Hearthstone Castle located in Danbury Connecticut’s Tarrywile Park was built between 1895 and 1899 by E. Starr Sanford who was a very successful New York City-based portrait photographer and invented one of the first movie cameras. Originally known as “Sanford’s Castle,” his home is listed in Danbury’s National Register of Historic Places.
The castle was originally intended to be the lavish honeymoon home for Sanford’s wife. It was designed by the architect Ernest G. W. Dietrich whose drawings of his homes and castles were extensively published in the architectural periodicals of the time.
The three-story turreted structure had seventeen rooms, including nine bedrooms, a library and a billiard room. The rock that was used to build the castle was quarried from the Tarrywile property that today is Tarrywile Park, and transported on a small railroad constructed for this purpose.
All of the wood used in the building of the castle was imported from Italy. In its heyday, the castle was quite a showplace conceived and built by one of the leading image makers of his day, and was also capable of producing its own electricity.
Sanford only lived in his castle home for five years before he sold it in 1902 to industrialist Victor Buck. In 1918 it was sold to Charles Darling Parks, president of the American Hatters and Furriers Co., who bought it for his daughter Irene Parks as a wedding gift. She renamed it Hearthstone Castle after its eight stone fireplaces, and occupied the castle as her home until her death in 1982.
The last residents of the Hearthstone Castle were Richard and Constance Jennings, her heirs who lived there until March 1987 when the entire Tarrywile Estate was sold to the town of Danbury. Today, Tarrywile Park includes Tarrywile Mansion also on the National Register of Historic Places, picnic areas, gardens, orchards, fields, ponds, woods, campsites, footpaths and hiking trails that cover 722 acres of rugged terrain.
Unfortunately, the castle was not able to be well maintained under Danbury’s ownership, and the roof collapsed, ceilings have fallen, walls have crumbled and Hearthstone Castle had to be closed to the public due to safety concerns.
It has been said that several hauntings are known to exist on the grounds of the Hearthstone Castle including reports of shadowy figures, glowing mists in the castle’s windows, roof and surrounding area. Hikers have reported being pushed and having sticks thrown at them.
The castle’s first owner, E. Starr Stanford died an unusual death when the boat he was on was struck by lightning that badly damaged the arteries of his eyes. The man who had built his career as a photographer, camera inventor and image maker never recovered his eyesight and died three years later.
The Tarrywile Park Authority are considering two options for renovating the castle and surrounding real estate. The first option involves developing the Castle into a three season pavilion and observation tower.
The second option includes the complete restoration of the castle and development of a fully functioning building with lodge areas, restaurant, museum, conference rooms, classrooms, staff residence and gift shop. It is hoped the restored castle and grounds would provide a major attraction and gathering place for the city of Danbury and recover a historic castle home on the National Register of Historic Places.