Castles are one of those things that capture our imagination and curiosity. I have yet to find someone that isn’t at least a little fascinated by them – the permanence of the construction materials, the majestic designs, the real and imagined lifestyles of the inhabitants. Surprisingly, there are quite a few castles in our area and one of them is in Danbury, just over the Connecticut border.
Called Hearthstone Castle, it was built around 1899 by E. Starr Sanford. It is made from granite fieldstone mined from the surrounding property. In 1923, the president of American Hatters and Furriers Co., Charles Darling Parks, bought the property. Mr. Parks also ran a large dairy farm and at one time served as the director of the organization that ran the Danbury Fair. The castle has been uninhabited since the mid 1980s.
Hearthstone Castle sits within the boundaries of Tarrywile Park. At 722 acres, Tarrywile is a huge park with 21 miles of trials, two ponds and a lake, gardens, a gazebo, a barn, a greenhouse, the Tarrywile Mansion – and of course, the castle. I first visited the park last year for a Winter Festival, and I am hoping there will be one again this year. Tarrywile is large enough that I am confident it will be the setting for future articles.
To get to the Hearthstone Castle, take Route 84 into Connecticut. Take exit 3 to Route 7 south toward Norwalk. Stay to the right and take the very first exit toward Park Avenue and the Danbury Fair Mall. At the end of the ramp, turn right onto Backus Ave. and go under Route 7. Backus will turn into Park Ave. After about .60 miles, make a right onto West Wooster Street and go .1 miles. Make a right onto Wooster Heights Road and go .20 miles. Turn left onto Southern Blvd. and go .60 miles. Turn right to stay on Southern Blvd. About 100 yards in, the park entrance will be on your right. There is a parking area to the right as you pull in, but I prefer to take the single lane road up to the left and past the mansion where there is another parking area on top of the hill. Park your vehicle and continue to follow the road on foot. It will curve left and downhill to the exit at Brushy Hill Lane. There will be a trail directly across the street. Carefully cross the road and follow the trail past the gate and up the hill.
It is only a 5 or 10-minute walk up the hill to get to the castle. It is a moderate incline and can be a little slippery this time of year from the snow and ice. As you come around a bend towards the top of the hill, you will see the castle. It looks a little spooky with overgrown vines, ‘do not enter’ signs, and a chain-link fence surrounding it.
You can’t go inside the castle, however, you can walk all the way around it. Along the back, you will be walking along the top of a stone wall. The chain-link fence will be on one side, and a 10 to 15 foot drop will be on the other.
Two or three additional structures sit a little uphill from the castle, including an old water tower. There is an information kiosk in front of the castle.
I have visited Hearthstone Castle a few times. It seems to be a popular local destination, and there is quite a bit of folklore about it. On my original visit, I spoke to someone that insisted the castle could be purchased for $1, with the stipulation that $12 million of renovations be done and it be opened to the public as a bed and breakfast. I have yet to confirm or disprove his story. On my most recent visit, I managed to lock my keys in my car. When roadside assistance arrived, the technician was more than happy to share his stories about the castle being haunted.
90 minutes will give you enough time to park, hike up the hill and see the castle and surrounding structures, and return to the car. Considering the size of Tarrywile, you could also make the visit to the castle just one part of a whole day’s visit to the park.
Hearthstone Castle and Tarrywile Park are owned by the City of Danbury. For more info about the castle and the park, visit www.tarrywile.com