Thank you to ALL of our Seasonal Staff!
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 10/20/2020
This season was one like no other. With the arrival of COVID-19, and it’s ongoing effects on business our staff worked endlessly to ensure a wonderful experience for our guests! Our seasonal staff touches every faucet of the visitor experience from answering phones and greeting guests, to running our gift shop and ticketing office, assisting at Cafe in the Clouds, driving our trolleys, and interpreting the Castle as tour guides.
Our operation and experience would not be the same without each of our team members and our volunteers – thank you!
Everyone knows that shoes can make an outfit, and that quality shoes can offer comfort and support – these are not mutually exclusive though. Tom Plant made his millions working in shoe sales and manufacturing between the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s rumored that when he was a door to door shoe salesman in his early 20s, he’d ask housewives what they wanted in their shoes. After acquiring seed money to start Thomas G. Plant Manufacturing, Tom implemented these customer desires and created a shoe that was high quality, long lasting, fashionable, supportive and priced mid-range. Branded as Dorothy Dodd and Queen’s Quality, Tom’s shoes sold between $2-3.00 (about $75 today). The key to making them last a lifetime would be to repair them as necessary.
While many would argue that things were built to last and individuals lived a life “less throwaway” in the late 19th century – there are still ways that we can upgrade the quality of our shoe purchases, and make our shoes last a bit longer. Daub’s Cobbler Shop in Laconia is the premier shoe repair location not just for New Hampshire, but within the entire New England region. They work to repair shoes, increase the shoes’ value and add comfort and quality to shoes.
Do you have a favorite pair of shoes and do you think they’d last you a lifetime?
Father and son duo, Jim and Nate Daubenspeck of Daub’s Cobbler Shop will be speaking at our gallery reception on Sunday June 7th, and will be giving a live demonstration later in our 2020 season.
Castle in the Cloud’s will be hosting a reception in celebration of our new gallery exhibit “The Shoes the Built the Castle” on Sunday June 7, 2020 from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm in The Carriage House. This event is free to attend for members and $10 per person if not a member.
THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED DUE TO THE CASTLE’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19, THIS EVENT IS NOW: SUNDAY JULY 12 AT 5:30 PM.
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 3/17/2020
This winter and spring seasons have brought tremendous change to the Castle Preservation Society staff. In addition to adjusting to working from home and practicing social distancing, the Castle has welcomed several new staff members and is saying a heartfelt goodbye to a long-time employee.
Lynne Walsh is our new Volunteer Coordinator – drawing from her experience as a volunteer docent with the Castle last year, and a volunteer with Lakes Region Conservation Trust, she is ready to work arm in arm with the volunteers to make sure events are staffed, guests are welcomed and our mission is supported.
Debbi Finkelstein is our new Director of Visitor Experience – under her purview is the museum experience, gift shop management, ticket sales and public programming. Coming from a background in theater, education and development – she is excited to explore her passion for history and enhance our visitor experience.
Jill Cromwell has been with Castle Preservation Society for 11 ½ years – she’s worked diligently to raise funds, coordinate sponsors, foster relationships throughout the community, and plan some of our annual fundraising events including, but not limited to: Chili & Beer Tasting, our Summer Gala, and the Christmas at the Castle Preview Party. In her retirement, Jill is excited to take this time to continue to enjoy exploring the region, traveling abroad, and spending time with her family. We are very sad to see her go, but wish her the best in her adventures!
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 4/21/2020
In 2001, Tom Curren, Executive Director of Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) presented at their April Board meeting a Purchase and Sale Agreement to buy the Castle in the Clouds and its surrounding 5,300 acres for $5,900,000. After a long discussion about the lack of a fundraising Feasibility Study, the board approved the motion, adding, “Ann, of course, you’ll lead the fundraising!”
Ann Hackl had never fundraised a dime in her life, but an active member of the Lakes Region Community and a 30-year veteran of real estate sales she was suddenly thrust into the world of nonprofit development. As she reached out to individuals and businesses in the community, she realized there are many similarities between real estate sales and fundraising – you meet a relative stranger, establish rapport, focus on their priorities and interests, explain how your project relates to these interests, answer questions, and then ask for their help, usually a specific amount.
<< Castle Preservation Society Founders (left to right): Donald O. McLeod, Bob Stewart, Ann Hackl, and James Stoddard.
LRCT and J. Paul Sticht were scheduled to close on the sale of Castle in the Clouds on December 15, 2001. $3.2 million was due at closing, with $2,000,000 due in December 2002 and the final payment of $700,000 due December 2003. LRCT was fundraising until the very last moment. Fortunately the closing was delayed (a survey issue) until January by which time sufficient funding was secured! To make matters even more tense, LRCT was told there was a back-up offer for more money (J.Paul sticht, long a supporter of the LRCT, had given LRCT a price substantially below the property’s appraised value). After the final payment was made, the LRCT assumed the management of the Castle of the Clouds, Sticht having retained management responsibility during LRCT’s three-year fundraising period.
