Hearthstone Castle, Danbury

July, 2013 by Ray Bendici
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IMG_2532 All images by Ray Bendici

 

The Damned Story: When it comes to castles in Connecticut, it is often thought that the list starts with and ends with Gillette Castle in East Haddam -- well, that's what I thought for years. As it turns out, there's another lesser-known castle in the state, one that probably doesn't merit the recognition or visitations quite simply because it has fallen into disrepair.

The once-proud Hearthstone Castle sits abandoned in Danbury's scenic Tarrywile Park, a forgotten edifice now boarded up and home to tangled weeds and various opportunistic critters. Seeing it today, you'd be hardpressed to believe that it once was shiny and new -- yet it was over a century ago.

In 1897, E. Starr Sanford, a very successful New York City-based portrait photographer from an affluent Danbury family, decided to have a lavish summer home built. For whatever reason, the family only lived there for five years before selling it in 1902 to industrialist Victor Buck, who renamed it Buck's Castle -- you know, because turn-of-the-century industrialists named everything after themselves (see Hearst, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, etc.). In 1918, Charles Darling Parks, a self-made millionaire who was president of the American Hatters and Furriers Co., bought it from Buck for his daughter Irene Parks, and renamed it Hearthstone Castle -- conjecture is that it got that name from the eight fireplaces found throughout the structure, all made of stone. It stayed in the Parks family for nearly 70 years.

In 1985, the castle, neighboring Tarrywile Mansion and the surrounding acres were bought for $4.7 million by the city of Danbury. Unfortunately since then, the town has not been able to maintain -- let alone renovate -- the castle, letting it tumble into its current state of decay. Walls have crumbled, ceilings have fallen; to put it succinctly, it's a mess. In May 2008, five Ridgefield teenagers were arrested for vandalizing the castle after they brilliantly posted a video of themselves wrecking the place on YouTube.

As you might imagine, in its heyday, the castle was quite the showplace. The three-story structure had 17 rooms, including nine bedrooms, a library and a billiard room. (No mention if there was a secret passage from the study to the kitchen, or if anything untoward happened to Colonel Mustard with a candlestick.) Although the exterior was fashioned from local stone, the interior wood was all imported from Italy. Apparently the entire castle was also capable of producing its own electricity.

It is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Connecticut Register of Historic Places. Various local groups have tried to rally to save it, but as of right now, there are no concrete restoration plans.

A more detailed history of Hearthstone Castle is available here.

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Sidenote: The castle's first owner, E. Starr Sanford, apparently died an odd death -- in 1914, while on a ship to visit his son in Texas, he was sent into severe shock when the vessel was struck by lightning. The arteries in his eyes were badly damaged, an injury from which he never recovered, dying three years later in 1917. While not as bad as being mauled by a chimp, it's still pretty nasty.

Our Damned Experience [Updated]: We took a trip to Tarrywile Park and visited Hearthstone Castle on a quiet summer day in July 2013.

As you can see from the pictures below, the castle is in a terrible state of disrepair, and is quite overgrown with all sorts of vegetation, including a significant amount of poison ivy. Also, being the Connecticut woods, there are plenty of ticks to be found. Yay!

The castle is surrounded by a fence and the front door is boarded shut, so we didn't go inside. We did get close enough to take a bunch of pictures, and it is kind of eerie to see this once-amazing edifice sitting abandoned in the woods, not all that far from suburbia; actually, the castle is only a few hundred yards from Southern Boulevard, at the end of a gravel road. The park itself is a beautiful and quiet place, which makes having an old castle in the middle of it even more unusual.

Anyway, the decades of neglect and vandalism are abundantly evident, and it's sad to see it in such a state. We didn't have any unusual experiences, although we didn't really to expect to. We do hope that the town of Danbury eventually realizes what a treasure it has and decides to restore it to its former glory.

If You Go: Hearthstone Castle is located in Tarrywile Park in Danbury, the entrance of which is located 70 Southern Boulevard. The park is open to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset every day.

As mentioned previously, the castle is in great disrepair and is cordoned off from the public with a fence. As it is quite dangerous inside, it's not recommended for anyone to enter.

