Gillette Castle State Park

A few weeks back, I visited Gillette Castle State Park for the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA) Board of Directors/Staff retreat.

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Gillette Castle is a real gem. The State of Connecticut DEEP prides itself on the acquisition of this stunning property (in 1937) and its various renovations. My friend, Christine Woodside, wrote this great piece about the restoration, for the New York Times in 2002.

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I hadn’t been to the park in a long time, so it was great to return for this strategic planning meeting. It was a rainy Wednesday night, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We got a private tour compliments of the Friends of Gillette Castle State Park. Our guide was informative and witty.

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This is one amazing 99 year old building with so many special detailed design features. The setting on a bluff high over the Connecticut River is also spectacular. William Gillette’s Seven Sisters estate cost $1.1 million when built between 1914 and 1919. That’s like $30 million in today’s dollars. Gillette was the eclectic entrepreneur and actor who first portrayed Sherlock Holmes on the stage, and became world-renowned for playing the character in more than a thousand shows. 

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After he died in 1937, the estate was purchased by the state with help from nonprofit CFPA for a total of $29,000. The Great Depression dealt a serious blow to its value. It really is one of the crown jewels in the state park system. 

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At a time when budget cuts threaten state parks and trails, CFPA is doing incredible work to preserve the places that we love. Check out this post on SJ 35, an important bill that will help protect public lands.

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If you have never been to Gillette Park, you should plan a visit.

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