Stone Arches of Madame Sherri's Castle

I couldn’t resist a visit to a place with the unlikely name Madame Sherri Forest, along with stories of castle ruins deep in the New Hampshire woods.

Located in Chesterfield, NH, it can be a bit tricky to find. No signs point the way, even to the parking area.

You sort of have to know where to look. But once there, it’s well worth the visit. I went to check out the ruins. I found them, and a lot more besides.

Madame Sherri, born Antoinette de Lilas, started out as a Parisian Music Hall Dancer. She married a silent film actor, Andre Riela, and with him came to the United States in 1911. They opened up a costume design shop in New York’s theater district.

In the 1920s, Andre passed away, and Madame Sherri bought a farmhouse and 800 acres off Gulf Road in Chesterfield. She soon started building a new summer place, loosely modeled on a French chateau, with stone arches, a stone stairway carved in a ledge, and other stonework. It came to be known as her castle.

Here she held lavish parties that scandalized the locals. At some point, it burned down, leaving only the stonework. She moved into the farmhouse, where she lived until she died in Brattleboro Nursing Home in 1965, obscure and mostly forgotten.

The property is now owned and maintained by the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. The ruins are interesting, even haunting in their way, a kind of testament to the excesses of the Roaring 20s.
More interesting is the network of trails in the area.

I took the 2-mile Anne Stokes loop, which skirts a quiet beaver pond before climbing Rattlesnake Hill. I didn’t know the local name for it at the time I was there, but I remember thinking that the rock outcroppings, and the mix of oak, maple, birch and ash, would be prime habitat for the eastern timber Rattler.

For the record, I didn’t see any, nor any other snake, for that matter.

There are at least two places at the top of the hill with good long views of the surrounding countryside, well worth the walk.

Here’s how I got there: From Rout 9 in Chesterfield, turn south on Route 63. About a mile south of Chesterfield center, turn right onto Stage Road. After a half-mile, turn left onto Castle Road. Castle Road ends at Gulf Road, continue along Gulf Road for a bit more than two miles, the parking area will be on your left.

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