Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Hampshire: Day 3. Castle in the Clouds

When Kali and I got to our friend's house in New Hampshire and we began considering options for things to do, our friend Patti said that she wanted to visit Castle in the Clouds.  Now, I have to admit that my immediate reaction was: Castle in the Clouds has got to be a cheesy tourist ripoff.  However, I didn't say a word and instead booted-up my iPad and investigated Castle in the Clouds.

When I learned that the attraction is a Arts-and-Crafts showplace mansion from 1914, I was all-in.  I'm a sucker for Arts-and-Crafts and art deco architecture, so my initial reluctance was replaced by anticipation. 

The mansion is perched midway up the southwest flank of Ossipee Mountain in Moultonborough, New Hampshire.  (More about this at the end of the post.)  Access is via a carriage road that climbs several hundred feet up the mountain winding through thick forest.  Midway to the mansion is a stop at an impressive waterfall along Shannon Brook.
Waterfall on Shannon Brook
Kali and yours truly at the waterfall
Beyond the falls, the carriage road continues to climb to the Carriage House, from which tours depart.  We climbed aboard a trolley that carried us the last few dozen feet up the mountain to the house.
The back garden
Upon arriving at the mansion, we were invited to listen to a 10-minute introduction to the site.  The house was built by Thomas Plant, who at the time of construction owned the largest shoe factory in the world.  He built the mansion (officially named Lucknow by his second wife, Olive) as a retirement home and the couple enjoyed living on the 6,300-acre estate for nearly two decades until unfortunate investments and lavish spending left them in financial difficulty.  Plant mortgaged the estate to a friend during the Depression; the friend allowed the Plants to remain in the house until Thomas died in 1941, whereupon Olive returned to her family home in Illinois.

In 1959, the house was opened to the public as a tourist attraction called Castle in the Clouds.  In  2002, the house was purchased by the nonprofit Lakes Region Conservation Trust.  The estate lands miraculously managed to remain intact and today are owned by a second land trust that invites the public to use 25 miles of trails and old carriage roads free of charge.
Kali and Patti in the back garden enjoying the spectacular view
Lake Winnipesaukee and beyond from the back garden

Window and stonework detail
Though the house's construction employed modern materials like steel beams and hollow tiles, the exterior was veneered with hand-cut local granite and oak timbers.  Interior features were handcrafted by the best artisans of the time and expensive modern conveniences and amenities were installed throughout the house such as telephone intercoms and a central vacuum system.
The curved oak pergola in the side garden
View of the tiled roof in the front of the house and one of the Ossipee Mountain peaks in the background
View of Lake Winnipesaukee through windows with stained glass roundels
Carved wooden griffons (2-feet tall) in the library
The front of Lucknow - less impressive than the back garden but not too shabby
Admission to the house is $16 per person.  We all agreed that the tour was worth every penny.  We also agreed that the name (Castle in the Clouds) sounds silly, but we couldn't come up with better name.  If I saw a sign for Castle in the Clouds and didn't know any better, I would pass it up as a tacky tourist trap.

A final note about Ossipee Mountain.  The "mountain" is actually a ring of low peaks (high point about 2,900 feet) connected by ridges that are the walls of an ancient caldera much like Crater Lake (without the lake).  The center of the volcano erupted and then collapsed back into the magma chamber leaving the ring of today's Ossipee "Mountain."  The inner caldera is pretty remote, inaccessible and wild considering that it is located in New Hampshire.
Kali and me at Lucknow


robin andrea said...

What a spectacularly cool place to visit. I am so glad you took this trip to the goofy name "Castle in the Clouds." I probably would have passed it up, but would have regretted it now that I see these truly grand pictures. I'm enjoying this vicarious journey.

Scott said...

I'll bet we could make some big bucks if we came up with another name for Lucknow (other than Castle in the Clouds), copyrighted it, and then offered to sell it to the owners! I'll split with you...