Gingerbread Castle

Posted: Friday June 17, 2011

Along Gingerbread Castle Road in Hamburg New Jersey, a curious castle rots. Its sun faded, frosted sugar roof, is dwarfed by an ominous silhouette of the shuttered Wheatsworth Mill, towering just above in the background. Giant size gum balls and cupcakes adorn the exterior of the castle and intricate geometric patterns designed to replicate icing and cookie cut-outs ornament the faux gingerbread facade. Inside a stairwell spirals up from the dark dungeon themed basement leading up to a rainbow painted, candy cane enchanted turret. Triangular cut door ways open to cramped rooms where wooden fairy tale figurines gaze up at the peeling paint and smashed stained glass windows of what was once the Gingerbread Castle. Long gone are the lines of children eagerly anticipating an adventure into a mythical land of lollipops and gumdrops. Intrigued onlookers are now met with a barb wire fence and "no trespassing " signs. Humpty Dumpty still precariously balances on his wall, waiting for a gust of wind to blow him to his demise. A stagnant leaf filled pond remains just outside the perimeter of the fence line, where a rotting foot bridge crosses over the murky water to an overgrown path. A faint sign still greets visitors, instructing to wait for the next tour guide.

The Gingerbread Castle in its abandoned condition remains as one of the few surviving fairy tale themed amusement parks. The idea to build such a structure spawned from the mind of Fred Henry Bennett, who as a child was inspired by fairy tales. However the castle itself was designed and built by Austrian architect and designer, Joseph Urban. The castle was completed in 1928 for a cost of $50,000. Throughout the following decades the castle's unique appearance attracted children and adults alike. Tour guides led eager visitors into a Hansel and Gretel inspired world, where mythical ideas were turned into tangible sets. But much like any fairy tale, the Gingerbread Castle's last pages were finally turned in the 1980's. Due to loss of interest the castle fell into disrepair and was only seldom used as a Halloween attraction for a few years. Today the castle remains abandoned. It's interior has been stripped of anything valuable and nature continues to take her toll, battering the exterior, season in and season out. But amongst the faded paint, broken glass, and barb wire fencing, the castle's allure still seems to shine through. On any given day people can be found glancing over the fence, fulfilling their curiosity or perhaps remembering a time when they themselves visited the castle. Supposedly the castle remains in the hands of an owner. However until any real recognition takes place, the castle truly belongs to the curious, adventurous, and daring. The oddity the Gingerbread Castle is, will always attract people for better and for worse.

For a more detailed analysis regarding the history of the Gingerbread castle, feel free to consult the following links:

A comfortable chair resides in one of the castle turrets. In the background can be seen what is left of the triangular stained glass windows.

Looking down from the rainbow plank stair case. Below can be seen the main spiral stair case which leads down to the basement of the castle, which was themed as a dungeon.

The central room of the castle featured a large metal sphere which covered a pit, providing a view of a dungeon themed set located in the basement.

Looking up at the rainbow staircase. Many of the individual steps remained unsecured and a few of the beams where out right missing. This stairwell led up to a small interior balcony. The following post card shows a similar view of the rainbow staircase as well as the various figurines which once adorned it. [1]

What is left of the remaining statuettes. This post card shows what the more intricate figures looked like in their heyday. [1]

Another view of the main room.

The narrow centermost archway missing the iron bars, leads out to a balcony which wraps around the exterior of the castle.

To much disappointment, there was no little old lady to be found living inside this shoe. However here are a few postcards detailing what the shoe looked like in past years. [1]

Here is a historic postcard image captured from a similar vantage point. [1]

Despite years of abandonment and neglect, many of the intricate details still shine through amongst the sun faded paint.

Across the street from the Gingerbread Castle sits Frank's Castle Grill, a closed restaurant which originally opened during a failed restoration attempt. This property was originally part of the Gingerbread Castle acreage and at one time it sported a miniature railroad ride and gift shop. [2] The land is also home to a few foam and re-bar constructed dinosaurs. Here's a photograph taken of the above reptile before it was tipped. [3]

If a you found this blog post on the Gingerbread Castle interesting, you may also enjoy viewing pictures of the similarly themed and fated Fairy Tale Forest.

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