A Visit to the Seventh Sister
Connecticut certainly has no shortage of historic residences, unique architecture, and state parks (there are 72 of them!). But, no place in Connecticut embodies elements of all three better than Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam.
Situated at the top of the southern-most hill in a chain known as the Seven Sisters, Gillette Castle sits in a 204 acre estate along the Connecticut River called the Seventh Sister. Built in 1914 by famous actor William Gillette, who pioneered the role of Sherlock Holmes, the 24 room mansion is built to resemble a medieval castle and boasts some impressive touches designed by Gillette himself, including secret doors, hidden mirrors for surveillance, and 47 intricately designed doors and locks, no two of which are alike. It took twenty men over five years to complete the main building out of local fieldstone, and the result is nothing short of brilliant.
All of the woodwork in the castle is of Southern white oak, including the carved wooden light switches which Gillette designed. The only one of the interior doors that Gillette did not design is one known as the Colt Door. It was a gift from the Colt Manufacturing Company, and the door handle is in the shape of a pistol grip. Other interesting attractions include an outdoor vegetable cellar, the railroad station, a goldfish pond, and the ruins of a stone bridge that Gillette also designed.
The park is open from 8AM until sunset, while the castle opens at 10AM and closes at 4:30PM. There is ample free parking at the Visitor’s Center. After you’ve enjoyed the castle tour, you may want to go walking on the more than three miles of hiking trails, look for eagles, hawks and other birds of prey along the Connecticut River, or even set up camp for the night at the public camping area, which is accessible by canoe only.
All in all, a visit to the Seventh Sister makes for a great day trip with the family, so pack a picnic lunch and hit the road for East Haddam!