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 Castle History
Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853 and descended from the city’s founder, Thomas Hooker, who is buried in the Old Hartford Burial. His family did not support his pursuit of acting as a profession, but he made his own fortune by writing, producing, and starring in plays.
The rather eccentric Gillette, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, first saw where he would build his castle on a boat trip down the Connecticut River in 1912. Gillette Castle, built at a cost of around $ 1 million Completed in 1919, it features a number of quirks including hidden mirrors, a lockable bar, and intricate, hand-carved latches on each of the castle’s 47 doors – no two are the same.
When Gillette died in 1937, his will insisted that the medieval castle he had built would not fall into “some dazzling sapire that has no idea where it is or what it is surrounded by.” The state of Connecticut acquired the nearly 200-acre property 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.
Things to do at Gillette Castle State Park
Self-guided tours of the castle are offered continuously from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (purchase tickets by 4:30 p.m.) from Memorial Day weekend to Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Job . Wait about an hour to explore this fascinating structure.
While the castle is the main attraction, the gardens are equally spectacular, offering panoramic views of the Connecticut River and opportunities for hiking and picnicking. Food concessions are available during the castle’s operating season.
If you’re ready to hike, check out this hiking map for options. The best trail to take is the Railroad Trail, which winds through the property along the route, once followed by Gillette’s own Seventh Sister short line train. You can even walk through a 500 foot long rail tunnel drilled into a hill.
On summer weekends, be sure to catch a performance on the outdoor stage by Gillette Castle State Park’s theater company in residence – East Haddam Stage Company. For 2018, a four-person cast presents The Professor , written by Gillette in 1890, at 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from July 7 to August 12.
Where to stay / Camp near Gillette Castle
The closest accommodations are in East Haddam, Connecticut, where you’ll find the elegant Boardman House, an 1860s mansion-turned-inn that caters primarily to adult guests (though children ages 13 and up are allowed), and the Gelston House, which it has only a handful of simple rooms. For family-friendly lodging, look to the Griswold Inn in Essex, Connecticut – one of America’s oldest inns.
Camping at Gillette Castle: You can’t sleep inside Gillette Castle, but if you’re going to sail the Connecticut River in a canoe or kayak, you can reserve a riverside campground at Gillette Castle starting May 1 until September 30 There’s nothing real about these primitive campsites, which have bathrooms and fireplaces as their only amenities. Stays are limited to one night, your camping permit application must be submitted at least two weeks in advance.
More things to do near Gillette Castle
While in the Connecticut River Valley, consider …
- Ride the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry: This ferry crosses the Connecticut River near Gillette Castle, just as ferries have done since 1769.
- See a Show at Goodspeed Musicals – An engaging experience awaits at Connecticut’s historic riverside opera house, where Goodspeed Musicals presents a mix of new and popular musicals.
- Hit the River – A RiverQuest boat tour, departing from Eagle Landing State Park in Haddam, Connecticut, offers a different view of Gillette Castle, as well as the opportunity to spy eagles, ospreys, tree swallows, and other birds and wildlife that make the Connecticut River their home.
Visit Gillette Castle
Address and Directions: Gillette Castle is located at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut. 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. to sunset throughout the year. While entry to the grounds is free, there is a $ 6 fee for ages 13 and older and $ 2 for children ages 6 to 12 to tour the castle beginning in 2018. Children ages 5 and under are free. Call ahead to make special arrangements if you are bringing a group.
For more information: Call 860-526-2336.