Friday, June 23, 2017

Tour 2017 - Day 3 - Gillette, It’s the Best (Castle) a Man Can Get

Thursday, June 22, 2017
We gathered at 8:30 sharp this morning and were ready to move on to our next stop, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. The youth rubbed their eyes and yawned as they clamored onto the bus. It was a short ride to the museum but that never stops us from getting a few extra minutes of sleep in.

Now officially on the Pequot’s sovereign land we were excited to see what the 308,000 sq ft museum had in store for us, and it did not disappoint. The collection of artifacts housed there is not only massive, but truly breathtaking. From authentic dugout canoes to original tools and back, they have everything there. We were led on a great tour and acquired a wealth of information on the Pequot people. An incredible story of perseverance and pride that resulted in a once disbanded and failing tribe becoming one of only two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut.

The group boarded the bus, souvenirs in hand, the greeters made their rounds and we dove right into Fork Stories from the previous night. Today’s winners were William Baldridge and Bryce Taylor who took “potty time” a bit too seriously and had somehow ended up fishing a clock that had fallen off of the wall in the bathroom out of a toilet…

Our next stop was about an hour away - Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, CT. Thanks to Paul Lopez (our long time friend and bus driver) we successfully navigated the winding roads up to the castle and disembarked. We had a self guided tour of the fantastic grounds, and lunch at Sherlock’s Grill with an exquisite view of the Connecticut River (PLEASE see pictures below). William Gillette was a man who attended Harvard, Yale, Trinity, MIT, and College of the City of New York, but never received a degree. In other words he was in pursuit of the best, so he designed the entirety of his castle by himself… let me explain a bit of what that means.

-It took 20 men five years to complete his design of the structure which was steel framework and fieldstone
-There are 47 masterfully crafted wooden doors that could themselves be considered works of art… no two are the same
-He conceived the idea of a 7,000 gallon rainwater collection basin that was connected to a network of pipes throughout the castle to create his own unique fire suppression system… in 1919*

I’m sure you are wondering "How much does it cost to build a castle?” well, I actually heard a park employee say “If money could buy it, Mr. Gillette had it” which I took as the equivalent of “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”.

With everyone back on the bus we were headed to Mary Taylor UMC in Millford, CT. Upon our arrival we corralled everyone into the sanctuary for a quick rehearsal. It immediately became apparent that the theme of the night would be “Ho! Everybody Thirsteth” due to the New England heat! Deb Bowe would later ensure the hydration of the group with subtle hints prompting us to drink during the concert. We had a great dinner of chicken, hot dogs, macaroni salad, and potato salad, after which several of the men had a shirt vs skins game of ultimate frisbee in the green space in the center of town. We make our presence known wherever we go.

Up next was the concert! The congregation loved the program, applauding well after the final word. We then shifted gears and returned to the courtyard to meet with the hosts. After a long day of activity we are grateful to be in host homes and are anxiously awaiting the tour of Yale in the morning (not to mention heading to one of my family’s favorite places, Andover, MA).
“Until next time, I’ve been Graham Taylor… Stay warm New England”


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