Madame Sherri’s Castle Ruins is a popular tourist destination in New Hampshire, known for its stunning architecture and scenic trails.
May 6, 2009 — The great part about the ruins of Madame Sherri’s castle in Chesterfield, NH, isn’t the fact that it was once the mansion retreat of a rich eccentric who liked to drive around in a fur coat and nothing else, but that it ruined so aesthetically, with a long stone staircase that ends mid-air and the forlorn shapes of stone chimneys, columns, and arches, all back-dropped by the beautiful 500-acre forest that bears her name.
Paris-born Madame Antoinette Sherri earned her fortune in show business as a theater costume designer in New York, but she earned her enduring fame in the Granite State. She built her stone mansion as a summer house sometime in the early 1930s, and she was known for the extravagant parties she threw there, as well as tooling around nearby towns in expensive cars and outfits, and generally acting like a character from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. Over time, the mansion was neglected until a fire brought about its official demise just before Madame Sherri’s own in 1965 at the age of 84.
In this case, the pyromaniacs were right. The fire left behind a pleasing medieval-looking ruin, the most prominent feature of which is a set of curving stone steps that end abruptly some 20 feet in the air. In fact, the place looks more like a castle now in decay than it did at its peak, when it originally received the moniker. I was able to walk all the way up the stairway with little difficulty, but had to butt-slide down like a three-year-old to keep vertigo from being my murderer (that role is reserved). There was no handrail. Those are always the first to go in the ruination process.
The top floor of the ruin bears a few surviving stone columns and chimneys that poke up from the house frame through a layer of soil and grass. The floor beneath that layer is filled with rocks and other cave-in detritus, and Madame Sherri would be happy to know that, judging by the beer bottles and graffiti we found inside, people still party there.
Even though the castle is surrounded by forest, there’s actually a parking lot close by for the convenience of hikers making natural use of the area. But you don’t have to hike to the castle itself, although that might make it a much cooler experience. I’m always fighting the battle between cool and convenient. They’re both things I want out of life, and they’re rarely compatible.
To get there from the parking lot, take the path to the right past the sign that represents the full extent of my research for this article and which includes a picture of Madame Sherri and her husband, Andre, who died before the castle phase of Sherri’s life. I know I should probably be using compass terms for directions since this is wilderness, but I still have trouble discerning my left from my right without focused, conscious thought, so trying to communicate in four directions will tie me up like an Octopus with Parkinson’s. Drive behind my turn signals sometime.
From here the area goes either uphill or downhill, depending upon where I want to take this joke. It goes downhill, because there are no more intriguing ruins to clamber on. It goes uphill because the network of trails that lead away from the ruins go up the casually named Daniels Mountain. On one of these trails, the Daniels Mountain trail itself, you can even see over into the state of Vermont from your New Hampshire vantage point. The dotted line that is the official state boundary painted by Rand McNally is clearly visible.
The area around the ruins is veined with these picturesque hiking trails, but the majesty of nature still takes a rare back seat here to this carcass of a castle.