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Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, Connecticut

We’re flat-out addicted to the allure of abandoned places. So we’ve sent Liz on a mission to hop alphabetically from state-to-state exploring bygone structures steeped in history and mystery. This week, she’s made the snowy trek to Danbury, Connecticut to check out the 1895 Hearthstone Castle. Photo above courtesy of So Where to Next.
Fancy a fixer-upper, anyone? The Hearthstone Castle, located in Danbury, Connecticut, is an historic house hunters dream. With sweeping views of the valley below, an expansive property featuring a gold fish pond and a caretaker’s cottage, the castle could fetch a hefty price tag and attract many potential buyers, were it not in its current state of abandonment.


Workers laying the foundation for the castle in 1896. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

It’s hard to believe that such a statuesque, stately, and stunning home, only an hour and a half from New York City, has been allowed to deteriorate. Hearthstone Castle took four years to build; from 1895 to 1899. Built as a summer home for E. Starr Sanford, the home, originally known as the “Sanford Castle,” was designed by a lesser known New York based architect, Earnest George Washington Dietrich.

Architect’s sketches of the house. Courtesy of the Friends of Tarrywile Park.

In crafting this castle, Dietrich brought his client’s fairytale vision to life. The house included nine lavishly-appointed bedrooms, a library, a music room, and billiards room. Additionally, the surrounding property included a carriage house, a caretaker’s cottage, a water tower and sprawling gardens. No expense was spared as for the interior design of the home. The wood utilized for construction and accenting was imported from Italy. Eight fireplaces featured quarried stone from the property. In fact, a railroad was constructed on the property just to carry the quarried stones used to construct the house!

Architect’s sketches of the house. Courtesy of the Friends of Tarrywile Park.

Architectural drawings of the home depict residents enjoying the veranda and grounds. Historical photos echo what is seen in the drawings. In one photo, a woman in Victorian garb is seen standing near the porte-cochere, a structure where a carriage, and in later years a vehicle, would wait for its passengers. Interior historical photographs reflect the Victorian style of decorating that was popular during the building’s construction. Wide, dark wood ceiling beams can be seen throughout many of the rooms. Luxurious molding, wide-plank floors, and ornate chandeliers reflect the owner’s lavish taste.

The home’s lavish interior. Courtesy of the Friends of Tarrywile Park.

The property’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s prompted the need for an exhaustive yet detailed description of the interior and exterior of the property. The entrance description brings to one’s imagination an impressive home: “A grand staircase ascends from the entry hall to the second story. It is paneled in oak and edged with bead-and-reel molding. Its first landing is lighted by a large triple window set in the curving wall of the west tower. In the upper panes of the window are stained glass panels which depict the Sanford coat-of-arms.”

Photos above show the castle in the 1980s, when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Even as evidence shows the Sanford family spent a great deal of time and money in constructing their castle, they sold it only three years after construction had ended. It was owned by the Buck family for approximately twenty years until it was sold to Charles Darling Parks in 1918. Renamed the ‘Hearthstone Castle,’ presumably because of the extraordinary amount of fireplaces within, the Parks family retained residency within the castle until 1985. The City of Danbury acquired the castle, surrounding buildings and land in 1985, and has subsequently let the property and imposing, medieval-esque castle fall in to disrepair. The wooden interior of the structure has collapsed, bringing down with it the roof. The floors have fallen through. While the heavy stones that made up the exterior of the home still remain standing, the interior is in need of a full-fledged, gut renovation job.
After realizing what a diamond they had let slip through their fingers, the city of Danbury ordered studies to be completed regarding the restoration and future use of the castle. Varying reports put the cost just to stabilize the structure at $450,000 to $1.9 million. Since then, several different uses have been proposed for the building, including a children’s museum, an open-walled garden and a catering hall. The Tarrywile Park Master Plan was approved in 2004, and in it, two options were approved for the future of the Hearthstone Castle. The first option would include stabilization of the exterior for tourist use, such as picnicking on the grounds. The second and most expensive option would involce a complete restoration of the castle and the development of a “compound” of sorts, which would include lodging, a restaurant, a museum and gift shop.
No matter the outcome of the Hearthstone Castle’s renovation, the castle stands as a remembrance of why it is so important to save and maintain historic structures. Had preliminary restoration and maintenance been conducted on the castle in earlier years, Hearthstone could be serving as a fully-functioning historic house museum, an extravagant place to hold events, or even a home. In its heyday, Hearthstone Castle truly exemplified the old adage, “Every man’s home is his castle.”
Liz was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the home of New Hope, Doylestown, and several other idyllic, flawlessly-restored and preserved towns. Upon returning to the Philadelphia area post-grad school, Liz purchased a circa 1940’s, Normandy-style row home which features the original wood floors, vintage glass door knobs and slate roof from when it was constructed. She is on the board of a historic Swedish cabin and working in the real estate development field while making a go of a career in preservation.


  • Cindy Armstrong Ostlund

    Looks like it would make a great hotel. I am surprised someone doesn’t buy it and refurbish for just that.

  • Amanda Davis

    Thanks for sharing this, Liz! I grew up not too far from here, but never knew it existed. I hope something creative can be done to bring it back (that porch is incredible).

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