February 3, 2018 – Danbury, Connecticut
Parking: 18 Brushy Hill Rd, Danbury, CT 06810
Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, Connecticut was constructed in 1897. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It has also been known as Parks’ Castle and as The Castle. Today, the castle is owned by the City of Danbury and is located in Tarrywile Park. Hearthstone Castle is slated to be demolished due to safety concerns.
I visited this castle in 2015 and hiked several of the trails that surround the property. I had recently read that this castle is slated for demolition sometime in 2018. I wanted to pay it another visit before it is torn down.
The temperature on the day that we visited was in the single digits to low teens so we walked around a bit, but didn’t do a real hike and just walked to the castle. We parked at Tarrywile Park & Mansion, which is right across the street. We then crossed the road and proceeded past the gate and up the driveway a short distance to the castle.
With more than 21 miles of trails over varied terrain, hiking is one of the major attractions of Tarrywile Park. In my opinion, the castle is the main reason to visit, but I do look forward to exploring more of the trail system when it is a little warmer.
Originally known as the “Sanford Castle”, the castle was constructed in 1897 to serve as a summer home for noted photographer E. Starr Sanford. Sanford’s success allowed him to build the fanciful and romantic summer home in his beloved hometown of Danbury. Sanford hired New York architect Earnest George Washington Dietrich (1857-1924) to design his castle.
In his Danbury castle design, Dietrich brought Sanford’s romantic vision to life, creating a three-story fairy tale castle consisting of seventeen rooms, including nine bedrooms, kitchen, library and a billiards room. Accessory structures included a large carriage house, caretaker’s cottage, pump house, water tower and machine shop.
The stone used for the exterior castle walls was quarried on site, along with the stone for the eight magnificent fireplaces that warmed the castle on Autumn and Winter evenings when the family was in residence.
Sanford enjoyed his hometown castle for only five years. After retiring from Davis & Sanford in 1901, Sanford sold the property in 1902 to New York financial mogul Victor Buck. Buck, re-naming the property “Buck Castle,” utilized the property as a retirement residence, mostly visiting during the summer months over the next two decades.
In 1918 Buck sold the castle and surrounding property to Charles Darling Parks, who had previously purchased the Tarrywile Mansion and property across the street from the castle on Brushy Hill Road in 1910.
Already showing signs of deterioration at the time of the City of Danbury’s purchase, the Castle has badly deteriorated over the ensuing years due to water damage that has caused the structure to be boarded up and declared unsafe for entry by visitors.
While the exterior walls remain largely intact, the roof and floor have been structurally undermined leaving the interior in need of total renovation.
In November of 2016, city voters approved two $10 million bond packages that will fund a controversial partial demolition of the historic Hearthstone Castle.
When plans to tear down parts of the “dangerous” castle surfaced, residents who felt the city was not doing enough to save the structure, protested.
State officials have said they could save some of the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The state may also provide funding to help Danbury preserve as much of the ruins as possible.
I have read that there is a plan outlined to gut the interior, stabilize and lower the walls in order to make the structure safer. The end result may be that only the foundations or possibly the first floor remain. Whatever their plans are, when all is said and done, it will undoubtedly look different than it does now. My advice is to visit this historic castle before it is gone.
Now get out there and explore!