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Robin Weiner/U.S Newswire Photography
Robin Weiner/U.S Newswire Photography
Most every American knows the major theme parks -- Six Flags, Paramount, and the various Disney establishments. But for decades, the American landscape was dotted with also-rans with names like "Jungle Habitat," "Space Farms," and "Fairy Tale Forest." These parks were aimed at children too young for the giant roller coasters of the major parks, and to their families looking for an outing without having to drive across the state. Nestled in the woods of northern New Jersey is such a place. Known as Gingerbread Castle, this park is tucked away along an unremarkable rural road in Sussex County, New Jersey. Built in 1930 by F.H. Bennett, it uses a life-sized castle to tell the story of "Hansel and Gretel." It also featured other stories, and even had a miniature railroad for the children to ride. The property actually started out as a flour mill in 1808. When that enterprise became unprofitable, a wire and cable factory was erected on the property. This was an important turn of events because the owners used their plastics to make several plastic dinosaurs which adorned the property. As children came to visit, more dinosaurs were added, and then eventually the Gingerbread Castle, itself.
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There are 54 comments.
Growing up in the 50's and 60's-every summer meant a trip to the Gingerbread Castle. The street signs in Hamburg were of the castle. After the castle tour we allwent to the shop where we had gingerbread. When I started dating my husband in the late 60's, I took him on a tour and before we left had gingerbread and cocoa. What a wonderful fall day. Does eveyone remember the bridge over the creek where the goldfish swam??? Grand memories that I have forever in my "memory box"!!
eileen d - Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 @ 5:11pm
After the war, when you could again get gas, we would day trip from staten is. to hamberg to see this magical place. I remember the animal crackers along side the stairs and we were told if we touched the gingerbread walls they turned to stone. Every child tried but found it true. There was a grilled witches cauldron inside and humpty dumpty and alice were outside. The wall lights had coloured balls inside - candy. Fairy tales came alive.-67 years ago
joe madory - Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 @ 11:18am
This was a magical place to visit as a child and I have a souvenir booklet with black and white photos from the fifties. Also have photos of my brother and I as toddlers sitting on the stone wall (probably alongside Humpty Dumpty). Would be great to see this place fully restored for the future generations to enjoy!
Suzanne - Friday, August 21st, 2009 @ 8:10pm
My father, Sanford George Willcox, was the second Hansel during the late 1910's into the early 1920's. I have fond memories of this place.
Iona Willcox Knapp - Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 @ 10:23pm
Yesterday i visited the ginger bread castle and i felt bad because its all beat up and i want to fix it. When my grandma was little she visited it too but its sad too think about it and who a banded it
Rachel Lombardi - Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 @ 10:29am
I am looking for anyone who may have a copy of the movie Hansel & Gretel make by the Hayes family of Orange, NJ in the late 2930s. Please make contact with me at email@example.com. I hope to hear from someone soon.
Charles Parnham - Saturday, March 14th, 2009 @ 6:56pm
My family used to live about a mile from the Gingerbread Castle so we were there all the time! Some of my best memories of my childhood are from that magical place. My favorite was the train ride! My mom has alot of pics of my sister and I there in our matching dresses, holding hands with the Gingerbread boy statues!! It is a shame to see it run down. Hopefully someone can bring back the magic to the Gingerbread Castle!
jamie flood - Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 @ 12:23pm
My parents would take my brother, sister and I here every summer from 1955 until 1965. I have old movies of the park and figures as well as the train. I was a place that will alsways bring back memories of a lifetime passed.
Larry Huyler - Saturday, November 22nd, 2008 @ 1:50am
Very fond memorries as a child and was happey to see it all again in the late 90s as a Halloween event just to be able to walk up thoSe steps again made me feel like I was 6 again if even for a few minutes. Hope it is open again one day I'll visit!
jared Ruban - Thursday, October 30th, 2008 @ 11:03pm
Visiting the Gingerbread Castle in the 70s is still one of my top most magical childhood memories. I am so sad to hear of its disrepair, but hope that some day it will be refurbished. It really did tap into that magical place for so many of us. I remember it like it was yesterday--and have a postcard of the castle at my desk all these years later.
Beth Avery - Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 @ 1:50pm
I was just here last week. The area is in complete disrepair. The castle itself looks like it got some repainting in the last several years, but the property is completely overgrown. Some of the fairy tale characters are falling apart, and the structural wire in then can be seen through open holes in the plaster. The area is partially fenced, and although you can walk in, numerous "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs are posted. The pond aside the road is empty and filled with fallen leaves. The large mill complex next door is completely in disrepair with virtually every window broken. If you are planning to visit this site for some reason other than to look at it from the street, don't bother. There is nothing going on here, it is not open to the public, and there are no programs for Halloween.
