Located on the northern shoulder of Lockes Hill, on Lake Winnipesaukee, Kimball Castle is a hidden gem in New Hampshire. The castle sits on 24 acres of lake front land, and took two years to build (1897-1899).
Kimball Castle. Photo courtsey of http://www.kimballcastle.com/photo-album.html
Kimball Castle was built by Benjamin Ames Kimball, who was president of the Montreal and Concord railways.
Benjamin Ames Kimball was born on 22 August 1833 in Boscawen, NH. His father was Benjamin Kimball and his mother was Ruth Ames, both were born in Canterbury, NH, and together they would have 5 children.
Children of Benjamin Kimball and Ruth Ames:
- John Kimball 1821 – 1913
- Elizabeth Jane Kimball 1825 – 1840
- Joseph Ames Kimball 1826-1827
- Lucy Ann Kimball 1829 – 1832
- Benjamin Ames Kimball 1833 – 1920
Kimball received his bachelor of science degree from Dartmouth in 1854. After college he would rise from draftsmen to the superintendent of the mechanical department for the Concord Railroad. Kimball would also have a hand in designing a number of advanced locomotives. During his time at the railroad he would meet and marry Myra Tilton Elliot of Sanbronton, NH. They married in 1861, 4 years later and after 11 years with the railroad Kimball would leave to establish a foundry business, which would go on to be very successful.
In 1873 Kimball would return to the railroad business as an executive, and in 1895 he would become president of the Concord and Montreal Railroad. Kimball would also be the founder of Cushman Electric Company.
Portrait of Benjamin Ames Kimball (1833–1920), oil on canvas by Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (1858–1923), c. 1904. Courtesy of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; gift of Benjamin A. Kimball, Class of 1854.
That same year Kimball would purchase 300 acres on Lockes Hill, set out on Belknap Point, in Gilford, NH. In 1897 construction of the castle would begin, and it would require 100 Italian stone masons to build the castle. Materials for the castle would come from England and Germany, being shipped into Boston and then north to Gilford by railroad. The castle would be finished in 1899 and would cost a total of $50,000 to build. A very grand sum of money at the time.
The castle would become Kimball’s summer house, and he would have a railroad station built down the hill from from his property. This was so that he could commute and travel in his private rail car. In the winter Kimball and his family would stay at their Concord, NH mansion. It should not be confused with the Kimball-Jenkins estate also in Concord, NH, which was settled and built by another Kimball family, of no relation to Benjamin Kimball and his family.
Kimball Mansion. Concord, NH
Later in his career and life Kimball would serve as director to many different New Hampshire corporations. He was also a supporter or numerous civic improvements to the towns of Concord and Boscawen, which included superintendency to the building of the state library in 1894.
Kimball’s work was never done and he was a very busy man. He would be president of a railroad, a bank, and an electric company, part owner of a foundry, on a board of directors for an insurance firm and a silverware company, as well as chairman of the finance committee for Dartmouth college. He held all these offices at the time same time.
Benjamin Ames Kimball died 30 July 1920, at age 86, survived by his wife, Myra Tilton Elliot, his son had died the year earlier. Myra was the daughter of Ira Elliot and Rhoda Ames. She was also a teacher for several years in Concord’s public schools.
Benjamin his wife, as well as his son and daughter in law are all buried in Concord, NH at Blossom Hill Cemetery.
Children of Benjamin Ames Kimball and Myra Tilton Elliot:
- Henry Ames Kimball 1864 – 1919
Henry Ames Kimball would marry Charlotte, (some sources and articles list her first name as Josephine), Atkinson Goodale, the two would have no children and Charlotte would be the last surviving heir to the Kimball fortune as well as Kimball Castle in Gilford, NH. Charlotte Atkinson Goodale died in 1960, leaving behind a will with instructions for the castle. Charlotte never wanted the land or the castle used for commercial use, and stipulated that in her will. She left the estate and several hundred thousand dollars to a charitable foundation, wishing for them to create a nature preserve on the site.
The preserve was never created with the money Charlotte had left disappearing. The castle would sit empty for decades, slowly falling into disrepair. In 1981 the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office took control of the land and offered it to the town of Gilford if they could save the Castle and create the preserve, but the town refused. In 1996 town administrators convinced the attorney general’s office that the only way to save the castle was to permit commercial development. But the plan failed to attract enough financial backing and nothing came of it. In 1999 the state sold the castle and property, it was sold again in 2001, with the current owners listing it for sale, this time in 2009, it has been for sale ever since.
In 2013 the castle was still standing, but it had become a hazard. Vandals had picked it clean over the years, of what they could, and it had become damaged due to leaky roofs, weather and lack of general maintenance. By 2014 the castle had not be demolished yet and a wildlife fund group has about $200,000 saved toward buying and restoring the castle, but the castle’s current owners have not shown any willingness to come down on their asking price of $799,000. Well above the appraised value of $375,000. The town’s building inspector, David Andrade stated “Although it is very painful for me to impose this order on you as the castle holds historic and sentimental value to the community, due to the extreme hazards it presents, I find it necessary to protect the safety of all.” The castle has now been fenced off and is inaccessible to the public.
The Kimball’s mansion in Concord, NH still stands today and can be rented out for various events such as weddings or family reunions. For more information on the mansion contact Capitol Center for the Arts at 603-225-1111.
Interior of Kimball Castle
Interior of Kimball Mansion
Garvin, James L. “The Creation of “New Hampshire’s Temple of History” 1900 – 1911.” Nhptv.org. http://www.nhptv.org/tuck/pdf/MNNH_ArticleFour.pdf.
Associated Press. “Crumbling castle for sale on Lake Winnipesaukee.” Pressherald.com. August 14, 2013. http://www.pressherald.com/2013/08/14/crumbling-castle-for-sale-on-lake-winnipesaukee_2013-08-15/.
Courtney, Lorraine A. Legendary Locals of Concord New Hampshire. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
“Kimball Castle.” Kimballcastle.com. 2007. http://www.kimballcastle.com/index.html.
“National Register of Historic Places.” Nps.gov. https://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/82001666.pdf.
“Benjamin Kimball House & Capitol Theatre / Masonic Complex .” Concordnh.gov. http://www.concordnh.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1418.
Kimball, Henry Ames . The John Elliot Family of Boscawen, New Hampshire. Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1918.