GILFORD — The N.H. Preservation Alliance has included Kimball Castle in its annual "seven to save" list, meaning the board has determined it is one of seven most endangered historical and architectural buildings in the state.
The castle, which is privately owned but is subject to the provisions of a trust managed by the Gilford Selectboard, lies in near ruins on Lockes Hill, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.
"It has become a cause celebre as the town considers a request for demolition of a privately held property that was supposed to have been rehabilitated long ago," read the media release sent out yesterday by the Preservation Alliance.
The castle has become one of the hot topics in Gilford after the town's code enforcement officer determined that it is unsafe and should either be demolished or enclosed by a fence.
Built in 1899 by railroad magnate Benjamin Kimball as his summer home, the castle had spectacular views of Lake Winnipesaukee and continues to be a landmark that can be seen from the "Broads" section of the lake.
Kimball's daughter-in-law Charlotte created a trust for the property on the grounds that it be used for wildlife observation and for hiking trails. According to legend, she also left about $400,000 for the management and upkeep of the castle and its environs.
The money disappeared and in the early 1980s the N.H. Attorney General Office offered the land to the town for its preservation. The town was never able to raise the money for the castle upkeep.
In 1999, the town carved out a 25-acre lot that included the decaying castle and sold the property to a company that wanted to renovate it an make it into an inn and restaurant.
One of the partners in the company, David Jodoin, ended up with the property after plans for the renovation failed.
In the interim, the castle continued to go downhill, portions of the roof collapsed, and vandals and trespassers wreaked their own havoc upon the now 100-year-old structure.
The town building inspector ordered Jodoin to address the situation, giving him a May deadline.
Jodoin drafted a petition for changes in the trust that would need allow him to rezone the property for single-family use that would allow him to demolish the castle and sell the 25-acre lot to another.
Because the selectmen are the trustees of the entire piece of property, they must be the ones that petition the Belknap County Superior Court for any changes to the trust.
After listening to residents at a public hearing speak overwhelmingly against the destruction of the castle and other provisions of the suggested petition, Selectmen voted not to recommend the petition as drafted and the petition will appear on the town ballot March as a warrant article.
Selectmen extended the demolition order until after the 2014 annual town meeting.
By naming Kimball Castle as one of the seven to save, it gives proposed demolition a bigger audience and can help with any fund-raising efforts to save it.