View Tarrywile Park & Mansion in a larger map

Comments

Submitted by Laurel Oldham (not verified) on
I would love to have the opportunity to write a novel with hopes that it could be turned into a movie to take place there, imagining it in its hayday, How wonderful if money from such a project could be used to bring it back..making the beginning of the movie at the end when it was restored. I want to get there to visit soon before the weather turns real cold and snow covers a lot of it. Can you recommend a place to stay that isn't too expensive...writers wages and all....lol.

Submitted by brenda (not verified) on
i would love to help you with this story...i am a native of ct. (fairfield) im an actress (not famous, not yet) but i love to write...and i am ready to write...i will be up there at the end of august.

Submitted by Rebecca (not verified) on
I went here with my boyfriend in the winter. there is a park on a hill where you can put your car, however we left ours on the side of the road where the entrance is. There is a chain that has a sign on it i think it said no motor vehicles. But besides that it was very simple to get to. After a bit of a hike up, we found it sitting on the top of a hill, with gates(tall gates) surrounding the house. Being cold and frustrated we decided we would go under the gate because we had come so far. It was pretty easy to slide under. The house itself is very dangerous due to broken floorboards. But it was REALLLLYYY a cool place. i would check it out. it was pretty spooky too, i would never go at night.

Submitted by amanda (not verified) on
I've been up there many times as a child to hike around, seeing the servants quarters outside the actual castle. As a teenager I went several times outside to check it out. I went inside it once, probally around 2002, and it was very cool. My friend fell through the floor boards, so it is very dangerous. There were lots of holes in the floors. We somehow managed to make it to the rooftop and it was a beautiful sight. I'd would definately take a hike around there if you haven't already. It's really sad that its fallen apart so much.

Hello all, i was wondering if you can give me information on how to contact the owner of this. Thanks, - Ghost, Shadow Ops 1st in command

Submitted by Jess....... (not verified) on
I have been here multiple times and have witnessed and experienced plenty of things. I have heard foot steps following behind me, i have had rocks thrown at me, I was actually in the building i saw someone or something through a broken floor board glowing man run underneath me. It is a very creepy place but I do recommend it if you are looking for a good hunt.

Submitted by Judy (not verified) on
My grandmother is Irene Parks and I have been trying for years to get someone's attention to help restore Hearthstone Castle. I know what a showplace the castle was and believe, with the help of interested individuals, that it can once again become a showplace. I have an email address for those interested to contact - [email protected]

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on
I spent a great amount of time here last summer. I am a 15 year old kid and me and my friends would go there and take pictures on the inside in the middle of the night. The scariest memory i have there was the first time i went there and it was at night. It was a full moon and me and my friends decided to look for a supposedly "haunted" place so we picked Hearthstone castle considering it wasn't to far from my house. We walked past the gates up the rocky hill to the castle. My heart was pounding considering it was the first time i'v been there day or night. I saw something moving in the distance and me and my friends stopped. It ran towards us and my heart stopped it was just a deer. I walked up a little farther shaking and saw another thing in the distance i started to regret this decision considering this one didn't move anywhere so i walked towards it and it ran away it was another deer. Then i went through the hole in the back of the fence and climbed through the window. Me and my friends split up to explore i decided to try to get to the basement. I took one good friend with me we split up in pairs and we walked across the floor stepping over 2 holes. we hugged tight to the wall to the other side because it was surrounded by holes and we got to this little fireplace we climbed down piles of debris and wood holding onto a pipe for support it was completely warm until we stepped down into the basement. I cant explain this feeling i got. It was a feeling of complete darkness. Absolutely freezing i stepped into the room and started shivering. My whole body got chills and i stood in a corner with my friend and closed my eyes and tried to clear my thoughts and be calm. I opened my eyes because i heard this panting noise almost like a dog and i saw these two eyes across the room in the other corner i shined my light there and nothing. I have heard storys of people seeing a ghost dog or something in the castle i wonder if it's true. From my experiances theres definitly something freaky going on there

Submitted by ROb (not verified) on
I have read what mike says about the castle and am hard pressed to believe its true.. for the sole fact that you can not go inside that castle any longer and have not been able to because it has completely collapsed. There is no inside anymore. All the floors have fallen and all that remains are walls. Hopes of restoring it are most likely collapsed with the floors. Sad that the town cared little enough about this one of a kind historic castle to do anything but let it collapse. They should be ashamed.

