Some concerned residents are making their voices heard about a proposal from Danbury officials to create a walled garden at Hearthstone Castle at Tarrywile Park. The design plans haven't been created, but City officials did approve sending a $1.6 million request to residents in November as part of a larger bond package.
About $700,000 of that price tag is for environmental remediation alone.
Mayor Mark Boughton says this is something that the City has studied for the past decade. The cost to rebuild the castle is $15 million to $18 million.
Boughton says they are not demolishing the castle. He says they have to clean out the basement, which is a contaminated site. The roof and the upper floors of the home have collapsed into the basement. The soil is contaminated with diesel fuel from the boiler room, there was a full free standing boiler room. There's also asbestos, arsenic and other contaminants. But he says they don't know the extent of it because they haven't been able to get underneath the debris.
Boughton says they will retain as much of the walls of the original building as possible, and that's what the garden will be built around. How high those walls will go and to what extend they'll remain will depend on how stable they are. He says they won't know that until the excavation is completed. The foundation and the other stonework holding up the structure have to be examined.
The hilltop castle, built in 1899, has fallen into disrepair and become overgrown with weeds since the City acquired it in 1985.
Boughton says trespassers have built fires inside, and a blaze that got out of hand last year showed how the site has become a safety liability. There are no trespassing signs on a fence because it's not stable. He notes that people have been hit by falling parts of the castle or have become stuck in the basement. Firefighters have had extricate some trespassers.
Hearthstone Castle was a 16-room, three-story home. The first owner of the castle was E. Starr Stanford, a photographer of actors and high-society members who also invented an early movie camera. It was later bought by Charles Darling Parks, a hatting manufacturer whose relatives lived in the castle into the 1980s.
The historic structure is one of a dwindling number of stone fortresses built more than a century ago by industrial barons across the Northeast. The landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example from America's castle-building period. More than a hundred stone castles or fortresses were built in the Northeast around the late 19th century, but many already have been demolished or destroyed in fires.