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Crumbling Kimball Castle may be demolished; supporters hope for its restoration

The Kimball Castle in Gilford, built in 1897 by concord railroad magnate Benjamin Kimball and photographed in 2003. At the time this image was made there was ten year restoration project to clear trees for the castle to be seen from points on Lake Winnipesaukee, such as the Governors Island Bridge, and will also keep the castle from deteriorating further.
(Concord Monitor photo/Elaine Skylar)

The Kimball Castle in Gilford, built in 1897 by concord railroad magnate Benjamin Kimball and photographed in 2003. At the time this image was made there was ten year restoration project to clear trees for the castle to be seen from points on Lake Winnipesaukee, such as the Governors Island Bridge, and will also keep the castle from deteriorating further. (Concord Monitor photo/Elaine Skylar)

Kimball Castle in Gilford may not have a fairy-tale ending worthy of its once-majestic walls.

Town officials deemed the castle on Lake Winnipesaukee unsafe in April and presented the owners with the option to either demolish it or secure it behind a fence. Renovating the castle has always been an option as well, but Gilford Town Administrator Scott Dunn said that would require a huge amount of money.

“It would take some massive amount of private resources to restore it,” he said. “The town certainly doesn’t have the resources to do it, and the town doesn’t own the building.”

Town records list the castle’s owner as Kimball Castle Properties LLC, and Dunn identified the heads of the corporation as David and Mary Jodoin of Nashua. The Jodoins assumed ownership of the property in 2001 and could not be reached for comment.

Dunn said officials gave the owners the ultimatum after an assessment of the structure revealed its dangers earlier in the year.

“There are pieces of the building that are falling off,” he said.

The town originally gave the owners a June 15 deadline, then granted them a 90-day extension, bringing the deadline to mid-September. Dunn said the owners have obtained quotes for fencing and demolition, and have been issued a demolition permit by the town as well.

The owners are also trying to sell the castle. The property was listed on Realtor.com on March 1, and is priced at $799,000.

Gilford historical author Carol Anderson said Benjamin Ames Kimball commissioned its construction in 1897. Kimball, a prosperous and noteworthy Concord resident, served as director of the Concord Railroad and as a member of the New Hampshire Executive Council.

Kimball was fascinated by the Lakes Region, which prompted him to purchase 300 acres on Lockes Hill and construct the castle for his summer home.

“Materials and supplies were brought in from Germany and England, and no detail was spared,” Anderson wrote in an article for the Citizen of Laconia earlier this year. “Approximately one hundred stonemasons from Italy contributed their skills and talents to the construction process during those two years. The castle and its well-landscaped grounds became and remained by far the most impressive summer estate in the Lakes Region.”

Now the owners are seeking someone new with a keen interest in the Lakes Region to save the castle. The castle is listed as a single-family home on 20 acres, but the listing says the property is also zoned for resort or commercial development, which has been a point of contention with preservationists.

According to the castle’s website, Charlotte Kimball, the last descendant of Benjamin Kimball to own the property, stipulated in her will that the land could never be used for commercial development. When she died in 1960, the website says, she left the property and several hundred thousand dollars to a charity, with instructions to create a nature preserve.

But the preserve was never created and the land was passed from the charitable trust unit of the attorney general’s office to the town of Gilford, which did not want to spend public money to restore it. In 1990, the website says the town convinced the state attorney general to remove the rule against commercial development and subdivided it, creating Locke’s Hill Nature Preserve on 260 acres, and leaving the 20 acres that encompasses the castle as private property.

A Facebook page promoting the preservation of the castle posted a link to a Change.org petition titled “Save Kimball Castle in Gilford New Hampshire.: Restore or Rebuild it Brick for Brick.” The petition’s author is listed as Granite State Paranormal, and it has garnered 559 supporters. The petition’s creator could not be reached for comment.

“The castle has stood there since 1899 and the last member of family who built the castle has specific wishes for it and never seen them come true,” the petition says. “She should be honored and the castle remain standing and her wishes of a nature preserve be fulfilled. This castle holds so much history and it should be shared not destroyed.”

Dunn acknowledged the concerns, but said the town was largely unable to help.

“We’re certainly disappointed in the fact that it hasn’t been well cared for, but other than our disappointment there’s really not much we can do about it,” he said.

Maggie Stier, a field service representative at the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, agreed it was a tough situation. While the castle is a wonderful building, she said the alliance realized it would be difficult to save it.

“It was once a very
significant building, and while we would like to save everything, this site has particular challenges because of the condition of the building,” she said.

(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or
mflanagan@cmonitor.com.)

Legacy Comments3

Did anyone ask the lawyers and the charity what happened to the "several hundred thousand dollars" that were left to make the preserve?

Just remember Town of Gilford, once it's gone, it's gone. No putting the toothpaste back in the tube once it's out, if you will. The property sits on a hill with a beautiful view of the lake and could be a nice tourist attraction, hotel, bed and breakfast, etc when put back together. Or it could be the next mini golf course with a tacky theme attached to it.

you and a few friends could pull together a few $$$ and make a go of those ideas....geee .........I wonder if any serious experienced investors have ever thought of those ideas and actually run a few proformas to see if they could make it work

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