September 26, 2018 – Chesterfield, New Hampshire
Trailhead parking: Gulf Rd, West Chesterfield, NH 03466
The 513-acre Madame Sherri Forest is situated on the eastern slope of Wantastiquet Mountain, also known as Rattlesnake Mountain in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. The property abuts the larger, 847-acre Wantastiquet State Forest. Trails in the Madame Sherri forest are linked to the larger Wantastiquet – Monadnock Greenway Trail, which stretches from the Connecticut River east to Mount Monadnock. The Anne Stokes Loop Trail leads to scenic Indian Pond, and other trails ascend Wantastiquet Mountain, with excellent views.
The Madame Sherri Forest is named after a former owner, Madame Antoinette Sherri, a Paris-born theatrical costume designer who worked in New York City during the early 1900’s. She and her husband built a French-inspired chateau summer house in Chesterfield that featured extensive stonework including a roman arch stairway, ornate interior, and designed landscape gardens. It was her “castle” in the woods.
The black and white images below are from 1949.
Madame Sherri Castle Ruins 2018.
There they lavishly entertained their New York City friends at parties during the Roaring 1920’s. Madame Sherri became famous (or infamous) for her wild parties. Her chauffeur-driven Packard, her fur coat (and nothing else), and her fast crowd of friends made the townsfolk talk whenever she appeared.
However, in time, Madame Sherri’s fortunes declined and her castle fell to ruin and vandalism. After a long separation, she returned to the house in 1959 to find the interior badly vandalized. She left, heartbroken, never to return again. The house burned down completely in 1963. Today, ancient sugar maples surround a stone foundation and stairway.
Madame Sherri died in Brattleboro, Vermont on October 21, 1965, at the age of 84.
Ann Stokes, who loved this property and its theatrical legacy, purchased it shortly after Madame Sherri passed away in 1965. Over the next several years, she hosted several concerts and parties, using the foundation and stairway as a stage for elaborate sound and lighting displays. She decided to permanently protect the land in 1976, when she donated the property to the Forest Society.
There is a small parking lot at the Madame Sherri Forest trailhead on Gulf Road. An informational kiosk displays a trail map and property information.
There is a separate interpretive display nearby that explains the rich cultural history of the property and its former owners.
A small wooden footbridge just beyond the kiosk, leads to trails that take you into the forest.
A two-mile loop trail passes by scenic Indian Pond, and other side trails lead to several longer hikes on adjoining conservation lands.
From the parking lot, the foundation and grand stone staircase of the former Madame Sherri “castle” are just a short distance up a side trail.
ANNE STOKES LOOP TRAIL
Round-trip Distance: 2 miles
Trail Markings: None
From the Madame Sherri Forest parking area, follow the hiking trail across a small bridge. In approximately 0.25 mile, the trail forks. Bear right at the fork and continue for another 0.4 mile on the Anne Stokes Loop Trail to the junction with the Wantastiquet Mountain Trail (heading off to the right). Continue straight on the Anne Stokes Loop Trail, passing scenic Indian Pond is on the right. The pond is framed to the west by the open ledges and talus slopes of Mine Ledge on Wantastiquet Mountain. To complete the loop, continue southeast from Indian Pond up a small hill with fine views, then downhill through a hemlock forest through Chesterfield’s Cook Town Forest. At the junction with the Daniels Mountain Loop Trail, the Anne Stokes Loop Trail curves left to the northwest, leading back to the parking area.
Round-trip Distance: 3 miles
Trail Markings: None
From the Madame Sherri Forest parking area, follow the hiking trail across a small bridge. In approximately 0.25 mile, the trail forks. Bear right at the fork and continue for another 0.4 mile on the Anne Stokes Loop Trail to the junction with the Wantastiquet Mountain Trail. Turn right at the trail junction, heading west toward Wantastiquet Mountain. The summit is approximately 0.8 mile from the junction with the Anne Stokes Loop Trail and affords excellent views of the Connecticut River valley, Mount Monadnock, and the distant Berkshire Mountains. Retrace your steps to return to the Madame Sherri Forest parking area.
Take a hike!
The castle is near the entrance to the Madame Sherri Forest on Gulf Road. You’ll have to drive deep into the woods on dirt and stone roads, which are narrow and windy. There may be limited phone and/or GPS reception throughout that area. While the structures seem stable, be careful, as there are no handrails on the steps and may be slick when covered with leaves.