Submitted by Chelsea (not verified) on
This castle is amazing. I went today with my Mom and she told me how in the 80's she would have picnics there with her friends and their kids. She said the interior of the castle was beautiful. And the man who built it, made it for his wife. It's such a shame that people don't care about it. I would love to rebuild it even though I'm only 16. But I have always wanted to go in there. My mom won't let me but I would love to go. It's on my bucket list of things to do before I die. I said to my mom, I wanna go in even if I die doing it. i would LOVE to go in. The chin link fences around it make it look so forbidden, but the forbidenness of it makes me want to go in even more. Yes, I've been behind the fence and all around it. But more than anything I want to go inside. It looks so amazing.....and as for the people who previouslly said it's haunted, is that really true?? cause I heard that in the early 90's teens used to go in the woods area behind it and do witch craft and such.

Submitted by britt (not verified) on
Hello Danbury! You finally did something cool. I grew up in Brookfield about 15 minutes from the castle and had heard so much about this place growing up. I finally got the nerve to go when I was about 25 and wish I could say it was a disappointment. While I don't think there is anything specific haunting the castle, I do think it gives off some seriously creepy vibes strictly based on looks. If I ever win the lottery I am petitioning to take over the castle, restore it to the original state and start a trust for future generations to enjoy it. That being said, I haven't thought about this castle in a very long time and think it needs some fresh coverage to see what can be done to at least prevent too much more damage. I guess we just have to spread the word and hope the right people hear us!

Submitted by Michelle (not verified) on
A friend of mine said that she was hiking the trails at Tarrywhile and heard the music of a flute like instrument. She said that almost as soon as it stopped they looked up and in the distance saw a person dressed in a long dark hooded cape looking down at them- creeepy!!! I bet it was just some jerk trying to scare visitors, and that jerk definitely did just that. If I ever saw anyone like that while I was hiking- I would run away screaming...

Submitted by Mike M (not verified) on
Went up there yesterday. Hit up my Facebook page if you want to see the pictures I took. Michael Mathis. My profile picture is of the American flag. Couple of odd happenings: A snake in my path in the middle of November, and a deer that had absolutely no fear of me and walked across my shot.

Submitted by Travis (not verified) on
to the guy who wrote about hearing a dog panting, theres a picture on my facebook of me from when me and my buddy's went exploring around up there. but in the back of the picture in the darkness of the basements window sill that i was sitting in, theres a pretty damn clear picture of a black dog directly next to me staring right at the camera.

Submitted by Travis (not verified) on
same thing with the deer happened to us too

Submitted by amanda (not verified) on
Travis, put a link to ur page or the picture. I would love to see it!

Submitted by Irene Furnival (not verified) on
My name is Irene after my great great aunt who was given the castle as a gift. My grandparents Richard and Constance Jennings lived in the castle for years I remember having Christmas and parties when I was little in the castle. It makes me sick that it has gone the way it has. To say it was grand and beautiful inside is an understatement. I loved that place and still do I wish I could buy it and restore it to its former glory.

Enjoyed reading this very much....thanks! Loved the wisecrack about posting breakins on YouTube- very funny indeed. Keep this site updated...and hope the castle is one day restored too.

Greetings!!! I am producing an Indie film called The Temple. I humbly request permission to film scenes at the Hearthstone castle? I can be contacted at 860-984-1828 to discuss the process I must go through to make this a part of my movie. I look forward to your response. The Temple is an original Fantasy story set in medieval era. As the story unfolds, A forbidden love between a knight and a princess cause him and other knights to accept a life threatening challenge to be with the one he loves(Princess Maria). He faces violent betrayal, supernatural forces of the dead and hell that condemns him to immortal life long servitude to an evil Monk(Netivia). There is only a certain amount of time before he can no longer be saved from the condemning curse of being a gargoyle slave of the Temple.

