William Hooker Gillette was a noted actor, director, and playwright in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, whom he played more than 1,000 times. In the early 1900s, he purchased a 184-acre tract of land in Connecticut in the area known for a chain of seven hills called the “Seven Sisters.” The land was atop the seventh hill, and Gillette named his estate “The Seventh Sister.”
Gillette proceeded to design a 24-room mansion in the style of a medieval castle, and he also designed almost all the contents personally. The castle was built from local fieldstone and supported by a steel framework. All of the wood in the castle is hand-hewn southern white oak. There are 47 ornate wood doors, no two the same, and they all have intricately carved wooden latches. Gillette designed built-in couches, secret passageways, mirrors to spy on guests, and wooden light switches.
The park has free entrance, and the castle costs a mere $6 to tour – well worth it! There are guides stationed all over the castle to explain its history and contents. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in that area of Connecticut.
After touring the castle, we popped over to Devil’s Hopyard State Park, about 20 minutes away, to view the lovely Chapman Falls.