It was a user-submitted photo that first sparked my interest: a sweeping, arched staircase constructed of stone, fallen leaves strewn along its steps, curving upward to end mid-air in the midst of a forest. It was titled simply “Madame Sherri Castle Ruins, Chesterfield, NH.” Castle ruins in New Hampshire? Now that’s something worth exploring!
We weren’t planning on seeking out Madame Sherri’s castle last weekend, but as Jim and I cruised along Route 9 from Keene, New Hampshire, toward Brattleboro, Vermont, with no particular destination in mind, it seemed as good a time as any to make a detour. A quick Google search returned a site that listed the ruins’ location as Castle Road in Chesterfield, also known as the Madame Sherri Forest, and off we went.
Truth be told, I was starting to think we might have missed it when Jim spotted the sign for the “Madame Sherri Forest” marking the parking-lot entrance. After a quick perusal of the map at the information kiosk, we crossed the footbridge and headed in the direction of the Ann Stokes Loop — a trail extending almost two miles through both the Madame Sherri Forest and the Cook Town Forest. When the path split, we veered right, catching our first glimpse of the ruins, and within minutes, were at the foot of the massive stairway.
It seems improbable, really. You wouldn’t expect to find the remains of a “castle” tucked into the southwest corner of the Granite State, yet there it is. Stories swirl around these ruins and its former occupant, but most folks in the area seem to agree on a few points: Madame Antoinette Sherri, a costume designer from New York, began buying land in the small village of Chesterfield, New Hampshire, in the late 1920s; she planned to build an extravagant summer home on the property. Her mantra, purportedly, was “Only the best,” and for years she threw wildly lavish parties at her “castle,” hosting an eclectic band of friends from the city. Until her money ran out, that is.
Madame Sherri eventually moved on, leaving the chateau to fall into disrepair, and it burned down on October 18, 1962. What remains today is the stonework from the staircase, the foundation, columns, and a fireplace. These medieval-looking ruins continue to spark the imagination of photographers, nature lovers, and more than a few ghost hunters. Legend has it that the lady herself has been spotted atop the grand staircase — which some refer to as the “stairway to heaven” — and that if you listen closely, you’ll hear the faint strains of laughter and music coming from the ruins.
While we didn’t hear or see anything supernatural on our visit, this is one of several New England castles not to miss if you’re traveling through southern New Hampshire.
Directions to Madame Sherri’s Castle Ruins on Gulf Road in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire:
From New Hampshire:
Follow Rte. 9 to Rte. 63 South
Turn right on Stage Road
Bear left onto Castle Road
Castle Rd joins Gulf Road
Watch for the MME SHERRI FOREST sign and parking lot on the left.
Take Rte. 9 East into New Hampshire
Turn right onto Gulf Road just after the Riverside Store along the Connecticut River
Gulf Road makes a hard left, if you end up following the river, you’ve missed the turn.
Watch for the MME SHERRI FOREST sign and parking lot on the right.
NH Forest Society Safety Update:
The top portion of the stone staircase collapsed in July 2021 and the area has been roped off due to safety concerns. PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB OR WALK ON THE RUINS.