The castle was a private residence commissioned and designed by William Gillette (1853–1937), an American actor, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage. Gillette lived at this estate from 1919–1937. The property was purchased by the state of Connecticut in 1943 for a price of $5,000. Gillette planned to build his retirement home on Long Island until he discovered the cliffs of the Seven Sisters (on the East Haddam and Lyme town borders) while sailing the Connecticut River on his houseboat, “Aunt Polly”. Originally, Gillette’s “castle” was called Seventh Sister but renamed “Gillette Castle” by the State of Connecticut.
Gillette died having no children, and his will precluded the possession of his home by any “blithering sap-head.” It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The castle is located at 67 River Road in East Haddam and receives 350,000 annual visitors. It reopened in 2002 after a four-year, $11 million restoration. The surrounding as is also a State Park which now includes a visitors’ center and museum, hiking trails and a picnic area.
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