High atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River Valley sits the inimitable castle of famous stage actor William Gillette. Known the world over for his groundbreaking role as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Gillette has been credited with coining the phrase “elementary my dear sir,” but was also well known and made rich by his role as a playwright, and innovator and the period’s greatest stage manager. His money afforded him many luxuries, but this building, this amazing castle was to be his last passion and his greatest achievement.
This stone castle took five years to build and each of the 24 rooms has Gillette’s special touch. First, he designed each of his home’s 47 unique wooden puzzle-lock doors. He also developed wooden knobs to for turning on the overhead lights as he didn’t appreciate the aesthetic of plastic light switches. An avid railroad enthusiast, he had a custom railroad built as well as three miles of track on which he gave rides to many famous Americans including presidents, industrialists and actors. Finally, Gillette even installed a complex mirror system for surveillance from his bedroom that allowed him to make grand entrances at the opportune moment.
In 1919, this house cost $1.1 million to build. Gillette would call the house his “Hadlyme stone house” while others called it “Gillette’s folly or “the rock pile.” When he died in 1937 with no heirs or family, the state purchased the property in 1943 and formed Gillette Castle State Park.
The self guided tour costs $6 per person. Click here for more information.