Gillette Castle State Park
Over the next five years – and a million dollars later – he designed and built his fieldstone twenty four room luxury mansion that used wood and stone in extraordinarily creative and amazing ways. William Gillette lived in his houseboat moored at the river and transported building materials up the steep hill from the river to the hilltop building site with an elaborate aerial trolley he designed.
Built in a style reminiscent of a medieval castle the exterior walls have an outline and texture that contributes to the odd and eccentric character of the mansion that Gillette truly relished. He never referred to it as a castle, but rather as “The Seventh Sister.” The ivy covered fieldstone walls taper from five feet thick at the base to three feet in the upper stories.
The castle is riddled with Gillette’s penchant for exotic detail and eccentricities such as forty seven intricately crafted doors, door knobs and hand carved wooden sliding puzzle locks – no two of which are the same. The dining room had a dining table that could vanish into the wall. The castle had a disappearing bar that was used during Prohibition that could open or close quickly if you knew the right combination. The woodwork within the castle is hand-hewn southern white oak and the mansion’s beautiful luxury furnishings were the finest from around the world.
A complex system of hidden mirrors for surveillance of the public rooms from his master bedroom was created by Gillette, saying this was how he could see guests arriving and “make a great entrance in the opportune moment.” Gillette was also a train enthusiast and constructed a three mile miniature railway on the property powered by two locomotives that he loved taking guests on a tour of his home over trestles and through a tunnel around the estate. The hiking trails Gillette designed had stone-arch bridges, vertical steps and a goldfish pond.