Thomas Plant: Entrepreneur and Eccentric
If you’ve ever wondered how the “other half” lives, here’s a place to visit known as “Castle in the Clouds”. But that’s not the only reason to visit this beautiful mansion on a hill. Thomas Plant’s story has a message for others who aspire to greatness with new ideas and innovations. Here’s the story of a man who invented a new machine to better manufacture shoes. A humble thing, shoes. After all, we wear them on the lowest part of our body, the part that comes in contact with the dirt and grime, at least they would without shoes. Tours are available to see Castle in the Clouds. Read on….
On a beautiful hill in the state of New Hampshire stands a mansion known as “The Castle in the Clouds.” It’s truly a work of architectural art, built in the Craftsman style. But the man who was responsible for its building is as fascinating, if not more so, than the mansion.
Eccentric millionaire Thomas Gustave Plant made his money through innovative inventions and a shoe factory, which was once billed as “the largest shoe factory in the world.” Plant himself, was short in stature, standing only 5’1″, but tall in his ingeniousness in business. He married Caroline A. Griggs, but was subsequently divorced. An unverified story is told that she came down to breakfast one morning, to find a check for One Million dollars beside her plate. It was payoff for a divorce. Shortly after, he married Olive Cornelia Dewey, who was said to be his secretary.
A Set Of Custom Made Medieval Armor
In his home office stood a set of medieval armor, made to his size. Did he ever wear it? No one knows. Appropriately, his idol was another short man who stood tall through history; Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military and political leader who became Emperor of France in the 18th century.
A Mansion Named “Lucknow,” Became “Castle in the Clouds”
Plant named his home “Lucknow,” and it was only known as “Castle in the Clouds” by others later on. He wasn’t as eccentric as other wealthy men, but he had his own idiosyncrasies, such as a “reading room.” Known only to him, it was situated behind a secret panel below eye level, making it easy for a casual observer to overlook. Whenever he felt like “getting away from it all,” he would disappear into the little room and spend hours there in peace and solitude. The photo below shows the short little door and part of the room behind it. It was like his little “hidey-hole,” away from the world and its cares.
Bad Advice From A Friend
He was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, and took Roosevelt’s advice on investments in Russian Bonds, shortly before the October Revolution, in Cuban sugar, just before its collapse in WWI, and other losing investments. Had he not taken his friend’s advice, he may not have suffered complete ruin. Even when his fortunes were fading, he refused to harvest trees on his land, which could have helped his financial situation. He could not bring himself to sign the contract to have all the beautiful trees cut down, and chose to be impoverished over saving himself financially. The stock market crash in 1929 further added to his money woes and he went bankrupt. His creditors permitted him to live in his home as they went about dissolving his estate.
Founder Of An Assisted Living Facility
Thomas Plant also believed in helping others and founded an assisted living facility in Bath, Maine in 1917. He is quoted as saying:
“This home is founded on my sincere belief that those who have lived honest, industrious lives and are without means or friends to care for them, have earned the right to be cared for. Only through the labor and expenditures of others is it possible…”
The home is still operated today, as a private non-profit assisted living home, known as The Plant Home on Washington Street.
What Happened To The Shoe Factory?
The shoe factory, which made him a millionaire, changed hands several times after he sold it.
In the 1970s it was no longer used for manufacturing shoes, but was used as a workspace for artists. In 1976, it burned down in a brilliant arson-set conflagration that could be seen for miles.
The site has been razed and cleared and is now re-purposed as a shopping mall and supermarket.
More Photos from Castle in the Clouds Mansion
A bathroom that looks as modern as today.
Looks like what may have been a sitting room.
If You’re Going…..
Thomas Plant died in 1941, but his legacy lives on. For more information on his life and how he built and lost his fortune, you might like the book below.
- For more information on Thomas Gustave Plant:
Thomas Gustave Plant Biography
Thomas Gustave Plant on Wikipedia
The Plant Home
Books About Other Entrepreneurs
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