Elias Starr Sanford built Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, Conn., for his new bride, Emma, who apparently didn’t like it much.
Sanford was a society portrait photographer who invented an early movie camera. He shared the late 19th-century taste for palatial country estates with lots of outbuildings — a caretaker’s cottage, carriage house, pumphouse, barn, woodshed and water tower.
It took four years, beginning in 1895, to build the 16-room manor house later named Hearthstone Castle. The castle combines features from many architectural periods, mostly Norman.
Emma Sanford must not have cared for palatial country estates or faux Norman castles. In 1902 the Sanfords sold the castle, which they’d named after themselves, to a rich New Yorker, Victor Buck. Buck changed the name to “Buck’s Castle.”
Buck told Country Homes magazine he believed “there is no more healthful spot on earth in all seasons.”
Buck got a new next-door neighbor in 1910, when the Tarrywile estate was purchased by Charles Darling Parks, president of the American Hatter and Furrier Co. Parks then bought Buck’s castle in 1918 and gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, Irene Parks Jennings Rathmell.
She changed the name to Hearthstone Castle, probably because it had eight fireplaces, and lived in it until she died in 1982. She left it to her niece and nephew.
Danbury bought the castle, Tarrywile estate and the grounds to both in 1987. Efforts are now underway to preserve the castle.
Recently, an antiques magazine editor named Eric Bradley bought some of the contents of the Hearthstone Castle library at an auction in Connecticut. In a $5 lot of poetry books he discovered 114 Songs by Danbury native Charles Ives. Ives’ sister-in-law had signed it. Bradley sold it for $1,000.
Both Hearthstone Castle and Tarrywile are on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a park open to the public for hiking, camping and special events.
With thanks to Fantastic Finds by Eric Bradley. This story updated in 2022.
Color image of Hearthstone Castle By Svmrs007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94961755.