Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gillette Castle State Park

(East Haddam, CT) Hi 80 Lo 61 – Boy, no complaints about the weather today. It was sunny and in the upper 70’s most of the day, with low humidity. Love this New England weather!

On the way in yesterday, right in front of our campground we saw a sign for Gillette Castle State Park. Today we thought we’d check it out. Like we usually do in new areas, we checked with the locals about a good lunch place. The lady in the campground office told us about Hilltop BBQ a few miles away, and said their wings are “awesome”. We had to mail a package, and it turns out Hilltop BBQ is within a block of the Post Office. So we headed out around 12:30. Across the street from the Post Office we saw a small warehouse type building with a sign out front: Odell, Makers of Pipe Organs. We just had to check that out. We went in the front door into a relatively small workroom.


One worker was there, and he went and got the owner who introduced himself. He’s the latest in a long line of Odells who have operated the company for 150 years. (Sorry, I forgot his first name.) They build pipe organs from raw materials, and repair and renovate pipe organs all over the U.S. Mr. Odell had to leave for an appointment, but said we could look around. After he left, the worker showed us around the small shop and explained some of their work. They make everything on their organs, including the pipes.


Here’s a console being built.

The pipes are tuned in this room.

Another overall view of the workshop, looking toward the door.

That was a pleasant surprise. Who would have thought we’d come upon a pipe organ factory in East Haddam, Connecticut?

From there it was just a couple of blocks to Hilltop BBQ.

The lady in the office was right… the wings were awesome. They may have been the best wings we’ve ever had. (And that’s including the wings we had a couple of years ago at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, where buffalo wings originated.) Usually when we get an order of 10 wings we bring a few home for lunch the next day, but not this time.

Now that we were full, we headed back toward the campground to take that road to Gillette Castle State Park. It was about a mile and a half back into the woods and up into the hills overlooking the Connecticut River.


Gillette Castle was originally the home of William Gillette (1853-1937), an American actor best known for his portrayal on stage of Sherlock Holmes.

He played other roles on stage, and even wrote some plays himself, but once he developed the persona of Sherlock Holmes, he more or less played that one role all over the country until he was into his 70’s. You know that phrase we’ve all heard, “Elementary, my dear Watson”? Well, Sherlock Holmes never said that in any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Gillette said the phrase, “Elementary, my dear fellow” on stage, and over time it developed into the famous phrase we now know.


He built his home on a high hilltop, part of the Seven Sisters chain on the Connecticut River. Construction was started in 1914 and finished in 1919. When you get the first view of the home, you know why they call it a castle.


It’s constructed entirely of stone, and looks like a medieval castle in Europe.

Here’s a couple of close ups of the stone construction. It’s interesting how they even made the “awnings” out of stone.



We paid the $6.00 each entry fee and walked through the three floors of rooms. The largest room is the living room.


The large fireplace is beautiful.

Here’s the living room from the second floor balcony.

Behind the living room, looking out onto the river, is the sun room and a pretty fountain pond.

On the second floor is Gillette’s office.

And his beautiful art gallery and library.



The third floor has several bedrooms. This is the dresser in Gillette’s bedroom. I like the little swivel drawers where he kept his cufflinks and other small jewelry items.


Gillette, among his other talents, was an inventor and tinkerer. He designed just about everything in the house, including these ingenious window latches. Pull out the key in the middle, then open each window by lifting the lever and sliding the latch into one of the notches. Pretty cool.


Another interesting design feature is all the mirrors he installed to keep an eye on things in other rooms. And little hidden doors and hallways he used to escape unwanted visitors.

After touring the interior we went out onto the rear patio and enjoyed a wonderful view of the river.



This is the rear side of the home, taken from the edge of the patio.

We walked along one of the several trails around the property. The fencing, gates, and outbuildings are also constructed of stone.



We liked this small footbridge on one of the trails.


We thoroughly enjoyed seeing this marvelous home and grounds. We love it when we find these places that we knew nothing about. It was a great way to spend our one day in Connecticut.
On the way back to our campground we saw this sign.

Never saw a Florist Crossing before. Seriously, I wonder what’s up with that?

Tomorrow we’re on the move again, this time to Rhode Island. Now that we’re away from the insanity of the New York City area we’re liking New England, especially the weather!


owensontheroad said...

OMG! I forgot all about Gillette Castle. In my former life, I lived in Hamden, CT. We took my son (he was little then!) to the castle :)

Jim and Sandie said...

All that stone work is so neat. Not sure if it would be cold in the winter time though. Sure hope somebody knows what that sign is all about.

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

What an interesting place!

Al and Karen said...

Wow, now there's a memory for me. When we decided to try camping again in 2006 to see if it was as much fun as we remembered it being from the early 80's, Wolf's Den was our first campground we went to in the little pop-up we had fixed up. We visited gillette castle and did a scenic drive along the Connecticut River. It was an easy quick weekend for us as we came across the Orient ferry from the Island. Thanks!

John and Carol said...

What a great day you had touring some of the sights. It is fun to ask locals about where to eat. They have never steered us wrong yet. Great photos! The castle looks very interesting.