Gillette Castle State Park
East Haddam, Connecticut
2007

With a wide view of the Connecticut River, Gillette Castle is one of the top three tourist attractions in Connecticut. It is No. 86002103 on the National Register of Historic Places. I visited there several times in 2007 with family and friends. It is truly a fascinating place.

Gillette Castle Park The castle The castle Betty, Evelyn, Theresa at the castle

First, a little history about the man who created the castle.

William Hooker Gillette was born in Connecticut in 1853, the son of a former U.S. Senator. Even as a child he was fascinated with the stage and acting. He attended several colleges, but never received a degree, choosing to make acting his career.

William Gillette He is remembered most for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the stage. Gillette formulated the complete phrase: "Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow". This was later shortened to "Elementary, my dear Watson" in talking movies. Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became lifelong friends.

Gillette often produced and directed the plays he was in. He also wrote plays and at least two books and was an avid inventor. He made significant contributions to the theatre with his designs of stage settings, trick stage props, and special sound and lighting effects.

In 1882 Gillette married Helen Nichols. They were extremely happy, but she died just six years later from a ruptured appendix. He was grief-stricken for years and never remarried.

While sailing up the Connecticut River in his houseboat in 1913, Gillette saw a hill over a ferry pier in Hadlyme. He docked and climbed the hill, and was so impressed with the view that he bought 115 acres of land and decided to build a home there.

View of the CT River from the castle View of the CT River from the castle View from window at end of upstairs hall View of the CT River from the castle

Gillette designed every aspect of the house and grounds, down to the smallest detail. It was loosely modeled after the Chateau de Moulineaux, a French feudal castle. The exterior and much of the interior was made with local field stone which was carried up the hill by an aerial-trolley designed by Gillette. The exterior walls tapered from 5 feet thick at the base to 3 feet at the upper levels.

The outside of the castle The outside of the castle The outside of the castle The outside of the castle

It took five years (1914 to 1919) for the 24-room house to be built at a total cost of one million dollars. He named the house "Seven Sisters" after the name of the chain of hills.

Above a full basement, the main room is 30 by 50 feet and 19 feet high. All the woodwork was hand-hewn southern white oak and was done by local craftsmen.

Main room Table by fireplace in main room Antique pottery by fireplace in main room Sitting area in main room Looking at second floor from main room Looking at second floor from main room Ceiling over main room Ceiling over main room

There are 47 doors in the house, and no two are alike. Each door has a wooden external latch, and each was devised and designed by Gillette. The windows also have wooden hinges and locking devices, and the light switches are all in hand-carved wood.

Door at basement entrance Door in upstairs room A bedroom door Door in upstairs room Upstairs bedroom door Sliding door in the main room, wooden light switches Door to locked room off of main room Door in art room and library on third floor Door to third floor A door on the third floor Upstairs bedroom door French door to the sun room Locks on French doors in main room Locks on window at end of second floor hall Locks on window at end of second floor hall Window hinge and lock on the third floor Window on basement stairway Window in the library Light switches in main room Lights and switches in dining room

The house included two mirrors carefully placed and visible to Gillette when he stood on the walkway outside of his bedroom. The first allowed him to see who entered the front door. He said this allowed him "to make great entrances in the opportune moment." The second mirror allowed him to watch his guests at the bar off of the dining room. However, the bar had a secret locking system which he did not share with his guests.

Mirror over French door, reflects front door when standing in upstairs hall Bar with trick locking door Mirror over front door, reflects bar when standing in upstairs hall Mirror over door in main room, shows people at bar


          Click here to continue with the tour of Gillette Castle.


The song on this page is Dream a Little Dream of Me.