Jeff - Thursday, October 9th, 2008 @ 2:27pm
It is such a shame. the Castle was part of history.Class trips were the thing back in the late 60's early 70's. It was the place for families and small children. Small children were able to relate to the stories told. there needs to be a place for small children again with imagination. I will always remember the fun times.
charlotte frankenfield - Sunday, September 21st, 2008 @ 3:10am
Rick, my father George may have worked with or for your grandfather- I know he had something to do with the casting of the elephant staircase.Sad to hear the place is falling apart...
Darron Corriden - Saturday, September 13th, 2008 @ 5:52pm
It was a great place went there as a kid like everybody else for so many years. But sadly it would cost a fortune to fix it at this point to do it right and the current owner who bought it last year has no interest in it. His main reason for buying the property I hear was to put in a golf course which I don't think will happen until the place falls down or is condemned which ever happens first. Very sad but a least the memories will live on like the Kuser mansion at High Point that NJ let crumble till it was torn down.
C. Slate - Thursday, September 11th, 2008 @ 11:14pm
Family legend says that my great grandfather Blake Rumsey, a builder of local fame built the gingerbread castle. He is supposed to have been an early user of poured concrete construction techniques in the Hamburg / Sparta area. No way to verify the story.
Rick Rumsey - Saturday, September 6th, 2008 @ 8:06pm
In the spring of 1956; my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Rear, of Mt. Tabor School in NJ; arranged a fieldtrip to The Gingerbread Castle. Now, 53 years later, I still have fond memories of that day. I remember that there was a wishing well inside the castle where you toss in a penny and make a wish. It was such a wonderful place for a 5 year old to visit. Is it still there?Drew Paren, Baltimore, MD
Drew Paren - Sunday, August 31st, 2008 @ 12:29pm
Loved it as a child...Going through my scrap book I saw pictures and the orriginal brochure & bag for the gingerbread man. Entrance cost $0.35 adults and children $0.25.
Marion Moir - Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 @ 4:19pm
Remember clearly visiting the Gingerbread Castke duribg the war years when we could get gas. The outside animal cracker lined staircase, the lights with the colored "candy" balls in them, the strucyure which was gingerbread and candy BUT turned to stone if you touched it, the witches cauldron.I probably last visited when I brought my new wife there in the early 60's. In my maid it's still there,
joe Madory - Sunday, July 27th, 2008 @ 4:54pm
My family visited the castle couple of years ago.We were shocked to see someone had turned into a haunted place.It was very sad.My dad came here as a child in the 30's ,I came here as a child in the 60'sand then I brought my children in the 90's .We even have pictures from all of the visits. The most haunting thing about the visist was when we walked through it was if though time had never touched the place.It was like the whole place was a sleep .The stone characters were still there but natures vines were creeping around them. It looked like just one day every thing just stopped and the people vanished. Like a twilight zone episode. I still remember my first taste of gingerbread and that enchanted feeling you would get. Believe it or not I could still feel all of that. There is no place like the gingerbread castle .I think someone should write a good story about it .maybe from the sales that the book would make the place could be restored. Im glad I found this site I will tell others about it . a Gingerbread castle fan
Linda Shelley - Thursday, May 1st, 2008 @ 2:07pm
I was sad to hear all the attractions that I had seen as a child is no longer around to bring my children to. I have many happy memories of my oma and opa (grandparents) taking their children and granchildren to Fairytale Forest and Gingerbread Castle, but all I have to show my kids are pictures.I hope these places are restored to their once unique presence of childhood wonder. I would take my family fequently.
Lorraine Vilardi-Lukich - Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 @ 11:15am
Visited on a class trip, probably age 12. I have a souvenir plate still in great shape from when I was there.
Louise Jones - Saturday, February 23rd, 2008 @ 10:29pm
Well, going over the messages and am very touched to see that EVERYONE has rated the Castle with 5 Stars! Certainly tells a great deal about the specialness of that one spot in the lives of the people who visited it.
Joe Fanning - Monday, January 28th, 2008 @ 11:37pm
I have a postcard from the Gingerbread Castle from a visit I barely remember back in the early 50's. Would love to see more pictures of it from back in the 50's.
Claudette Choiniere - Monday, October 29th, 2007 @ 4:43pm
I am a photography student at Montclair State University.I live less than 2 minutes away from the beautiful castle and am in the middle of doing a photo project about the castle in my advanced black and white photography class this semester. I am very interested in any photographs anyone has from when you visited the castle.If you have any that you'd like to share or that I could get a photo copy of, please let me know.my email is firstname.lastname@example.org is much appreciated, thank you!-Heather
Heather Palecek - Monday, August 27th, 2007 @ 6:47pm
I have slides of my little brother and I posing in the book circa 1976. I remember trying to touch the walls faster than they could turn to stone and never quite making it. When we'd get home at night, I would fall asleep thinking of how wonderful it would be to LIVE in a castle of gingerbread! I'm tearing up reading these memories. I feel the same nostalgic way. This stands in my mind with fonder feelings than any trip I've ever taken to a bigger theme park. Long Live The Gingerbread Castle!
