Autarch Mansion

Autarch Mansion
Temple of the Winds (Mount Stewart)
Mount Stewart
Mount Stuart House
The Autarch Mansion is the keystone to the Autarch’s strange dimension, easily the most important and most impressive item. When Anthony Monday stumbles into the misty moonlight dimension it is not long until he finds the house:
"...a huge mansion of black stone. Gargoyles and other strange decoration sprouted from its clifflike sides. The windows were narrow and set deep into the walls, and thick tangles of bush and weed hid the foundations. The mansion was topped by a steep slate roof with round dormer windows set in it. Anthony could see tall shadowy chimneys capped by elaborate iron covers that reminded him of Chinese pagodas. Near the mansion was a large garden full of twisted weeds and vines, and statues stood here and there amid the growths" [The Mansion in the Mist; 26-7].

The mansion sits near a path that leads through a grove of trees to a "small liake covered with lily pads and gray scum" [61]. On the other side of the lake stood an eight-sided building with columned porch and copper dome called the Temple of the Winds that is found to contain only gardening equipment. Emerson Eells supposes, because he once went on a tour of English historic houses, that the Autarchs have "tried to make their world look like an old-fashioned English estate” [70].

Later, while passing through the community of New Stockholm, Wisconsin, Anthony and Miss Eells discover a duplicate version of the dreary Autarch Mansion. Through their detective work they discover the previous owner was Marius F. Ambrose, who they later confirm was the Grand Autarch encountered in the Autarch dimension. The Wisconsin version of the house is a near replica, without a lot of the thorny underbrush that has crept upon the Autarch’s house.

Inspiration

Because of Bellairs' numerous vacations to England it is almost certain that he- like Emerson - visited a number of manor houses (such as Staunton Harold). It is therefore entirely possible that he visited (or at least read) about the folly Temple of the Winds on the Northern Ireland estate known as Mount Stewart, an 18th century manor home. In addition to its formal gardens and world-famous collection of rare and unusual plants, Mount Stewart boasts an octagonal-shaped Temple of the Winds that was supposedly built in 1875 and based on the Tower of the Winds in Athens. The Irish version was designed for use as a banqueting hall.

The "small lake covered with lily pads and gray scum" brings to mind the Mount Stewart grounds and gardens and may have been a partial influence.

However, somewhere along the way, be it intentional or by accident, there may have been some confusion with a similar-sounding mansion in Scotland.

The Mount Stuart House is located on Scotland’s Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde; the origins of the house go back to the eighteenth century, but it was mostly rebuilt following a fire in the 1870s. Described as the finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in Britain, it has included features that were highly innovative at the time, including an indoor heated swimming pool (the first of its type in any building) and the first house in Scotland to have electric lighting installed. This majestic red sandstone house looks surprisingly familiar when compared to Edward Gorey's artwork.

There is, incidentally, a small community called Stockholm, Wisconsin (no prefix to designate being either “old” or “new”), northwest of Winona, Minnesota.

Incidentally, one of the oldest known octagon-shaped buildings is the Tower of the Winds in Athens, Greece, which was constructed circa 300 B.C. It later inspired a similar looking building known as the Temple of the Winds at the Mount Stewart estate in Northern Ireland.