New England may be better known for its Colonial clapboards than its medieval-style castles, but we can still rustle up a few good turrets and spires every now and then. Visiting one of the region’s castles makes for a fun historical day trip, and offers glimpses of some incredible architecture. Ahead, find six castles that are open to the general peasants, er, public.
It took 20 men five years to finish William Hooker Gillette’s castle, a craggy, mottled masterpiece constructed with local fieldstone. The castle’s dark medieval interior furnishings are an attraction on their own, but the surrounding woodlands are equally as beautiful with trails open to the public. Preservation of the property was paramount to Gillette, who specified in his will the estate never be owned by “some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded,” according to ct.gov.
Gillette Castle State Parks, 67 River Rd., East Haddam, Ct., ct.gov.
Hammond Castle was ripped straight from your childhood daydreams of great adventures and dragon-slaying. The medieval-style fortress was built in 1929 by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. to serve as his private residence. It has classic-looking drawbridges and a balcony overlooking the Atlantic. There are also a few odd features added by Hammond, like one inner courtyard that serves as a personal rainforest. Deep dive into the days of yore during the castle’s renaissance faire in July, or meet the resident vampires at their Halloween extravaganza.
Hammond Castle Museum, 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester, hammondcastle.org.
Harry Barber’s Miniature Castles
Ok, so you can’t technically tour these castles because A) you’re not the incredible shrinking man and B) there’s not a whole lot of information on where they actually are. According to some very Vermontian websites, Harry Barber was a Swiss native who moved to South Hero, Vermont, after coming into some wealth. He missed the castles of his homeland so much he decided to build a few himself. Some of the intricate designs reportedly include handcrafted details like little glass windows and teeny drawbridges. If you’re in the area, scout out a few of Barber’s masterpieces with this kind-of helpful map.
Winnekenni is an Algonquin Native American name for “very beautiful,” which pretty much says it all. The Massachusetts castle was finished in 1875 and built of boulders and rocks, which give the walls a multi-colored patchwork quality. Overlooking Kenzoa Lake, it is a picturesque setting for the many public events held there, like the castle’s ’60s music concert and psychic night.
Winnekenni Castle, Castle Rd., Haverhill, winnekenni.com.
This Regency-style brick mansion sits atop a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset, Maine. Built in 1807, it was purchased by the Tucker family in 1858 and today displays their belongings and Victorian-style furnishings. Start in the flourishing gardens planted by Jane Standen Tucker, then make your way through the handsome rooms to the upper piazza, with expansive views of the town.
Castle Tucker, 2 Lee St., Wiscasset, Maine, historicnewengland.org.
Honorable Mention: The West Paris Public Library
The building is not technically a castle, but it makes for a quaint stand-in. The library was built after the death of Lewis M. Mann, a longtime West Paris resident who bequeathed $5,000 to the town for the building of a new library. Mann’s son matched the donation and oversaw the construction, and it was presented to West Paris in 1926. While you’re visiting, try to catch a glimpse of the local groundhogs who frequent the library.
Arthur L. Mann Memorial Library, 226 Main St., West Paris, Maine, westparislibrary.org.
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