Kimball Castle, long in disrepair, finally sells

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 09-14-2018 6:41 PM

The Kimball Castle in Gilford, a piece of history overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee that has stood vacant and crumbling for nearly 60 years, was sold to the owners of a local realty company, according to an internet post by the buyer.

Patrick Starkey, who with his wife, Melissa Starkey, runs Starkey Realty in Concord, announced on Facebook they bought the castle, which will be transformed into “a wedding and event destination.”

The exact closing date and sale price were not listed in real estate transactions this week, and neither Patrick nor Melissa Starkey was available for comment.

Reached by phone, the seller of the historical landmark, David Jodoin of New Bedford, Mass., declined to comment.

According to Patrick Starkey’s post, he and his wife “closed on a property that we have pursued for years. A piece of history long forgotten that we will work to save and develop into a wedding and event destination. This will not happen overnight but we are excited for the future of our newest endeavor.”

The new business will be called Starkey Castle Wedding and Event Center, Patrick Starkey wrote on his post. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said this week that the plan, as he understands it, is to demolish the castle “absent of a $10 million infusion like it was the Brooklyn Bridge. The new owner will leave some walls standing to promote it as a relic.”

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Dunn also said some residents are worried about congested traffic once the business opens.

The Starkeys are banking on the castle’s majestic view of  Lake Winnipesaukee to attract clients. As it stands now, there is a huge living room with a huge fireplace; an octagonal sky window ceiling above an octagonal, second-floor landing; massive archways; and at least four upstairs bedrooms with their own fireplace.

Debris and loose wood have littered the floor and the walls are full of graffiti.

The castle, completed in 1899 after two years of construction, was owned by railroad magnate Benjamin Kimball, who was born in Boscawen and settled in Concord. He made his fortune moving from master mechanic, to manufacturer of iron and brass products, to the leader of both the Concord and Montreal, and Boston and Maine railroads.

He died in 1920 at the age of 87, and his daughter-in-law, Charlotte Kimball, lived in the castle until her death in 1960.

She left behind a trust with hundreds of thousands of dollars that mysteriously vanished, and she left no clear vision for the castle and its sister buildings – built on 20 acres – in her will.

Her one wish, according to paperwork and those who knew her, was to use the land as a nature preserve, not for commercial purposes. The result is the 270-acre Lockes Hill Trail, public land that is separate from the privately owned castle and surrounding property.

After Charlotte’ s death, the castle’s caretaker remained in his own small home on the grounds, chasing away kids with a rock salt blast from his shotgun. The castle fell into disrepair after his death and became a major party hangout for high school kids, prompting the town to erect a fence around the massive structure for safety reasons.

Through the decades, ownership passed from a charitable organization chosen by Charlotte Kimball, to the Attorney General’s Office, to the town of Gilford.

Jodoin said in a Monitor article four months ago that he had invested in the property in the 1990s and had owned it outright since about 2000. Jodoin lived with his family in a house near the castle before moving back to his native Massachusetts.

While residents debated if the castle should be restored or not, investment opportunities came and went, including one to turn it into a 40-room bed and breakfast. None of the ideas panned out and the town did not want to pay for the upkeep.

Patrick Starkey revealed in May that a purchase and sale agreement was in place, adding that the transaction was an arduous task.

“It’s a big process,” Starkey said at the time.

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