The former castle home of actor William Gillette enchants visitors to Gillette Castle, which is now one of Connecticut's most popular state parks.
Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853 and was descended from the city's founder, Thomas Hooker. His family didn't support his pursuit of acting as a profession, but he went on to make his own fortune writing, producing and starring in plays.
The rather eccentric Gillette, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, first spotted the location where he would build his castle on a boat trip up the Connecticut River in 1912.
Gillette Castle, built at a cost of about $1 million and completed in 1919, features a number of peculiarities including hidden mirrors, a lock-protected bar and intricate, hand-carved door latches on each of the castle's 47 doors: No two are alike. For a look inside this imposing medieval structure, join me on a photo tour.
When Gillette died in 1937, his will insisted that the medieval castle he'd built not fall to "some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded." The state of Connecticut acquired the nearly 200-acre estate in 1943, and it has been a public park and one of Connecticut's most popular and intriguing attractions ever since. In 2002, a four-year, $11.5 million restoration project was completed. While the castle is the main attraction, the grounds are equally spectacular, providing scenic river views and opportunities for hiking and picnicking.
Visit Gillette Castle
Address and Directions... Gillette Castle is located at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut 06423. From Route 9 North or South, take Exit 7 for Route 82. Follow Route 82 East through Goodspeed Landing, and watch for signs directing you to the park. Parking is free.
Hours and Admission... Gillette Castle State Park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset year-round.
Self-guided castle tours are offered continuously from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (purchase tickets by 4:30 p.m.) from Memorial Day weekend until the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. While admission to the grounds is free, there is a charge of $6 for ages 13 and over and $2 for children ages 6 to 12 to tour the castle as of 2016. Children 5 and under are admitted free. Call ahead to make special arrangements if you are bringing a group.
Nearby Lodgings... Compare rates and reviews for hotels and inns near Gillette Castle with TripAdvisor.
Camping at Gillette Castle... You can't sleep inside Gillette Castle, but if you are paddling the Connecticut River in a canoe or kayak, you can reserve a riverside campsite at Gillette Castle State Park from May 1 through September 30. There is nothing regal about these primitive campsites, which have pit toilets and fireplaces as their only amenities. Stays are limited to one night, your application for a camping permit must be submitted at least two weeks in advance. On the bright side, camping is cheap: just $5 per person, per night.
Holiday Season Tours at Gillette Castle: Want to see Connecticut's castle decorated for the holidays?
Gillette Castle typically reopens weekends only, late November through late December, for holiday season tours. 2016 details have not yet been announced.
For more information... Call 860-526-2336.