The once candy-coated dreams of a small New Jersey amusement park can still be seen in the ruins of this fantastical fantasy castle.
The Gingerbread Castle was originally a fairy tale themed amusement park located in Hamburg, New Jersey. The castle was designed in 1928 by the Austrian architect and set designer Joseph Urban. It was commissioned by F.H. Bennett, who was the owner of F.H. Bennett Biscuit Company in New York City. Bennett bought the New Jersey property in 1921 to expand his operations and open the Wheatsworth Mills.
Bennett was inspired to create his version of a fairytale castle on the property after seeing Urban’s set design work at a performance of “Hansel and Gretel” at the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to this, Bennett drew a lot of his inspiration for the castle from his fond childhood memories of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
The castle opened in 1930 and quickly became a popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, by the early 1980s, the castle began its decline from a beloved amusement park to a decrepit castle. Throughout the years, the castle and its surrounding property have gone through many transformations, including being a nightclub and at another point a haunted house.
In 2004, New Jersey resident Frank Hinger purchased the property and began to restore the castle with assistance from grants, fundraisers, and loyal fans of the castle. Despite his noble efforts, the property became too expensive for him to fully revitalize. A real estate developer bought the property, including the castle and the former Wheatsworth Mills factory. The developer made promises to continue with the restoration efforts, but so far nothing has been done. The castle is decaying and falling into a severe state of disrepair. The property is currently fenced off, but it can still be seen from the road. It is worth the trip just to see it and imagine what it once was.
Update 2017: The woman who currently owns it does not like visitors.
Update December 2018: There’s a new owner as of August 2018 who is doing a full restoration of the castle (to be opened late 2019). Police are heavily guarding the castle.
Update April 2019: Don Oriolo now owns the castle and is fully restoring the castle (to be opened in late 2019). Police patrol regularly.