From Seattle I flew directly to Maine to celebrate my friend Teresa’s birthday. Maine is another beautiful spot in the summer and quite a lot like Oregon where the weather is concerned. It was warm and sunny in the day, but when the sun goes down you do need a jacket or sweater. That is a nice break from the hot and humid Florida summer.
Event planner and decorator extraordinaire Joanie had once again come up with a great plan for Teresa’s birthday. We drove west towards Moultonborough, New Hampshire to have lunch at and tour the historic Lucknow Estate, also known as Castle In The Clouds.
The land/estate was purchased by Thomas Plant, a self-made millionaire who made his fortune in the shoe industry. The house was built in 1913 – 1914 on 6300 acres. From the brochure:
The basic construction of the house is steel beam and hollow tile chosen for insulation and fire retarding properties. He included technological conveniences such as hydroelectric power, ammonia-brine cooled refrigeration, central-vacuum and intercom systems and a water-fed fire suppression system.
In 2002 it was sold to the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, while the Castle Preservation Society manages the restoration and preservation.
The estate is open to tours and includes a restaurant, the Carriage House, in what used to be the stables. You can tell this building used to be the stables, a fact they take advantage of with saddles and riding paraphernalia all around. We started with lunch on the terrace, with a commanding view of the area.
The house is well maintained and kept to its original decor and furnishings. There are items on the dressers and clothing in the drawers and dressing rooms. When Thomas Plant built it in 1914 he included many innovations. The house has 5 bathrooms, three with “needle showers.”
We toured the house and grounds, where they allow photographs, so I went a bit wild with the camera. The following photos are from our tour:
THREE VIEWS OF THE LIBRARY
The library includes several hundred books, many first editions.
MR PLANT’S OFFICE
Immediately to the left of the entrance hall is Mr. Plant’s office.
GUEST BEDROOM, FIRST FLOOR
Following the hallway to the right of the entrance leads you to the first floor guest bedroom. This bedroom has a “needle shower”, one of three in the estate. Very unusual for the time, the semi-circular shower had pin holes for water all the way around. The water pressure was 70 psi. I think it must have been painful, as women were discouraged from using them due to “delicate skin.”
THE DINING ROOM
The dining room is octagonal in shape with a star-patterned hardwood floor. The ceiling is canvas over plaster.
The kitchen had an ammonia and brine refrigeration unit and an interlocking rubber floor.
MR. THOMAS PLANT
In the “grand” staircase leading to the second floor hangs a painting of Thomas Plant.
I was impressed with the master bath, and would be happy with it in my own home. The master bath is on the second floor and has a gorgeous view.
The dressing area, sewing room, and boudoir are all connected, and separate the two main bedrooms on the second floor. Mr. Plant used the master bedroom, while his wife Olive used the largest bedroom on the second floor with a beautiful view. Olive was Mr. Plant’s second wife, 24 years his junior. They met in Europe in 1912 and married in 1913.
GUEST BEDROOM, SECOND FLOOR
I absolutely fell in love with the wallpaper in the sewing room. I asked one of the docents and was told it is not original to the house.
Sadly, the story of Mr. Plant has a less than silver lining. Upon his retirement, and due to his patents on shoe making machinery, he retired with what would be in today’s money about 3/4 billion dollars. He lived large and was generous with his wealth, building a retirement home for the elderly poor in Bath, Maine, but was a poor investor.
From the brochure:
By 1924, Tom Plant was in serious financial difficulty. In 1928 he mortgaged the property and in 1941 was forced into foreclosure. Plant died in 1941. Olive was left with executrix fees and her personal belongings. She returned to her home in Toulon, Illinois.
Lucknow was purchased in 1941 by Fred Tobey. In 1956, Richard S Robie bought the property and named it “Castle in the Clouds.” He opened it to the public in 1959. In 1991, J. Paul Sticht bought Lucknow and built a water bottling plant to capitalize on the abundant spring water on the property. In 2002, the Lucknow Estate, minus the bottling plant, was sold to the Lakes Region Conservation Trust for $5.9 million raised from 2000 donors.
It seems to me that they had a grand old time spending money for 11 years, from about 1913 to 1924. Then reality set in. He did live out his days in the house, and died before it went into foreclosure in 1941.
After touring the house, the grounds and the stables (you can take a trail ride here on the estate horses), we headed back to Kennebunkport for birthday celebrations.