News Column

Hammond Castle offering tours by candlelight

July 17, 2014

By Gail McCarthy, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.



July 17--Visitors to Hammond Castle can tour the museum this summer in the lighting in which the oceanfront medieval-style castle was envisioned -- candlelight.

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays through August, John Pettibone, the retired curator, will once again give tours throughout the castle, the halls and rooms of which will be lit with candles.

John Hays Hammond,Jr., a prolific American inventor, built the castle from 1926 to 1929 to house his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts. In fact, the castle was a wedding present for his wife, Irene Fenton of Essex.

"There were constant guests to the castle, from George Gershwin to Greta Garbo to Lionel Barrymore," said Pettibone.

The castle on Hesperus Avenue was also home to Hammond Research Corp., under which Hammond earned more than 400 patents -- second only to Thomas Edison in number, Pettibone said, and had the ideas for more than 800 inventions. Hammond is called the father of radio remote control, but he was a pioneer in many areas including the push-button radio in cars, the stereo system, and even television shopping many decades before QVC was even an idea.

"Why candlelight tours? That is because Hammond chose to live and work at night," explained Pettibone on a recent tour. "Thomas Edison told his father he was a genius after the boy was taken to visit Edison's laboratory with his father. Edison in turn introduced young Hammond to Alexander Graham Bell who advised Hammond to work at night. Hammond loved the 'medieval-ness' of candle lights."

When "Ghost Hunters," a television reality show, came to the property, Hammond Castle was the most active of the 400 properties the crew visited. The show documented 11 entities, the most of any property, said Pettibone.

Visitors on the first two of the three evening candle-light tours can continue to explore the castle when Pettibone finishes the narrated part of the tour. The narrated tour includes the Great Hall, which soars to 67-feet high, the indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, the library, two guest bedrooms, and inventions exhibit room. Visitors can later visit the war room, the kitchens, the Natalie Hays Hammond exhibit room, servants quarters, as well as several smaller rooms and passageways, including a secret passageway.

There is a fireplace in every room, and the indoor swimming pool holds 30,000 gallons of fresh water.

"Hammond, who was a millionaire at the age of 19, always wanted to live in a castle since he was just a boy of 10 years old," said Pettibone.

The curator told his tour how Hammond's wife had a collection of stained glass as well as other medieval objects.

"So when he married, he ended up with a collection of stained glass and his wife got a castle to put them in," said Pettibone.

Items in the castle come from a broad geographic spectrum as well as time, from a Byzantine chair to a Roman sarcophagus that dates to the second century before Christ. Pettibone pointed out one of the more recent items, the skull of a Spanish explorer, which was Hammond's favorite object.

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Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or via email at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

Evening explorations

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, through Aug. 28, at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:15 p.m.

Where: 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester.

How much: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for children; no advance reservations needed, and tours start promptly at scheduled times. Admission for regular hours, including a self-guided tour, Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is also $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for children. Same-day tickets will be honored for the evening tours. For more information, call 978-283-2080 or visit www.hammondcastle.org.

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(c)2014 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)

Visit the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.) at www.gloucestertimes.com

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Source: Gloucester Daily Times (MA)


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