Visiting the Stone Castle that Gillette Built

The dilapidated castle on the Connecticut shore built by mogul William Gillette.
The dilapidated castle on the Connecticut shore built by mogul William Gillette.

William Gillette left a famous home on top of a mountain in Hadlyme, Connecticut. He was an actor, producer, playwright and yachtsman, and the big house he built was full of 15 cats. We joined many motorcyclists on a warm Sunday to tour the big house that he called Seven Sisters, but now, boaters passing by on the Connecticut refer to as Gillette’s Castle.

He was also famous for tinkering with trains, and was the architect of this stone castle that’s dotted with jagged rocks, and built of smooth river stones that were carted to the top of the mountain by local farmers. It cost $1 million to build in 1919, but the state of Connecticut was able to buy it as a park for a mere $23,000 about 25 years later. Gillette’s relatives couldn’t afford to keep it up. Today a stream of boaters zip by down on the Connecticut river dodging a ferry that takes cars across.

Gillette had an assistant named Otaki, whose brother was the mayor of Toyko. He was the actor’s loyal valet, butler, and constant companion; an aristocrat in Japan yet a manservant for a famous rich guy in Connecticut. Gillette repaid his loyal service by giving him a house at the bottom of the mountain.

We had a visitor from Italy, and wanted a good day trip. This part of Connecticut was a perfect choice, and it began in the riverside village of Chester. A rockin’ band made up of four guys in red bowling shirts was banging out a rendition of ‘Johnny Be Goode’ on the front steps of a real estate office. All around them were farmer’s pop-uip tents. They were serving up the ripe produce and fruits of the season. A great August day in a lovely part of the world.