Some remain hopeful for Gilford castle restoration
GILFORD — The town’s conservation commission voted against funding to help restore Kimball Castle Tuesday night, eliminating another potential option to save the 1897 castle.
But residents who wish to save the castle and have it restored are not giving up.
“That was just one possible funding source, we are still hopeful that someone or some group will come forward so we can save part of the Lakes Region’s vital history,” said local historian Carol Lee Anderson.
The town will hold a hearing on the castle on Wednesday night in the first floor conference room at the town offices.
“Anybody with any thoughts or concerns about the castle needs to come to that meeting,” Anderson said.
Selectmen in February issued a statement saying that for safety reasons, the town, which is steward for the castle and its 2.3 acres, wishes the castle to be “torn down safely.”
The castle, on the northern shoulder of Locke’s Hill overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, has fallen into disrepair and is a danger. It is for sale for $799,000, but there haven’t been any buyers, and there are estimates that it could cost millions of dollars to restore.
The castle is the former estate of railroad magnate Benjamin A. Kimball. It has never been a tourist destination. In March 2013, selectmen were notified by the town’s building inspector that the castle had become “a hazardous building that posed a threat to public safety because of the constant parade of trespassers who enter the building illegally.”
Anderson said Kimball was a contributor to the growth of the state and the Lakes Region, not just the builder of the castle.
“He was a man who rose to prominence during the growth of the Industrial Revolution and the development of the nation’s railroad,” she said.Kimball was born in Boscawen in 1833 into a family of railroad men. He graduated from Concord High School, Hildreth’s Preparatory School, and then entered Dartmouth College, graduating with highest honors in 1854, she said.
Anderson said Kimball became a draftsman and machinist at the Concord Railway. He quickly rose through a number of positions in the company, and by age 26, he was in full charge of a number of its departments. He returned to Concord Railway as the company’s director in 1878.
He also offered his talents to the community and organized the Mechanic National Bank of Concord, became a respected member of the Executive Council, and was an alternate delegate at the Republican National Convention of 1880.
He served as president and director of many of the railroads that traversed the state, a number of banks and even more electric companies.
Once the railroad had reached Laconia and beyond, Kimball was one of a handful of men who envisioned the development of the Lakes Region into a major resort area, Anderson said.
“He did a lot for the state,” Anderson said. “I don’t think we want to lose a piece of our history by having the castle torn down.”