Published DateGILFORD — Selectmen voted unanimously to tear down Kimball Castle and the nearby carriage house last night because the code enforcement officer said the buildings were no longer safe.
According to Town Administrator Scott Dunn, the roof of the carriage house has collapsed and the stone walls of the castle have bowed from years of moisture freezing and then thawing.
Dunn told selectmen in the update portion of the meeting that the documents he's reviewed implied it would take millions of dollars to restore and that if it wasn't restored it should be torn down.
Kimball Castle, according to a Website of the same name, was finished in 1899 and took two years to complete. It was built on Lockes Hill, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, by Benjamin Ames Kimball, who was the president of the Concord & Montreal Railroad. The site noted that historians often compare it to a German castle located along the Rhine River.
The site says it took $50,000 and 100 Italian stone masons to build the castle with materials from England and Germany that were shipped via Boston to Gilford by railroad.
The castle stayed in the Kimball family until 1960 when the last heir died. Charlotte Kimball stipulated that the property never be used for commercial purposes and left instructions and several hundred thousand dollars to set up and maintain and nature preserve.
The preserve was never created and in 1981 the N.H. Attorney General took control of the building and offered it to the town if they could save the castle and create a preserve.
"In 1990, the town convinced the Attorney General that the best way to carry out the goals of Charlotte Kimball's will was to remove the stipulation against commercial development on the land surrounding the castle and subdivide it off," reads the Kimball Castle site.
"The Town then created the Locke's Hill Nature Preserve on the remaining 260 acres and laid out hiking and skiing trails on it," it continues.
Within the past 10 years, Dunn said the town sold the property to Historic Inns of New England, which in turn sold it to David and Mary Jodoin for $117,500. The town in still being paid annually for the sale.
The 2012 Gilford on-line assessing site lists the owner as Kimball Castle Properties, LLC of Nashua, N.H.
According to selectman's minutes of a non-public session held November 14, 2012, selectmen "extinguished" the public easement upon affirmation of the Kimball Wildlife Committee. Selectmen are the trustees of the Kimball Wildlife Committee.
Dunn said last night he estimated it would cost $25,000 to tear it down and that it was Jodion's property. He also noted the Attorney General still has a vested interest in the property and he would give the letter of decision to him and to the Belknap County Superior Court.