It's the last day of freedom for your little ones before they return to days in the classroom, sports, art and more. Why not take advantage of the final moments before the "back to school" bustle with a little day trip out of Southington?
Hiking trails that wind gently through wooded glens, sweeping vistas above a tranquil river, picnic spots tucked along a shimmering pond and an imposing fairy-tale style stone castle characterize this historic state park.
The grounds of include a three-mile hiking trail that was once a private railroad. Hikers can travel over trestles, through tunnels and under stone-arch bridges. Remnants of the rails are on display on the property and visitors can imagine riding the rails through this pristine piece of property.
Other outdoor attractions on the grounds include a commanding view of the CT River from the vantage point of meticulously kept garden beds, a railroad station dubbed Grand Central that now serves as a covered picnic spot, a vegetable cellar and what was once Gillette's goldfish pond.
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What you won’t find here are knights in shining armor or princesses romping through the grounds. Instead, you might come across the ghost of wandering his 24-room stone mansion that took five years (1914-1919) to build on his 184-acre estate.
The mansion has the look of an imposing stone fortress on the outside, but reflects Gillette’s unique tastes on the inside. After his retirement, Gillette made the castle his permanent home and added to its features throughout the years with the help of local craftsmen. As an example, there are forty-seven doors in the house and no two doors are alike. There are also wood and stone couches that are built into the structure and a table mounted on tracks.
William Hooker Gillette was an inventor, actor, director and playwright. He was most well known for his role as super-sleuth extraordinaire, Sherlock Holmes. He also wrote two novels. Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853 and was the son of former U.S. Senator Francis Gillette and Elizabeth Daggett Hooker Gillette. His mother was a descendent of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford.
Gillette Castle State Park is located at 67 River Road in East Haddam. The castle is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets are avialable for purchase until 4:30 p.m.
The grounds are open year-round and are free to hike or picnic on.
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For additional information on the history of the castle and East Haddam, visit the .
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