Amy Wren - Monday, August 20th, 2007 @ 1:27am
I visited the castle as a kid in the 30's. Enjoyed the characters in and about the castle. Glad it is still in operation
Les Schwar - Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 @ 12:05pm
I visited the Castle during a school trip in the late 50's. Visited again in 73 just to buy the delicious gingerbread cookies that were sold across the street. Stopped yesterday
William T. Grutta - Monday, August 6th, 2007 @ 10:35am
My first job was at Gingerbread Castle back in 1980. I was Gretel and took children on tours through the castle. I wish I could bring my own children to see it.
Lorraine - Saturday, August 4th, 2007 @ 3:03pm
What a rush, to remember the Castle! We kids were told not to touch the gingerbread walls or they would turn to stone. They had Robin Hood style hats with a feather that you could buy.
Terry Mac - Friday, May 4th, 2007 @ 1:34pm
How my brothers, sister and I loved going to the castle on our way back from Space Farms every year with our parents. What a simple, but sweet time in our lives!! Thanks letting me re-live my childhood for a few minutes!!
Barbara Hohman - Thursday, May 3rd, 2007 @ 2:59pm
I used to take my kids here; they loved it! I just found a 1931 postcard from the castle that my Mother had sent her mother!
D. Ganley - Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 @ 10:38am
I have an org print of the gingerbread castle from the 1950's i just saw it on one of the web sites they haeve one for sale. they have only seen 2 in there life time. I had it since 1950'ssigned by newman or newmam. its great.
Diane Tornquist - Wednesday, March 7th, 2007 @ 3:45pm
Every year we had to stop at the castle in the 50's on way to the catskills. had gingerbread men cookies.I still have a 8x12 framed artist's picture in color of the castle. I keep a photo copy on my desk. loved the tower with the witch, she threw a bone in the pot at end. to scare all of us.Good job. When it gets restored I and a fe friend will go back.
Diane Tornquist - Monday, March 5th, 2007 @ 12:07pm
I too loved this place as a child, and a mom. My children loved it too! I,m an artist and would love to help redesign, and referbish it back to its former glory and some.
Janie Engelhardt - Monday, February 12th, 2007 @ 7:50pm
i have known the castle for years from its hayday to bar and night club to rock club go go bar to a restaurant to just doing the haunted castle i have known the past 2 owners they just did not have the money to restore it back the way it was years ago.the castle was just sold to a contractor so i hope that he can restore to and reopen it for all to see it will take time and a lot of money thank you
c1957 - Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 @ 7:41pm
mom and dad took us thereas kids.have great photos and memories.all good things are dissapearing in nj.
j forsthoffer - Sunday, November 19th, 2006 @ 1:16pm
I grew up in Hamburg and went many times to the castle. I also took my children there. They also enjoyed. My grandchildren wanted to go but it is no longer there. Maybe they can revive it someday.
carolyn jones obiso - Sunday, November 5th, 2006 @ 2:37pm
A New Jersey Landmark... Truly built with a vision... someone will hopefully revive this enchanting place. A wonderful childhood memory. It was a 1000 times bigger when I was little :-)
Francesca Basile - Thursday, October 12th, 2006 @ 2:45pm
I am a child of the 1950's. My par4ents brought me to the castle as a special treat. I revisited at 56 y ears old this past weekend and felt the same sense of wonder. I hope that someone with vision is able to maintain this magnificent relic.
Marilyn Shapiro - Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 @ 8:37pm
My parent took me there when I was little, loved it. It is for Sale on Ebay this week due to foreclosure :( Oct. 2006
H. Danielsen - Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 @ 12:00pm
I loved the ginger bread castle as a kid, I have pictures with my my brother and sister and would love to take my kids there someday
Diane - Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 @ 2:10pm
I loved going to the Gingerbread Castle as a child in the sixties. I have lots of good memories, but I always wonder what made their gingerbread men so delicious!! If anyone has the recipe, please share!!!
Doreen - Friday, March 3rd, 2006 @ 11:59pm
My wife and I went on our first and last "Date " there in 1959. The reason for the first and last was that eveninbg we got ingaged and were married a few months later. that was 46 years ago
Joseph Boehm - Friday, January 20th, 2006 @ 5:29pm
Memories and photographs still keep the spirit of the Gingerbread House in my heart. I grew up in the area but have now moved away. I hope to visit soon to give my children the same precious experiences I had.
Pam Krpejs - Thursday, December 22nd, 2005 @ 11:00am
Boy did this site bring a smile to my face. I remember my first visit to the castle when I was probably 6 or 7. I am 52 now so that tells you how long ago. I remember all the visits I had to it and the ones I bought my grown children there to. A wonderful place to restore for future generations to enjoy!
Ro - Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 @ 9:14pm
Many fine memories and home movies of the place! Still ride by many times when I go to my second house in Pa. via Route 23!
Joe Fanning - Sunday, July 17th, 2005 @ 3:06pm
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