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At the turn of the 20th century, William Gillette was a renowned American actor and playwright. In 1914 he purchased a scenic 184-acre plot of land that overlooked the majestic Connecticut River in East Haddam, Connecticut.
On a ridge at the site, Gillette constructed a magnificent hand-tooled stone castle where he hoped to enjoy his retirement in the solitude of his estate. Through the years, the strange-looking edifice on the high bluff became known as Gillette's Castle. Today the castle is a Connecticut State Park and is open to the public. Join us on a special tour, at a particularly wonderful time of year -- the holiday season in New England.
Christmas in Connecticut
We arrived at Gillette’s Castle just before it was to open to the public for Christmas. We made arrangements with the state to have the privilege of photographing the castle just after the staff had put the final touches on the holiday trimmings.
With the exception of a ranger, we were alone in the vast 24-room castle. As we photographed the rooms, we sensed an inexplicable aura of peace and tranquility about the place, possibly actuated by some manifestation of gentle ghosts of bygone Christmases.
Past Reasons to Decorate
John Gillette had entertained many theater and important holiday guests during his nearly 20 years of residence at the castle. He passed away while living at the castle three months after the Christmas of 1936. He was 83.
A Most Unusual Home
There is much to discover here that is not immediately obvious. It is reputed that no nails were used in the construction of Gillette’s Castle – ingenious if true. Beams are held into place with large iron rods, stone is used as an art form as well as an engineering necessity.
Each room is like a character in one of Gillette’s plays. Light streams through the fretted windows of every chamber, illuminating each to a warm yuletide mood.
One curious mystery is why Gillette used hospital style white metal beds throughout his castle.
A visit to Gillette Castle during the winter holiday season is a step across the threshold of Christmas past. It's an introspective experience that we highly recommend.
The park is at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut. Check out the website here.
For more ideas about what to see and do in Connecticut, check out www.ctvisit.com
Copyright © 2018 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff