, where he was educated at Eton and
Oxford. His activities following his return to the United States are not well documented. He received a law degree from Harvard but never appears to have practiced. He was reported to be a sportsman & well-traveled. He apparently maintained residences in Philadelphia, where he was a member of a Masonic lodge, & New
York. At some point he married Josephine Harmer of Philadelphia, and they had one daughter, Muriel Wurts- Dundas. He had another summer home, Bass Rocks, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he died.

Around 1926, five years after the death of Ralph Dundas, the castle was profiled in an article in the New York
Times: Dundas Castle, an imposing stone fortress on the edge of a forest five miles from Roscoe in the lower Catskills, known as Craig-e-clare, is one of the most intriguing points of interest in Sullivan County. Virtually completed five years ago, at a cost of more than a million dollars, the huge structure has never been occupied.. . .German police dogs give warning of intruders, and residents of the region, who are few, admit they know little regarding this mansion or its owner. Dundas Castle, they say.. ..was built by Ralph Dundas, who died five years ago, just before the finishing touches were added.
Thousands of dollars worth of rare oriental rugs, tapestries, and hangings were stored away after his death, never having been unrolled. A few were shipped away to storage, but the most of the rich hangings, it is said, remain.. . .Dundas and his wife occupied a wing of the house, & about 30 Finnish workmen were employed shortly before the World war to build a stone wall around the wooden structure erected by the former
owner. Then the castle was started. If a completed part failed to please the owner, he ordered it tom down and reconstructed. Plans were frequently altered or completely changed. More than eight years were required in building the castle. Huge iron & stone gates were imported from an old French chateau and set up. The building is in the form of a triangle with a large enclosed courtyard in front. There are nearly 40 rooms, each with modem facilities. The establishment has its own electric lighting plant & three separate heating plants, each working individually. Winding marble stairs connect all the floors. The walls of the structure are three feet thick & a special slate an inch & a half thick covers the roof and turrets. Mr. Dundas died in 1921, leaving the castle to his daughter, Mrs. Muriel Wurts of New York, who has visited the estate once or twice, but has never occupied the castle, usually spending her brief visits in a farmhouse nearby.

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