Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gillette Castle

Today we took the kids to Gillette Castle. It is the home of William Gillette, the original Sherlock Homes in the earliest movies.
The Castle was built from 1914-1919 to be Mr. Gillette's retirement home. It took 20 men 5 years to complete. He hired local farmers $1.00 per load to bring fieldstone up the hill to construct the castle. It is steel framed with local fieldstone structure. All the woodwork (and there is a LOT) is Southern White Pine, and hand-hewn. There are 47 doors in all, and no two doors are alike, each is intricately engraved by hand. There are quite a few little secret hallways. Mr. Gillette also had a "state of the art" security system -- in the form of mirrors disguised as windows. When he stood in certain areas, he could see into other rooms, who was entering his home, if anyone was in teh bar doing something they shouldn't be .. that sort of thing. He also had a fire-protection system, which consisted of a 7,000 gallon cistern on the roof that collected rainwater. He had sprinklers piped throughout the castle, and he had a carved wooden pull-handle in one nook, that all he had to do was pull it, and it opened the pipes and sprinkler system in case of fire.
When William 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 castle was valued at $1 million in 1937. The estate sold the castle and 120 acres to the State of Connecticut for $30,000, and it has been a State Park and attraction ever since.
The kids loved it, and my son had decided he would like to move in immediately ;-)
Here are some photos.

This is the walkway toward the entry

If you are facing the castle entryway, this is the right side

And this would be the left side

This is the rear of the castle, standing in the garden looking up

The garden

This is the view of the Connecticut River from the garden

Some of the interior photos will be blurry. Flashes were not allowed, and it took me awhile to figure out the best setting on my camera for interior photos with no flash.

Here is one of the lightswitches as soon as you walk in the main entrance. Mr. Gillette was a railroad buff, so he had a railroad influence throughout the castle. All the lightswitches look like railroad levers.

This is a window in the hallway to the main room

And here is the main room. All the stone is local fieldstone. Mr. Gillette chose black grout for between the stones in the hallway for a dramatic flaire. For the rest of the house, he chose red grout, as you can see in the lightswitch photo above.

All the ceilings and wood is Southern Pine.

The table you see in this photo has an interesting story. Mr. Gillette also loved cats, and he had anywhere from 12 to 17 cats at any one time living with him. Its hard to see in this photo, and the closeup one did not come out. But there are cutouts and "dangly" carvings hanging all around the table, similar to a Tiffany lamp. Mr. Gillette had all the "dangles" suspended on cord, rather than having them carved in on the same piece of wood. He did this so that the cats could lay under the table and play with the dangles. He also loved frogs, and he had a collection of ceramic frogs on the fireplace, as well as some incense burners. He had them cemented to the mantle so that he could enjoy them, without the cats knocking them down and breaking them.

View from a hallway window of the Connecticut River

Mr. Gillette had ordered in some grass-type matting for the floor-covering. But when it arrived, he decided he wanted to leave the hardwood floors so they can be seen, and that this would work better as a wall covering. Some of the rooms have some hand-painted designs, which would be the master bedroom, and his niece's guestroom.

This is a photo of the windowlock

This is the office. Interestingly, the office chair is on rails, similar to a railroad track. Apparently all the furnishings were from Mr. Gillette's fathers house, and this heavy chair had scratched up the floor. So he created these tracks, to keep the chair from marring the pine floors. A little different from those plastic mats we are so used to, eh?

The kitchen was quite small and unremarkable

The lighting throughout the castle was very interesting. These are all hallway lights, if I remember correctly.

Here is the master bedroom

And the niece's bedroom

And some more lightswitches

This is the hallway up to the library. It was really striking, I wish the photo came out better.

The Library

I only managed to get photos of 8 of the 47 doors, so here they are. I don't recall where most of them were. This one I do remember, of course. It is from the main room to the garden.

This one is a broom closet in the office

This is a door to the library. The doorknob opens sort of a pully system. And this is not really woven wood, but it is carved, flat on the bottom, but carved and laid to look woven.

So that is about it for inside. Then outside, there is a walkway that goes down the mountain, to a couple of fields, one leads down to another road at the back of the property, and another path meanders down to the Connecticut River. It is quite steep and long. Mr. Gillette also had a boat, the Miss Polly (I think I remember that correctly) named after a nurse who nursed him back to health as a youngster through Tuberculosis. It was 133 feet long, then he decided to add 14 feet to it, so they cut it in half and added it in the center. Unfortunately, it burned completely and was never rebuilt. Apparently a piano was saved, and that was about it.

This drainage ditch runs the entire length of this path. We actually got some good ideas from this for our own hill!
The bottom of the path looking back up

A pair of stone pillars serving as the entryway for a field

A cool twisty tree I saw on our walk

Ledge that the castle is built on, just above the photo is where the castle is
The pond
The kids playing on the beach of the CT River

1 comment:

Funder said...

That is incredibly cool!