In 1895 Benjamin Ames Kimball purchased 300 acres on Lockes Hill, set out on Belknap Point. The area had the most spectacular view, incompassing 300 degrees of "The Broads" of Lake Winnipesaukee. When the Lady of the Lake retired to let the Mt. Washington reign as the fastest boat on the lake, she was anchored off Belknap Point to be used as housing for the 100 Italian stone masons building the castle. Materials came from England and Germany via Boston then to Gilford by railroad (English Oak and local granite). It took two years (1897-1899) and $50,000 to complete the project. Along with incomparable views and acres of landscaped gardens, there are stone walls that weave around the property all the way to the water.
Kimball was president of the Concord & Montreal Railroad during an era when there was great upheaval in the industry due to consolidations and mergers. Historians say the building design copies a castle along the Rhine River in Germany that Kimball spotted while on vacation. Kimball spent winters in Concord at the mansion that still stands in front of the Capital Theatre on Main Street. In the summer he moved to Gilford and had a railroad station built down the hill from his property so he could commute to and from work in his private rail car. Kimball died in 1919.
The estate remained with the family until 1960 when Charlotte Kimball, Benjamin's daughter-in-law and last heir, died. Charlotte stipulated in her will that the property never be used for commercial purposes. She left the estate and several hundred thousand dollars to a charitable foundation with the stipulation that they create a nature preserve on the site. The preserve was never created and in 1981 the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office took control of the land and offered it to the Town of Gilford if they could save the Castle and create the preserve.
Various town committees studied the site for years but voters decided they did not want town money spent restoring the Castle. Finally, the Attorney General threatened to take the property back if the Town did not make some progress. In 1990 the Town convinced the Attorney General that the best way to carry out the goals of Charlotte Kimball's will was to remove the stipulation against commercial development on the land surrounding the Castle and subdivide it off. The Town then created the Locke's Hill Nature Preserve on the remaining 260 acres and laid out hiking and skiing trails on it.
Other Relevent Historical Information: