Turning back the yuletide clock at Castle in the Clouds
The third annual Christmas season open house kicks off on Friday, Nov. 16, when visitors will be greeted at the Carriage House and treated to hot chocolate and cookies before boarding a trolley car up to the mansion along a narrow, curved road cut into the hillside. Once at the mansion, volunteers and staff will provide guidebooks with a history of the estate and highlight some of the Christmas decorations and traditions of the times.
The mansion, an arts-and-crafts-style estate built by industrialist Thomas Plant and his wife, Olive, in 1914, boasts panoramic views of the Ossipee Mountain range and Lake Winnipesaukee. During a preview tour of Christmas at the Castle on Wednesday, clear blue skies opened up the breathtaking views of the many mountain peaks that Plant once owned as part of his estate. Inside, castle manager Nancy Gaver and staff guide Beverly Tinel explained the tour, its purpose and tone.
"There's a big educational component to it. We look at it from the standpoint that we want to show off our house without being too pushy," said Gaver, who has managed the castle for the past six years.
"If people are looking around, we can point out things that may be of interest to them," she said.
The home will have a lived-in feel, the heat will be on, and, thanks to rewiring, the lights will be on as well.
"We're presenting Lucknow as it probably was when Thomas and Olive lived here," Tinel said.
Visitors can guide themselves or accompany docents on castle history tours. The entire mansion will be open for viewing, including the Plants' bedrooms, dressing rooms and closets, and dining and kitchen areas. Over the years many people have donated vintage clothing, dressing gowns, mink coats, hats, jewelry and accessories. They have also returned furnishings, such as a chaise that was original to the home, Tinel said.
For this Christmas open house, the home is decorated in the modest manner of the times, with handmade wreaths and evergreen and berry displays, a Christmas tree from the nearby Bald Peak Tree Farm in Tuftonboro decorated with vintage ornaments, and collections of antique toys and popular gifts - handkerchiefs, for instance - of the times. Every item on exhibit was carefully researched and selected for this event as organizers aimed for authenticity. There were no glitzy garlands or over-the-top decorations during the 1920s and into the 30s.
Aside from the luxury and décor of the mansion, visitors will be treated to various forms of musical entertainment, including a solo guitarist, a classical pianist, a jazz trio and a youth chamber music group. A special luncheon is offered separately in the Carriage House.
Children are more than welcome. Crafts projects for kids include hands-on fun with paper chains, Christmas tree brush decorating, jewelry making and coloring.
Last year, the Christmas at the Castle open houses attracted 1,000 visitors.
Tinel credits castle manager Gaver with the event's continued success.
"She's a one-woman whirling dervish," she said.
Tickets are $20, or $15 for Friends of the Castle members, and $10 for children. All proceeds benefit the Castle Restoration Fund.