Last week, my sister came to visit us from Texas. We took a few day trips outside of Fairfield County so that she could see a side of Connecticut other than our little space on the Gold Coast sometimes referred to as The 203.
First up, was Gillette Castle State Park. The park features views of Connecticut River, straddling the towns of East Haddam and Lyme, in the area known as Hadlyme. Within the 122 acres it encompasses there are hiking trails, a visitor center and museum, a picnic area, a fishing area, and the castle, of course.
The castle and the surrounding property was originally built and owned by William Gillette in 1919. Gillette is best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes, but it is lesser known that he worked with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscript to adapt the play for the theatre, and that it was he who chose the deerstalker cap & curved pipe that have become synonymous with the character.
Along with being credited for paving the way of natural presentation of lines in acting, he also was fascinated with mechanics, and he laid a small scale railroad (like those which you’d see now at a zoo or amusement park) complete with two small working engines that went through tunnels and bridges for a loop of 3 miles. The trains are now on display, and the tracks were removed years ago, but the bridges and “Grand Central” left behind tell the tale of what once was.
Though among the top tourist attractions of Connecticut, the museum and castle are only open between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. We were so curious to see what is inside, but the windows were dark and gloomy, aside from those belonging to the atrium.
This isn’t a woman’s dream castle. My sister and I began joking immediately about how off-putting the shape and style were or the structure, and I deemed it a “historical example of poor execution.” There were few others visiting the park on this dreary, off season day, but we did overhear a group of older woman discussing, “Why they didn’t like it.”
We then decided, before entering the visitor’s section of the park and learning the details of the original owner of the home, that there was no way that he could have possibly been married to a woman, then speculated over what kind of strange person would design or live in such a place.
We later confirmed that he was indeed not answering to a wife when the home was built–he was a widower after only six years of marriage, and was never married again. Come on ladies, you know we would’ve made this place look less than a lair and more like a kingdom, amiright?
Though we theorized many strange quirks that would lead Gillette to have what we considered to be such a horrendous structure of a home, they were all debunked with a simple Snapchat (my username: tinykelsie) reply, from a young, single guy: “Wtf is that it looks awesommmmeee” “Gillette is the best a man can get!”
It’s a historic man cave, apparently as good as it gets.
From what I’ve read, it is even dreamier for the common man in the inside: it holds strategically placed mirrors throughout that allow rooms to be seen from the master. A type of surveillance setup far ahead of its time, if I do say so.
Surely I’ll be back in the summertime, and I’ll share what more the castle holds.