Long before Benedict Cumberbatch, Actor William Gillette made famous the world of Sherlock Holmes through his theatrical depictions. Quite a bit different from King Camp Gillette, creator of the face shaving razor of fame, William Gillette built a weird-sauce castle in CT made of fieldstone and eccentricity.
For years the external appearance of the castle turned me off. Frankly, it’s ugly. The fieldstone is quirky beyond my comfort level. Still, it’s considered a major CT tourist spot so I’ve had it on my list as something to see.
IT WAS AMAZING.
Honestly, the fieldstone facade was a major distraction from the real awesomeness: the beautifully carved wooden mechanisms that filled the house and the picturesque landscape spooning the Connecticut river.
All of the light switches, doors, door handles, etc were designed by Gillette and carved by his master woodworkers. No mechanism was duplicated, every one was unique and filled the house with a playful atmosphere. The tour guides were more than willing to demonstrate the operation of the mechanisms and the engineer in me loved it. Each new room had me on a scavenger hunt searching for clever mechanisms.
Unlike the external face of the castle most of the interior was wood, accented with stone set in colored grout. The attention to detail was obvious. Each component of the house had purpose from the uneven stonework of the chimney column (for planters) to the hanging decorative edging of the table designed as a playtoy for Gillette’s cats.
The Castle sits on a huge plot of land full of hiking trails. Gillette had a affinity for railroads so he built his own mini-railroad. The rails are mostly gone off the property but the retired rail passes make for wonderful trails including a train tunnel.
I strongly recommend checking out the castle if you’re in the area.