Submitted by mike burns (not verified) on
I grew up next to this castle and it was awesome!!! For all you ghost hunters yes it is haunted.(very much so) and the areas around it as well. It is a damn shame what has happened to this building half due to the lack of the city of danbury caring about anything for that matter and the rest done by uncaring youth etc. It pains me to know that every year this place just gets worse. This a historical place for this area so please if you feel the need to explore do so as if it was your history. The city should have made this a bed and breakfast with horse back riding etc. I can think of endless use's but who am i? Just a tax payer.!!!! RESPECT HISTORY!!!!!

Submitted by Urbex (not verified) on
Here is a link to a couple of pictures of the inside. There is NOTHING left, and you risk life or limbs if you try to go in. So sad. I was there in 2004, before the vandalism (may they rot in hell) and it wasn't completely collapsed yet. http://urbexsarah.tumblr.com/

Submitted by DennisB (not verified) on
Danbury is a decent town and not too far from New York City. The fact that it sits without being restored or protected shows what happens when a property is turned over to a town..... Get a couple realtors in there and they would find some finance person to buy it and restore it in a year.....

Submitted by Joyce ONeill (not verified) on
I have no idea why no one has started a campaign to restore this treasure. It's nicer than Gillette. It could raise money for the city. When I lived in Danbury, I had 4 kids to concern me and no time to do this. Someone should take up this cause! However much it takes to restore it, it would be worth it. It could do so much for the city as well as tourists.

Submitted by dave g (not verified) on
Since we are one of the richest states in the u.s. myself not being rich,but with all the many millionaires that live in Ct. you would think some of them could donate some of their money to help restore a beautiful treasure like this.

Submitted by anthony ferraro (not verified) on
TO Irene Furnival, I AM A PROFESSIONAL CARPENTER WHO UNFORTUNATELY IS NOT WORKING AT THE TIME AND WOULD GIVE MY FREE TIME TO HELP RESTORE THIS HOME AFTER SEEING ALL THE DAMAGE AND ALL THE BEAUTY THAT ONCE WAS, I WOULD PERSONALLY BRING THIS BACK TO LIFE!!! AS A VOLUNTEER FOR FREE TO HELP RESTORE THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO THE ORIGINAL BEAUTY IT ONCE WAS. ANTHONY FERRARO [email protected]

Can't believe this treasure is in my hometown and never knew! So happy I got a chance to photograph it and now learn it's history. Sad to see it in this state, maybe someday they can at least remove the wreckage inside so people can safely check it out. To see the photos I captured: www.facebook.com/dkeenephotography

Submitted by Heather (not verified) on
My aunt got married at the mansion on site. The whole area is so beautiful - I wish Danbury had not let the castle fall into such a state of disrepair!

Submitted by old_tree (not verified) on
Hey you people of SBS, I don't know if this is the place I may post something about joining but... I have problems in my life that directly remotes to you... I got so fucking high that I completely changed my life to one motive: getting in pain and death more and more, in fact, I'd just like to disappear, but it went wrong and now I like to feed on my physical, psychological pain, going into brambles in the forest at night, nude... or enjoying depression by feeding on moral pain, and... I'm just overwhelming in this society since I went that way, out of this pain hell... because pain is pleasure to me, not all, because I'm a little, but in this world, the nature of pain is the nature of joy, and that's why I don't wanna make the difference... and I thought I could join you, even if I don't know why I would, cause I'm getting more and more suspicious about what you want to do, as I may think there's nothing to be done, but, still, if you need me, if you need this guy or this one elected president, if you ever care about people, call me.

Submitted by ALEX (not verified) on
you belong institutionalized! maybe go to Fairfield at night nude with your brambles try a labotamy or thorazine

Submitted by RequiredName (not verified) on
"As it is quite dangerous inside, it's not recommended for anyone to enter." Except, apparently, for people to take photographs, as we can see.

Submitted by Carly (not verified) on
I've been to the castle numerous times, due to the fact i'm an avid runner for my school right down the street from the castle. I've been inside it and around it. It's really nothing special but some wooden planks so you don't fall through to the basement to visit some various animals. I would recommend looking from the outside because it is pretty cool for those who haven't experienced it, but it's really not worth the trip inside.

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on
A few friends and I were at Hearthstone in July 2013 and I think we may have run into you guys without knowing it was you. Do you remember seeing a few teenagers there?

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