Gillette’s Castle is a most unusual home belonging to, and built by, a most accomplished and unusual man. He was William Gillette, one of the leading actors of American theater in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His most famous portrayal was as Sherlock Holmes, and for a generation, Mr. Gillette was Sherlock to the public.
He also added a few touches to Sherlock that we now associate with the character, but that did not come from the author of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
It was William Gillette who gave Sherlock the deerstalker hat after an original Strand illustration. Gillette came up with the meerschaum pipe, changing Sherlock’s originally written straight pipe. He also came up with the exclamation, “Elementary” as in “This is elementary, my dear fellow…” which was changed in the first Sherlock Holmes movie to “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
Gillette’s creativity as a playwright, and actor, director, a producer, a stage manager also led to his inventing some stage special effects, and a few patents for such, and other gadgets like a time stamp.
View from the ferry landing below the Castle.
But his most unusual creation, and his most lasting presence, is to be found here in East Haddam, Connecticut, perched atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Here he built is 184-acre estate. The stone had to be moved up the hill by a tramway he devised. It is a 24-room mansion he designed himself, completed in 1919.
Outside on the extensive grounds among handsome walking trails is a narrow gauge railroad he built.
For more on the Gillette Castle State Park, have a look at this website.
View from the Castle terrace looking westward. You can see the other ferry landing on the opposite side of the river.
The view from the terrace looking southward down the Connecticut River.
Below are a couple of short clips on William Gillette. (Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page to pause the music so you can hear the videos.)