EAST HADDAM, Conn. – On Saturday, May 27, the interior of Gillette Castle re-opened to visitors after completion of a half-million-dollar project to restore its surrounding terrace.
Most Connecticut state park buildings, museums, nature centers and other enclosed structures are expected to open during the Memorial Day weekend.
Through Sept. 4, the century-old fieldstone mansion may be toured daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advance purchase of tickets from park staff is highly recommended, and may be done at ReserveAmerica.com under “Gillette Castle State Park Tours.” Questions about tickets should be directed to park staff at (860) 526-2336.
“The home of the late stage actor William Gillette is the true centerpiece of this wonderful park, and our plans over the past couple of years are coming to fruition — with more to come,” said Lynn Wilkinson, president of the Friends of Gillette Castle State Park.
“What visitors may not notice is the restoration of the upper terrace behind the Castle, which has been in works since last autumn,” she added. “The work allowed an improved drainage system to be installed, preventing possible damage to the Castle.”
The $480,000 project was administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in cooperation with the engineering firm Nathan L. Jacobson & Associates of Chester and Baltic, Conn.-based Mattern Construction Inc.
“Now that the project has been completed, the terrace and a restored retaining wall look just as they did before,” Wilkinson said.
Elsewhere on the Castle grounds, visitors who travel to the ferry dock may note that efforts are continuing to prevent additional deterioration at the former home of Gillette’s longtime assistant and friend, Yukitaka Osaki.
The park’s grounds are open from 8 a.m. until sunset daily, offering visitors a chance to use the park’s varied hiking trails, stroll around Gillette’s unique home and perhaps spot the eagles that frequently nest with their young along the river at many times of the year.
The park is nestled between the towns of East Haddam and Lyme. Many of its trails follow a former railroad bed created for a narrow-gauge track installed by the late Connecticut stage actor, who built his castle-like home atop one of the Seven Sister Hills along the river.
Trail maps and videos of the estate may be found on the Friends website at www.gillettecastlefriends.org. Those interested in becoming a Friends member may sign up online or download a mail-in application form at the website, or direct their questions to [email protected] or (860) 222-7850.
The organization’s mission includes the preservation, restoration and conservation of the historic structure and its scenic grounds. The all-volunteer, nonprofit group works in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Memberships help to finance park and structural improvements while preserving the estate and Gillette’s legacy.
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