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Strange Castle Built by Actor with Sherlock Holmes Obession

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1 photo, 1,500 words

William Hooker Gillette played Sherlock Holmes on the stage literally hundreds of times, but is arguably more well known for constructing one of the most unusual castles in the world. The castle is sited 200 feet in the air along the banks of the Connecticut River. It was designed by Gillette, constructed by stonemasons using tens of thousands of fieldstones, and was completed in 1919. It looks like a large drip sand castle that one might see at the beach. It has 24 rooms with walls 3-5 feet thick, hand-carved window hardware, and 47 hand-carved doors each uniquely designed by Gillette with a puzzle lock system. The built-in couches, a movable table on tracks, and light switches of carved wood all point to his Gillette’s genius and engineering interests. The main 30x50 foot salon has a complex mirror system that enabled Gillette to spy on his guests from his bedroom so he could perfectly time his “grand entrance.”

An avid train buff, Gillette built a 3-mile miniature railway that extended throughout the property. Famous visitors like Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, President Calvin Coolidge and Helen Hayes (who had her own room at the castle), were always treated to a ride on the “Seventh Sister Shortline.”

Now a Connecticut State Park, Gillette Castle enjoys thousands of visitors annually.

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  • Gillette Castle State Park, Hadlyme, CTFormer home of William Gillette (1853- 1937) who is know for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage over 1300 times.
    Gillette Castle State Park, Hadlyme, CTFormer home of William Gillette (1853- 1937) who is know for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage over 1300 times.

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