As we cruised south on the Connecticut River our guides pointed out a huge stone building on a bluff overlooking the river. With no trees to block the view it was hard to miss and certainly does look like a Medieval castle.
I had noticed signs on the way to the boat landing referring to Gillette Castle and Gillette Castle State Park but I had never heard of it before so had no idea what it might be.
According to our guides, Gillette Castle State Park is located in Haddam, Ct. The Castle was built by “William Gillette as a private residence. It is said he came to visit and was so taken with the views that he bought 184 acres and built this huge stone house.
William Gillette was an American and made his money as an actor, most notably playing Sherlock Holmes on stage.
Gillette loved showing off his estate and even had a railroad track with a working steam engine so he could show his visitors around the grounds.
In 1882 Gillette married Helen Nichols of Detroit. They were blissfully happy. She died in 1888 from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. According to our guides, Helen , on her death bed, begged him not to remarry and he honored that request. He was grief-stricken for years and in the Spring of 1890 was struck down by tuberculosis. By the time of his death he was almost penniless but he still had his home.
When Gillette died , he had no wife or children to inherit, his will precluded possession of the castle by any (and I love this) “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded”.
Connecticut’s government took possession of the property in 1943 and renamed the home Gillette’s Castle and the land around it Gillette State Park.
The Castle is open during the summer and can be toured while the grounds are open all year. Even if the Castle is closed you can stand on the veranda and look out over the Connecticut River, enjoying the same views that so enamored William Gillette.