Ann found support from over 2,000 individuals who donated to the purchase of the Castle, some donating upwards of $100,000. She built relationships throughout the community, essentially going door to door, sitting in living rooms and pleading the case of preserving this extraordinary property for many generations of the public to enjoy. As a member of Bald Peak Colony Club she got to know many members and their families. Bald Peak and the Castle have been linked from the beginning, both having been built by Tom Plant. Bald Peak members played a pivotal role in the purchase of the Castle, both because of the historic connection between the properties and the fact that they did not want to see their view of the mountain destroyed by a developer.
At the time Ann and her fundraising colleagues never considered failure as an option. It is only now, years later, that Ann allows herself to image what might have happened and ask herself “how did we have the nerve to do that”? To this day she is still grateful and in awe of the people of all walks of life who stepped up to the challenge of preserving for posterity this remarkable community asset that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places with the notation that it is “of National Significance”.
Ann’s story and involvement with the Castle will be continued in next months’ installment of Chronicles of the Castle: Community.
Do you remember this transitional time when Ann and LRCT were fundraising to save the Castle?
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 5/12/2020
Continued from May’s Blog reviewing Ann and Lakes Region Conservation Trust‘ (LRCT) fundraising to buy the Castle from J. Paul Sticht.
LRCT officially took over the management of Castle in the Clouds after its final payment in Dec. 2003. 2004 was the first full season that LRCT managed and it was a steep learning curve. By the end of the 2005 season LRCT realized they were in trouble and that as a land trust they had no business running a business. To sell or lease the property would betray the public that had supported its purchase. The only acceptable option was for the LRCT to gift the property to a nonprofit. Calls were made to the Currier Museum of Art and Historic New England but neither organization was interested in the property and its debts (the latter entity might be interested with an endowment of $10 million). Facing these facts, Ann and her co-fundraiser Don McLeod from Bald Peak, decided that the already existing LRCT Castle advisory committee should morph into an independent non-profit and assume the management/ ownership of the historic buildings and the business, including restoration responsibilities.
In February of 2006 the LRCT tentatively approved this proposal and the Castle Preservation Society (CPS) was born (although it was not until November of 2006 that the IRS approved the mountains of paperwork prepared “pro bono” by Christophe Courchesne of Goodwin-Proctor of Boston). Ann resigned from the board of LRCT to head CPS, forming a new Board of Directors with specific relevant business skills. Jane Nylander was Vice-Chair (a lifetime in curatorial work, she headed SPNEA, now Historic New England, from 1993 to 2002). Bob Stewart was Treasurer (financial executive for a division of General Electric, Treasurer Great Waters Music Festival). Jay Williams was Secretary (marketing expert and entrepreneur owning radio stations). Don McLeod (founded/owner of a packaging company, Bald Peak member, and Ann’s co-fundraiser for Castle purchase). Lyn Seley (owner of Woodshed restaurant for many years). Jim Stoddard (Senior V.P. Fidelity Investments’ Data Processing Division). Jen Lucic (owner public relations firm, fundraising for Capital Center for the Arts, Concord). Bea Edgar (SPNEA, now Historic New England, Program Chair, Strawberry Banke Museum Advisory Board, knowledgeable/talented gardener).
The newly formed CPS Board faced a business in free-fall, with neglected equipment and customers, and an entrenched staff resentful of change. The new CPS Board brought their expertise to bear on the situation, slowly beginning to understand the scope of the problems and to make the changes needed to turn things around. One thing was clear: people didn’t even think the Castle was open anymore! So the 2007 season was filled with high profile programming to announce that the Castle was alive and well and there to stay. The restaurant was transformed into a gourmet destination. The art Gallery was created from part of the restaurant, a space exhibiting three to four shows each season. Lucknow was launched to be reinterpreted and restored according to meticulous research. The community was welcomed and they responded with volunteers who transformed the gardens, manned the Gallery, and as docents assisted guests in Lucknow.
But while CPS was managing and raising restoration funds, they still did not have title to the property. The LRCT, relieved of the financial burden of the Castle, began to believe that any transfer of title should be subject to a permanent conservation easement which would restrict any new buildings or enlargement of existing buildings, and prohibit horses from using the trails. However, CPS buildings included a 30 stall horse barn and some expansion over the years would surely be needed to accommodate business growth. It took four years for CPS and LRCT to resolve this problem. In the final easement document, horses are provisionally allowed on some trails and the non-historic buildings are allowed a percentage expansion of their footprint (or combined footprints). Also a field pavilion and an 18,000 s.f. lodging facility may be constructed (hopefully the business will always succeed without such a need, but the future is unpredictable and must be protected). On May 12, 2010 CPS took title to 135 operational acres with all buildings included and a R.O.W. up the entrance road linking the 7 acres at its entrance and the 128 upper acres that are the hub of the Castle operation. With this issue resolved, LRCT and CPS, now jointly steward this remarkable New Hampshire resource, each non-profit doing what they do best – conservation/recreation and preservation/restoration – to ensure the best possible outcome for the Castle and its fans!
In addition to being a member of the Castle’s Founder’s Society, Ann is still actively involved in the Castle community as Chair of the Development Committee and member of the Curatorial Committee.
