This month the Ladies of the Traveling Totes are taking us all, totes in hand, to see what kind of fun we can have in a park! Can you guess that this was my idea? If you have read my blog in the past you have traveled with me to several local, state and national parks, so you know I am a true believer in the value of these public lands. This time I thought of taking you here:
When we arrived Miss Rosie and her new friend, Miss Poppy, refused to get out of the car, however, as they had heard the same stories I heard as a child, of the devils dancing here at night, gleeful at the thought of baldly behaved children. So we decided to take you to a magnificent park a few miles away. As Miss Rosie and Miss Poppy are both dressed in MacKenzie-Child’s Courtly Check pattern, we thought this destination would be most appropriate!
Not only is this our New England version of a castle, it’s also been voted the Best State Park in New England by Yankee Magazine, a very big honor in this corner of the USA!
But before you start thinking razor blades and shaving cream, this delightful park is the result of the extreme imagination and wealth of William Gillette, the stage actor who made Sherlock Holmes famous. His interpretation of the character has become the standard: the pipe, hat, cloak, and even the famous phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” would not be part of the Sherlock image if not for his creativity. He was as famous during his time as any actor today, and was paid enormous sums to travel the world putting on his shows. He built this castle on his retirement from the stage, and entertained several US presidents and others including Albert Einstein and his wife.
As a child Gillette lived in Hartford, a neighbor and frequent visitor of Mark Twain and his family. He was also an inventor and railroad fanatic, so he built a small railroad on the estate. He drove it himself, terrifying his guests as they sped along the rails. Einstein was said to be especially terrified. I’m guessing he was doing some quick calculations and the physics of the speed and curves didn’t present a pretty picture.
I know you’re thinking, how boring can this be…a train…a visitor’s center…but NO! It is actually quite fascinating! Miss Rosie was very impressed. Let’s start with the grounds and see if you agree.
Beautiful stone walls surround the castle. Here you can see a piece of the railroad track.
Several railroad stations were named after real NYC stations.
Miss Rosie climbed the stone stairs to the front door.
This structure looks like a ruined castle on the outside, but inside it is filled with beautiful glass, lights and windows, some of which were made by Tiffany. Not this one, but I love it!
I could find a place for this one. I think this is a Tiffany.
Every door in the castle is hand carved and unique.
The house is also filled with Gillette’s little inventions, like this window stop.
And I’m always excited to see a real Seth Thomas clock, made in the town where I grew up! This one is being guarded by pre-Columbian figurines Gillette is thought to have received from Teddy Roosevelt.
The interior walls are hand carved wood, local stone, and grasses which provide insulation. This little bedroom is typical of the rooms, but in the 1910s, ’20s and ’30s, private baths were a luxury and visitors were quite happy with the accommodations!
I know that today we all need huge kitchens with all the latest gadgets and marble, but this little kitchen provided meals for presidents and other dignitaries who flocked to Gillette’s estate for a bit of rest and relaxation.
As fascinating as this castle and its contents were, the absolute best part was the view from the riverside face of the castle:
the magnificent Connecticut River, just a bit north of its mouth where it empties into Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook harbor.
No wonder Gillette and his guests were in love with this place! In his will he arranged for the estate to stay intact, fearing that it would fall into the hands of “some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” Luckily the State of Connecticut purchased the entire estate and it is now a well-loved and popular park.
After Miss Rosie and I took in this view for awhile, we were ready for fresh air and a picnic. And our new friend, Miss Poppy, held everything we needed!
I could actually see myself becoming seriously obsessed with MacKenzie-Childs luggage and dishes. Every piece I add to my collection is beautiful!
I packed Miss Poppy with an assortment of enamel Butterfly and Courtly Check dishes, a few sprigs of flowers from my yard, a beach blanket for use as a tablecloth, and some packets of food.
I love the way the patterns work together.
You might notice that the butterflies are made of snippets of various M-C patterns, some current and some retired.
Do you see a favorite pattern?
If you are a fan of Courtly Check you can find the story of its development on the MacKenzie-Childs blog, Chartreuse.
The table looked even better with the yummy chicken and pasta salad I brought along. This chicken is made from a recipe I found last summer when the Novel Bakers did Picnic Week. It is delicious, with soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and rosemary.
Dessert was an easy lemon pound cake (use the side panel recipe on a lemon box cake~~very delicious!) and fresh berries, served on Courtly Check dessert plates.
And speaking of Courtly Check, I would like to reward one of you who has patiently read through my very long Park Post with this giveaway of these padded linen MacKenzie-Childs Courtly Check hangars.
Use them in your foyer closet for guests, or in your guest room for a pampered visitor, or treat yourself royally and tuck them into your own closet. I hope you love them as much as I do! To enter please leave a comment telling me something about your park visits or about what you saw here on our little trip to Gillette Castle State Park, and if you want another chance you can follow me on all or any of my pinterest boards here, and let me know in a separate comment.
I hope you have enjoyed this trip to a park with me, Miss Rosie and Miss Poppy.
Visit other members of the Traveling Tote Tribe for more fun!
Samantha with Christabel @ SamanthaStoneCreatures
and our non-blogger friend:
Colleen with Miss MacKenzie Joy
I’m joining the fun at TABLESCAPE THURSDAY