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Castle in the Clouds looks back at Christmas in days of yore



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Staff guide Beverley Tinel shares the history of Castle in the Clouds with guests during the annual Christmas at the Castle event. (Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2012
MOULTONBOROUGH — The rooms of Castle in the Clouds were decked out with greenery, presents, and ornaments from yesteryear for its third annual Christmas at the Castle event.

The Castle has been decorated as it would have been when Thomas Plant and his family lived in, showcasing the periods of 1915, 1925, and 1935. The Castle was opened in its decorated state on Friday and was open through the weekend for visitors to come up and enjoy the Christmas cheer. Visitors will have another opportunity to come see the Castle on the weekend of Nov. 23 through 25.

This is Christmas at the Castle's third year.

"We just thought it would be a nice way to showcase this beautiful estate," said Castle Preservation Society Executive Director Michael Desplaines.

Desplaines said the Plant's made the Lucknow estate their year round residence and they did celebrate Christmas there.

The event was initially scheduled for the first weekend in December, though Desplaines said it was quickly learned that many communities will have Christmas fairs and events that weekend. The decision was made to push the event up a week early, starting the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Every room is decorated for Christmas, with Christmas plants everywhere, Christmas displays on tables and bureaus, replicas of cookies and pudding in the kitchen and dining room, and many others.

A decorated tree from Bald Peak Christmas Tree Farm in Tuftonboro stood on the sun porch. All of the Christmas evergreen and plant arrangements were done on a voluntary basis by Lynne Tarr of Manchester, who is a strong supporter of the castle.

"We try to be as authentic as we can with decorations," said staff guide Beverly Tinel.

The display also featured a collection of memorabilia from 1915, 1925, and 1935 including vintage toys, early wrapping paper, classic ornaments and village figures, a display of Santa Claus figures, and many other items. The decorations and artifacts in the came from donations.

Museum Manager Nancy Gaver the quality and quantity of decorations improve every year with additional research and conservation efforts.

"The 1920's and 30's is a lost era," Gaver said. "There are no places that I know of that you can experience the lifestyle of the '20s and '30s, whether it's during the season or not."

Gaver said it has been a common practice to decorate the Castle with the seasons. The themes also reflect on teas in the spring, picnicking in the summer, and canning in the fall.

Desplaines said the first day drew nearly 100 people, an impressive number especially for a Friday.

Castle Preservation Society Vice-Chair Ann Hackl said the Christmas event has been popular in the past three years it has gone on.

"They just love coming and seeing it in its Christmas garb, and all decked out for the holiday," Hackl said.

Hackl said the event was made possible by dedicated volunteer efforts with volunteers doing everything from setting up displays to acting and hosts and hostesses for the guests.

Hackl said the Castle has become a popular destination that many people will visit frequently. Many of those people will also bring friends and relatives who are visiting the area. In response the CPS started a membership program last year.

"People say, 'I come time and time again but I always see something I've never seen before,'" Hackl said.

Musical artists also performed in the Castle for the guests as they looked around. This year there are also crafts and activities for children who come to the event, such as making bottle brush Christmas trees and paper decorations; activities that were popularly done by children around the time of the Plant's.

The Carriage House held a number of other holiday themed events, including a craft sale and artwork by Peter Ferber, and lunch buffet catered by Hart's Turkey Farm.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the Castle's ongoing restoration project, which has addressed some serious structural issues in the Castle itself and its other buildings.

The first issues addressed were the chimneys, which were the source of leaking that undermined many structures.

A current project is redoing the stonework under the sun porch as the mortar has failed in many places. Another project will be working with the front façade. Hackl said the lower part of the front portico is settling and has caused a crack in the tiles of the upper porch. Hackl said this is a serious issue that cannot be put off for too much longer.

The exterior of the lower gatehouse was redone at a price of around $400,000, a price tag that was around three times the original anticipated amount. The restoration is a little behind because of the gatehouse, but fundraising efforts and plans are moving forward.

"We've made a lot of progress," Hackl said. "The most encouraging thing is the community seems it stand solidly behind us and has been wonderfully supportive from the very beginning."

The second weekend of Christmas at the Castle will take place Friday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting. For more information, call 476-5900 or visit www.castleintheclouds.org.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
Parker Village
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