We are sincerely thankful to Ann for all of her involvement with the Castle over the past 20 years! Have you had the opportunity to meet or work with Ann?
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 6/19/2020
We’d like to take a moment and highlight a few volunteers and staff members who have gone above and beyond to make this year’s Castle experience as wonderful as possible.
Mary not only volunteers in our office, managing the phones and working on marketing data projects, but she participated in our Volunteer Clean Up Day and lend her hand updating the paint on the Café in the Clouds building.
Nate has proved himself invaluable to Castle in the Clouds. You may have seen him in previous years driving you to or from the Castle on the trolley but this year he’s been working in the gift shop and ticketing office. He spent many days here before we opened to the public relocating our gift shop into the Carriage House stalls, and helping Debbi set up the new point of sale systems.
Jessica has also stood out – as a new employee working in the gift shop and ticketing office. Jessica spent many days helping Debbi set everything up, unpack the gift shop, organize inventory and so on. She showed up early nearly every day and was ready to work! She often volunteered to pick up shifts to make sure our visitor experience was running smoothly.
Have you seen the stunning gardens that surround Lucknow Mansion? Have you witnessed Gretchen working to keep the grounds pristine? This week’s Community themed blog post is highlighting esteemed gardener, Gretchen Large! I talked with Gretchen earlier this month for insight on how she became the legendary gardener she is, as well as her alter ego Seed-X who has the power of germination, and if she has any advice for a black-thumb like me.
Gretchen describes her start in horticulture as a lifelong interest that transformed from hobby to career when a life-altering event turned her to the garden. Often holding jobs that were customer service based for the insurance and benefits, she maintained gardening as a hobby throughout most of her life. She turned to gardening full time for the sense of solace it provides (and when flowers give her grief they’re turned to the compost!).
Gardening is about learning from mistakes and being imaginative. Some of the most potent advice she learned as a child was: “plants will tell you when you’re doing it right,” you cannot change the environment and you have to give them a fighting chance to grow but at the end of the day it comes down to the “4Gs: Get growing or get gone!” Plants will bloom differently based on where and when they’re planted – even having a dramatically different blooming schedules between her house and the Castle. And the Castle offers additional challenges including being in full sun and having constant (sometimes high) winds. The gardens at Lucknow need to be sturdy, resilient, forgiving with watering, match the colors of surrounding plants, mirror historic landscapes, and always be pristine. This proves to be challenging in the planning and coordination to ensure the gardens are full, luxurious, and always in bloom.
Seed-X makes her appearance regularly in elementary schools to educate kids on germination, and plant growth. This year she was unable to appear due to COVID-19 but will hopefully be making an appearance soon!
Gretchen’s advice to novice gardeners:
- Start small
- Spend 90% of the budget on cultivating good soil, then 10% on the flowers since nothing will survive if the soil is not healthy
- Look at your neighbors’ gardens to see what works in your area
- Review UNH’s co-op extension for information – take classes if possible!
- Support your local gardeners and growers
- Be careful about the pesticides you use!
*We certainly owe Gretchen our gratitude for her hard work to keep the Castle’s immediate grounds looking beautiful but she is the first to say that the Castle’s volunteer gardeners deserve a shout out as well (and we couldn’t agree more). They do a phenomenal job maintaining many of the other gardens on the property, including those around the Carriage House. So let us take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to the many volunteer gardeners who share their time and expertise with us!
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 8/18/2020
Our volunteer docents are pivotal to the museum experience, passionately engaging with guests to share the history of the Castle and the stories of Lucknow. Docents are expected to support the museum by educating guests, working as a team with guides and fellow staff, and protecting the collections of the Castle. Some of our key volunteers up at the Castle are:
- George & Barbara Maidoff
- Robert “Bob” Simmonds
- Meredith Stanley
- Barbara Brash
- Kathleen James
- Miller Krauss
- Nancy Gaver
- Judy LeBranche
A big thank you to not only the volunteer docents but all of the Castle Preservation Society volunteers for making the Castle experience run so smoothly!
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 9/15/2020
Have you seen the quilt hanging in our lobby? You can purchase raffle tickets to bring it home! Below is a note from quilter Renie MacArthur about her creative process and thoughts in creating this beautiful blanket:
When thinking about quilts we usually think of chilly New England Winters. But when I think of quilts I am thinking of my next project, beautiful colors, striking designs and fabric texture. The colors in this quilt pattern called “Harvest” came from my Batik fabric collection, the design reminded me of a garden of tulips and so the process began. It was exciting to see it come together and once it had been professionally machine quilted I knew it was special.
I had heard about the wonderful restoration projects of the Castle in the Clouds from my neighbor and the unfortunate setbacks due to the global pandemic. The Castle needed help.
Donating quilts in the past, selling tickets as a fund raiser worked… I wanted to help… I was delighted to help. We all have hope for the future and if we can help each other through this difficult time… then we ALL win.
Thank you for your interest and support.
Renie MacArthur, Hanover, NH
You can purchase raffle tickets in person in our gift shop, one for $5 or three for $10. It’s the perfect quilt to curl up with this fall and winter or could be the ideal gift this holiday season!
By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 9/29/2020