Fabulous Freelancer Foray: Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts

As the other forays I’ve written about can attest to, I adore visiting historic locations. History is, in its purest form, the study of life as expressed through art, music, science, politics…the list goes on. If I had to choose one historic location in Massachusetts that really sets itself apart aesthetically, intellectually, and spiritually, it’s Hammond Castle Museum.

How this castle (and museum) came to be…

Could Hammond Castle itself have been built by a group of medieval explorers who had secretly made their way to the eastern shores of the United States? No, though all evidence would, initially, point the contrary, and that’s just the way that its father, the inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. , would have wanted it.

It took 3 years for Hammond Castle to be built; it was completed in 1929, to become the primary residence of Hammond and his wife, Irene Fenton Hammond (though she wasn’t particularly enamored of it – no pun intended). Hammond himself was an avid traveler and art collector, filling the place with European pieces from the 14th through 16th centuries.

Irene passed away in 1959, and Hammond died in 1965. Since they had no children/heirs, their property, with all its unique designs and artifacts, became the museum that it is today.

Getting to and around there…

If you’re not familiar with the area, and you’re visiting in the summer, it can be a bit tricky to find Hesperus Avenue. There’s a sign and everything, but the flora and fauna is such that it’s easy to overlook. The castle/museum itself is a little way down the avenue, but you’ll most assuredly know when you get there – you literally can’t miss the parking lot. Note, though, that if you’re visiting for one of the larger special events at Hammond Castle (I also  recommend keeping tabs on upcoming events via their excellent Facebook page, there’ll most likely be a shuttle service.

Speaking of events, here’s a video I found of an (awesome!) group, Misfits of Avalon, performing the Game of Thrones theme at Hammond Castle during a renaissance faire:

If you’re not great with stairs (especially narrow, sometimes steep, circular ones that in one notable instance, curves to the left instead of the right) or uneven surfaces, then please visit with caution and wear, in all circumstances, sturdy shoes. This is especially true if you’re exploring the grounds during or after one of the evening guided tours that are held specifically in the summer.

My own observations…

It’s safe to say that Hammond Castle has stepped out of time and into my heart. The soothing views (and sounds) of the ocean from both inside and outside the property are unparalleled.

Now, a little preview tour I’ve put together from my own photos:

1EnteringtheWalkwayHere’s one of the first views of the castle as you descend from the parking lot.

2CourtyardThrough the arches, you can get an initial glimpse of the iconic drawbridge. You don’t actually enter through there, though. The entrance is actually a door to the immediate left, just outside the borders of this picture.

3Plants and DrawbridgeApproaching the drawbridge, I took a moment to appreciate the colorful landscaping along the way.

4 DrawbridgeAnd, here it is, the drawbridge! Methinks there’s no cooler backdrop for a selfie, couples, or group photo.

5Back to CourtyardHeading back from the drawbridge, I stopped to look at some more great architecture. Based on this view alone, doesn’t it seem as if it’s medieval Europe?!

6View Into Great HallSkipping ahead a bit, here’s a view into the Great Hall, which could be thought of, in the context of the Hammonds actually making this their home, the ultimate living room!

7Candlelight TourI went on the candlelight tour (evening guided tours held in the summer months). Gothic luminaries abound.

8OrganThis pipe organ is considered to be one of the most important pieces in the Hammond collection (read more about it here), though it needs to be restored to working capacity.

9ArmorNo medieval-style Great Hall would really be complete without a suit of armor!

10PoolA glimpse of the indoor pool and courtyard – imagine the parties that were had here!

11ContemporaryThe end of the tour segued into an area that was contemporary to the Hammonds.

11Hammond AchievementsHammond and Achievements – A bust of the young John Hays Hammond, Jr., along with some of his achievements.

13Hammond and AudioHammond and Audio – There’s also a display featuring an older John Hays Hammond, Jr. with one of his many inventions, some descriptions of which can be found here.

14Sunset OceanAfter completing the tour, it was time to make my way back out into the courtyard and up to the parking lot. I paused to observe the silhouette of these arches against the backdrop of the ocean and the sunset.

15Night at the CastleEither the sun set quickly, or I had explored the grounds for longer than I thought, because night set in, at which time I took one last picture of the courtyard.

Although I could wax poetic about the myriad of treasures to be found in Hammond Castle Museum, I very much want to encourage you, my readers, to visit the place yourself. For more information about tours and visiting hours, please visit this page of the official website.

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