The Madame Sherri’s Castle Ruins in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire has become one of the most iconic photography locations in the state. If you’ve spent any time on Instagram and live in New England, it is likely that you have seen a picture of the crumbling stone stairway of the castle which nowadays leads nowhere. The crumbling remains of this once sprawling estate in Southern Vermont are a must-visit for any explorer!
The Story Behind The Castle
How the castle came to be is a fascinating story. The tale dates back to the late 1920s, when Madame Antionette Sherri began acquiring land in the town of Chesterfield. Sheri was born in Paris but moved to the United States to pursue a design career. During the early 1900s, Sherri rose the ranks of the New York City theater industry as a theatrical costume designer. After spending many years in the city, Sherri sought to build a summer home so that she and her husband could escape New York during the summer. Sherri was known as a bit of a socialite and her home would need to meet her big standards. It would also need to be a place where she felt comfortable hosting her friends.
For several years in the 1920s, Sherri and her husband went about acquiring land in New Hampshire for their summer home. They fell in love with land in Chestfield and acquired hundreds of acres. When it came to building the home in New Hampshire, no expenses were spared. After many months of construction, the home was completed. It was a French-inspired chateau that looked more like a castle than a traditional New Hampshire home. It featured stunning stonework including a Roman arch stairway, adorned interiors, and perfectly landscaped gardens.
Over the years, Sherri held many parties at her home. Friends from New York City and beyond would travel to Chesterfield to attend the lavish parties. Sherri and her many parties garnered the attention of many townspeople. They would often talk about her and how different she was from them. She would roll through town in her chauffeur-driven Packard, wear large fur coats, and seemingly always had friends staying over.
The Castle Abandonment
Madame Sherri faced hard times financially during the mid-1900s. Due to this, she began spending less and less time in Chesterfield at the castle. The home began to fall into ruin due to the lack of upkeeping. Additionally, vandals began targeting the abandoned building. Sherri did return to the home in 1959 after several years away and when she saw the vandalism she left the home and never returned. She was heartbroken that the home which once served as a gathering place for so many was now in unsalvagable condition. The castle eventually burned down in 1963 and just some stone structures remained.
What Remains Today
Today, a few features from the original home can be seen. These include the stone foundation, stairway, fireplace, and chimney. Many trees have grown up around the structures which makes seeing them even more obscure. It is amazing to think of what the place used to look like when exploring the ruins today.
Fortunately, the ruins and the rest of the former land owned by Antionette Sherri are now open to the public. When Sherri passed away in 1965, the estate was acquired by Anne Stokes. Stokes loved the property and the heritage behind it. Stokes used the property for several years to host parties and concerts. She got creative with using the old foundation and stairway as focal points for the events. Eventually, in 1976 Stokes set out to make the land public so that everyone could enjoy the beautiful grounds permanently. A conservation easement was created and she decided to donate 488 acres to the Forest Society which is a non-profit organization. The organization would create a trail system and manage the land. At the time, the land donated did not include the castle ruins. It was in 2005, that Anne Stokes donated the remaining 25.5 acres to the Forest Society and these acres contain the castle ruins. The primary trailhead and parking area were later established on these new acres. Today, visitors from all over flock to the state forest to enjoy the castle ruins and the lovely trails. This is all thanks to Madame Shari who built the estate and Anne Stokes who donated it.
- Trail Length: 0.2 miles
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 3 feet
- Route Type: Out-and-back
- Dog Policy: Allowed when on leash
The trail to the castle ruins is super easy to complete. After parking along Gulf Road, the ruins are just 0.1 miles away, and the route features basically zero elevation gain. Out-and-back, the trail is just 0.2 miles and features 3 feet of elevation gain. Dogs are welcome at Madame Sherri Forest and they should be on a leash.
- Year Established: 1920s
- Year Abandoned: 1950s (burned down in 1963)
- Original Function: Summer home for Madame Antionette Sherri