To The Daily Sun,
In an e-mail that I sent to the Gilford Selectboard, dated January 29, I urged the selectmen to make a public statement about the upcoming potential demolition of Kimball's Castle. I can now thank them for doing so. I also thank them for delaying the demolition of the castle several times. In doing so, they afforded town residents the time to explore possible alternatives. However, in the same e-mail, I urged the selectmen not to make a final decision on the fate of the property until the residents of Gilford had been fully informed of the options that are available to the town.
It is important for the residents of Gilford to know that there has been a very small group of individuals that has been working behind the scenes to explore the possibilities of preserving the Kimball property. For months, we have been respectfully working with the town in order to produce viable solutions. We have found that there are options.
In the fall of 2013, Kimball's Castle was named to the Seven to Save list of the N.H. Preservation Alliance. A property that is given this designation first has to be nominated and then carefully considered by a panel of preservation experts. These individuals look at the property from all angles, and in the case of the Kimball property, there are many. A property that is placed on the Seven to Save list has to meet at least two requirements: it must first have its own historical significance and the possibility of preservation must be present. If a property is placed on the Seven to Save list, it is given priority over other preservation projects in the state. It receives the careful attention and treatment of the N.H. Preservation Alliance, and if appropriate, it also receives priority for LCHIP funds offered through the state. This year, LCHIP has been fully funded.
The historical significance of the Kimball property has been proven. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982; its placement there is because of its historical value not only to the state but to the country as well. The castle was built by railroad magnate, Benjamin Kimball; his contributions to the state and the nation's railway system are well documented. His many contributions to the state go far beyond that of the railroad.
On January 9th at 10 a.m., a meeting was held at the Gilford Town Hall. In attendance was Maggie Stier, field representative for the N.H. Preservation Alliance, Town Administrator Scott Dunn, Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee Chair Sandra McGonagle, myself, and my daughter, Sarah. During the meeting, we discussed a broad spectrum of solutions for the Kimball property. We first agreed that unless millions of dollars could be raised, the castle most likely could not be restored. From there we came up with a number of viable solutions for the residents of Gilford to have before them.
Solutions included having the Kimball Wildlife Forest Committee first have an appraisal completed on the property and then apply for 50/50 matching LCHIP funds that could be coupled with private donations. In doing so, there would be no expenditure of taxpayer funds for the purchase of the property. The most logical solution to dealing with the decaying castle would to immediately fence it in and let it fall as a ruin. There are specific guidelines offered by the National Park Service on preserving historic structures as ruins. The entire acreage could then be added to the Kimball Wildlife Forest as conservation land. A far more drastic solution would be to purchase the property with LCHIP/private funds, raze all the buildings on the property to alleviate any liability issues, and have the entire parcel of land become part of the forest. It was suggested that a kiosk be constructed to inform visitors of the history of the property. After the meeting, Scott Dunn had an informative telephone conversation with the executive director of LCHIP about funding possibilities.
To summarize, there are viable solutions and alternatives to turning the Kimball property into a single family property. We cannot forget that when the town sold the Kimball property, there were easements placed on it, and the property was sold with the understanding that the castle would be preserved. Had the people of Gilford known when it was sold that the castle would be left to decay and someday demolished, I wonder if the vote to sell it would have been different. Additionally, when the property was disposed of by the town, there were far fewer options, funding sources, and organizations that could assist and fund its preservation at no cost to the taxpayers.