Grants allows preservation work to continue at Castle in the Clouds

January 24. 2013 8:37AM
AT WORK: Scaffolding marks an area under repair and restoration at Castle in the Clouds, which was built in 1913-14 and opened to the public in 1959. 
Water leaks into the front hall of the celebrated Moultonborough mansion, while deteriorating masonry seems to have allowed the portico to separate from the building, leaving exposed joints in the woodwork.

But the Castle in the Clouds, an architectural jewel high above Lake Winnepesaukee, is getting needed attention, thanks to continuing preservation efforts.

The Castle Preservation Society (CPS) has been awarded a grant of $20,000 by the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) for another phase of preservation work at the Castle in the Clouds.

LCHIP is an independent state authority that provides matching grants to New Hampshire communities and non-profits to protect and preserve the state's natural, cultural and historic resources.

The Beginning

Tom and Olive Plant's mountaintop estate "Lucknow," known as Castle in the Clouds since opening to the public in 1959, was built in 1913-1914 high in the Ossipee Mountain Range. The house, designed by the architectural firm of J. Williams Beal and Sons of Boston, was build in the Arts and Crafts style, which reflects an aesthetic movement's philosophy of living in harmony with nature.

Thomas Gustave Plant (1859-1941) made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing industry, retiring as a millionaire at age 51, having sold his business to the United Shoe Machinery Company in 1910. Newly married in 1913, Plant then focused on the creation of his New Hampshire country estate. In addition to buying the property known as Ossipee Mountain Park, Plant accumulated land from the Ossipee Mountains all the way to Lake Winnipesaukee, eventually owning 6,300 acres.

After a series of failed investments, Plant attempted, from the mid-1920s through the era of the Great Depression, to sell the mountaintop estate. However, no buyer was found, and the Plants continued to live at Lucknow until Tom Plant's death in 1941, at which time the property was sold.

Previously CPS received a $60,000 LCHIP grant towards the restoration of the exterior of the Gate House at the entrance to Castle in the Clouds along Mountain Road/Route 171. That project was completed this past fall, thanks to the LCHIP grant, a grant from the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, business event sponsorships, fundraising events, and hundreds of individual donations.

"What a gem the restored little cottage is," CPS officials said in a written statement. "Work began this fall on stabilizing the stonewall fašade under the sun parlor on the east side of the Castle mansion, which was bulging and crumbling. That high priority project will be paid for from operational profits."

The Next Phase

The next restoration phase takes workers to another side of the Castle to attend to the front portico.

"It has suffered over the years from steady deterioration as has the rest of the building," CPS officials said. "Water leaks from the open second-floor porch into the front hallway of the mansion. Masonry is separating from the timber frame and exposed joints in the woodwork suggest the portico is separating from the building."

With this most recent LCHIP grant, along with donations from supporters, the work is scheduled for completion in May. The goal of the restoration project is to preserve the remaining original pieces and replace the columns and brackets altered in previous attempts to correct structural faults with components matching the original materials.

The restoration of the front facade was one of 18 projects funded by LCHIP from 51 applications. The total budget for this front portico section of the Castle is estimated to cost $150,000. Restoration of the two small dormers and larger servants' dormer on the front side of the building will be postponed to another year if funds are available, CPS officials said.

Tax deductible donations can be made at the Castle in the Clouds offices at 476-5900 or


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