Castle in the Clouds - Atlas Obscura

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Castle in the Clouds

The early 20th-century home features cutting-edge technology of the day, such as ammonia refrigeration and needle showers. 


The Castle in the Clouds, also known as Lucknow, is a historic manor nestled on top of Lee Mountain in New Hampshire, providing sweeping views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains. The estate itself is an American Craftsman-styled mansion, boasting 16 different rooms designed by John Williams Beal. It was built for Thomas Plant, who at the time owned the largest shoe factory in the world, and school teacher Olivia Dewey Plant, who married Thomas in the spring of 1913. The pair met when they were both traveling in Europe in the fall of 1912, and soon got to work on their home in the mountains.

At the time of its construction from 1913 to 1914, the estate incorporated revolutionary, new technologies pioneered at the turn of the 20th century that were only available to the very wealthy. The house has the precursor to the modern refrigerator and freezer, the much larger ammonia brine refrigerant system, now often only used in large industrial settings.

The house also has a house-wide electrical system, exceptional for the time, which powers the butlers’ in-home intercom system. The showers, which look like steampunk contraptions, are known as needle showers. Unheard of today, the needle showers would use pinholes to fire highly pressurized water, intended to “massage your internal organs” akin to a Jacuzzi spa body jet. The manor also was designed with a central vacuum system, even before it became a staple in many early 20th-century houses. Later on, the system was replaced by a handheld vacuum.

A majority of the house is open to self-guided tours, including a massive pipe organ built into the manor. Once loud enough to be heard for miles, only a small portion of the harp pipes remain usable. If you’re lucky, a staff member may play a few notes on the organ’s keyboard for you.

Castle Preservation Society staff members can be found throughout the estate and will tell you about the history of the home’s residents or the workings of the vintage mechanisms. The outdoor areas are well maintained by landscapers and gardeners with a plethora of flowers in bloom. The historic greenhouse of the mansion stood until a single deer trapped itself inside, resulting in its ruin and removal. Now, an open-air pathway and garden stand in its place.

The property is only accessible by taking a trolley from the Carriage House Restaurant. After you tour the property, you can wait for a return trolley (which runs every 15 minutes), or take a descent-only path leading from the Castle to the Carriage House and Gift Shop.

Know Before You Go

The carriage house, gift shop, and estate are available to the public when open. The Castle in the Clouds historic mansion is only accessible by trolley. Tickets are available in the Gift Shop before 4 p.m. The trolley runs every 15 minutes.

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August 9, 2023

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