Who would have thought there were so many castles in New England that I would have to break up my article into a series? I knew of a handful of these castles, and have been able to visit a couple of them myself, but I never realized just how many there are! I hope to visit more of them and update the photos in this series of articles to include some of our own. So going by state alphabetically, I am starting with the castles of Connecticut. Each castle will be listed by name, town, and the year built (or when building began).
Public or Private?
The castles I’m including in my list are publicly owned, or are accessible by the public. There are many more privately owned castles, and a very extensive listing of all known castles by state can be found here. If there is a building you would consider a castle that is not included in my article, chances are it is probably listed at this link. If not, contact him, he would love to hear about it.
What is my definition of a castle?
When you think of a castle, the first thing that comes to mind is a medieval stone fortress with turrets, crenellations (the craggy roofline), and a moat with a drawbridge. Nearly all structures in the United States that are known as ‘castles’ don’t fit that description of a medieval castle. So I will be including structures that are known locally as ‘castles’ even if they may only be towers of stone. However, they all ignite the imagination, and have you feeling like you’ve been transported back in time and place to a lonely landscape in France, Scotland, or Ireland.
Castle Craig -Meriden CT-1900
Built by industrialist Walter Hubbard, he then donated it and the surrounding area as a park to the city of Meriden. Inspiration for the tower is disputed, either based on a Norman French, a 12th century Turkish, or an ancient Scottish tower. Whichever it is based on, the 32 feet high round observation tower allows you to see the greater Meriden area, as well as New Haven, the Berkshires in MA, and Long Island Sound on a clear day. Castle Craig is located in Hubbard Park just off Main Street in Meriden CT. Hubbard Park is 1800 acres with hiking trails and a road that is open from April to October. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia where you can learn more about Castle Craig.
Gillette Castle- East Haddam, CT-1914
Gillette Castle, also known as Seventh Sister, was home to William Gillette, a director, actor and playwright. He was made famous for his role as the original Sherlock Holmes. The castle is on a 184 acre estate which was purchased by the state in 1944 and is maintained as a state park. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Gillette State Park is open to the public with daily tours from May to October. Grounds are open year round. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia where you can learn more about Gillette Castle.
Hearthstone Castle-Danbury CT-1895
This castle was built by E. Starr Sanford who was a portrait photographer and invented an early movie camera. Drawings of the castle appeared in architectural periodicals of the time. The castle is located in Tarrywile Park and was sold to the city in the 1980’s. The park also includes a Victorian mansion which is available to rent for functions. The park has many hiking trails and is open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.
The city has not been able to maintain or renovate the castle, so it has now falling into disrepair. Hearthstone Castle is closed up due to safety reasons. Photos of its current condition can be seen here. This image is courtesy of Wikipedia where you can learn more about Hearthstone Castle.
St. Clements Castle – Portland, CT-1898
Building began by Howard Taylor and expanded later by a New York attorney, Sidney Algernon Bell, who incorporating details from several French castles. It is situated on 66 acre site by the Connecticut River. It was trusted to Wesleyan University and fell into neglect. Later, it was trusted to a private trustee, St. Clements Foundation, and the estate and marina has been renovated and available as a venue for functions. Images of this castle can be seen by clicking the link.
Sleeping Giant Tower-Hamden CT-1936
Located in the Sleeping Giant State Park, the castle is a three story lookout tower which can be accessed by a 1 ½ mile trail to the peak of Mt. Carmel. The tower was built in 1936 by the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. It provides a view of Long Island Sound and the New Haven area. Park is open May to September. Photo is courtesy of Wikipedia where you can learn more about Sleeping Giant Tower.
I hope you enjoy this series on New England castles and join me next time for castles located in Maine.~Lisa