The Retirement Home
of Tom Plant and Olive Dewey Plant

After retiring from business in 1910, Tom Plant travelled in Europe. He took his brother's daughter, Amy Plant, with him. According to a family story—repeated as credible by historian, Barry Rodrique—while on their travels, she told him about the Ossipee mountains setting in which he would build Lucknow a few years later. She declared that Ossipee Park on Mount Shaw, north of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, was more beautiful than any countryside they had toured in Europe. He was so taken by her sincerity, that he telegramed instructions to his brother to buy the park; which his brother did. When he returned from Europe and visited his new property for the first time, he decided to build his retirement home on Mount Roberts.

Tom Plant met Olive Cornelia Dewey in the summer 1912 in France. Although he was still married to his first wife, they divorced in the fall 1912. His future (and second) wife was a tall, attractive, and educated woman from a banking family in Toulon, Illinois (approximately 115 miles southwest of Chicago). She graduated from Wellesley College for women in 1905. The couple married shortly after the divorce was granted. The took a honeymoon trip to Europe in the spring 1913. John Dewey, Olive's nephew by her brother Phil, believes that “Uncle Tom” and “Aunt Olive” eloped and were married in New Jersey.{1} Olive Dewey Plant would provide most of the informal reminiscences from which we reconstruct the history of the Lucknow estate.

Tom Plant, Olive Dewey Plant, William Plant
Left to right: Tom Plant, Olive Dewey Plant, William Plant (Before 1934)

Prior to Tom Plant's purchase of Ossipee Park, the land had a succession of owners. In the nineteenth century, the land was worked by a farming family, whose cemetery remains on the property. They must have originally cleared the fields that would later be used for recreation. Later owners included a Massachusetts industrialist, who built a large home below the rocky summit of Mount Shaw, and a pair of Brooklyn women, who operated a resort hotel on the property.

The improvements of the prior owners were removed when Tom prepared the property for building. He burned the resort hotel (Aelahka Hall). He removed guest cottages from the fields where he would build his golf course. He also continued to acquire small farms near his property, until the estate reached about 6500 acres, from the Ossipee Range to the shore of Lake Winnepesaukee. He and Olive lived in a home near the growing estate, while the house, Lucknow, was being built.

Tom engaged the architectural firm, Coolidge & Carlson of Boston. Architectural plans were drawn in the winter of 1912-1913. Olive Dewey's contribution to the design of the mansion and the gate houses is not specifically known, but there seems little reason to believe this educated woman would not have influenced her future husband's project. Construction began in the spring, 1913. To complete building rapidly, Tom hired about 1000 workmen. Most were Italian masons from Boston. The masons built the mansion, the two lodges at the property gates, the carriage house, and the stone walls along the state highway that ran across the property. A stone lined earthen dam was built across stream that flowed from a natural spring. Lower on the estate, the stream, Shannon Brook, has a beautiful 70 foot waterfall, Fall of Song.

Olive's family travelled to New Hampshire to work in the construction of the mansion. Olive had three brother. Maurice Dewey was attending Dartmouth at the time. He worked two summers [1913 and 1914] on construction. Phil Dewey also worked at the mansion. {2}

We will quote a lengthy, anecdotal description of the mansion, which probably originated with Olive (though we do not know if these are her quoted words).

Its outstanding feature is the massive, low broken-lined roof of Spanish tile multi-colored in softly blended shades of brown, red and yellow. It is interspersed with balconies and window groupings framed by timbers of hand-hewn oak. The beam ends extend beyond [the walls and are carved to suggest(?)] gargoyle faces. All the oak work was done by old-time craftsmen in shipyards at Bath, Maine, and was fastened, not by nails, but with oaken dowels. There are Swiss chalet gables; the ridge pole is Japanese, and at either end of the house is an octagonal Norman tower with hand-made English leaded casement windows.

The stone used for walls, chimneys and towers as well as for the garden walls was blasted from the mountain top. Mr. Plant insisted that every stone be cut 5-sided. The cement that holds them in place was recessed which makes it appear that the house is built without mortar. Actually each stone was so precisely cut to fit into its own niche that numbering them became a necessity when repair work was done.

Inside the woodwork is exquisitely paneled. There are sixteen roms, some of them large, but the little paneled dining room of Cambridge elm is a particular gem. It is octagonal in shape and has a star-patterned flooring. Wisteria clusters were carved in the plaster ceiling. These must have been a trial to the Swedish inteior decorator who carved them lying for many days in a horizontal position on a scaffolding. There were done over and over again until they met with Mr. Plant's entire approval.

He was particular fond of organ music and had a large house organ built by the Aeolian Company recessed into a space in the main hall with an echo organ in the attic.

In the days when one bathroom to a floor was usually considered adequate, he had eight installed, each with tiled walls and flooring.{3}

Tom and Olive moved into their mansion in the Autumn, 1914.

Retirement Life

Tom Plant might retire, but he would not settle into a life of doing nothing, watching the clouds roll by from the top of Mount Shaw. He and Olive travelled extensively around the U.S., at least through the mid-1920s, before Tom's fortune diminished. He was a ceasely active businessman. Even in retirement, he apparently invested in shoe manufacturing enterprises of his brother and nephews. He was a ceasely active as a retired lord of the manor. The tennis court, golf course, fishing, and riding facilities he installed on the Lucknow estate testify to his ambitious plans for outdoor physical sports.

He had several projects. He engaged in philanthropy. Olive, probably writing after his death, said of her husband, “He was deeply interested in making life easier for his fellowmen, and gave many gifts to humitarian causes.” In 1916, he purchased land in Bath, Maine. He constructed and endowed an old folks home in memory of his parents. An inscription with a statement by Tom was, at the time of Olive's reminiscence, on a wall of the home:

“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 labour and expenditure of others is it possible for business and professional men to succeed; therefore it is the duty of the strong and successful to care for the deserving, aged poor.”{4}

Tom's belief was not unique (if not common) for a captain of late nineteenth century American industry. Andrew Carnegie published similar sentiments in the 1880s. President Theodore Roosevelt, one of Tom Plant's heroes, developed this point of view into a full-bodied radical ideology of state intervention in 1910. Roosevelt's patrician attitude helped him to see the need to curb excessively acquisitive capitalism through state intervention and to provide through the state for those honest, deserving working people who could not care for themselves.

Tom also built the Bald Peak Country Club on Lake Winnipesaukee. Some of the same design and decorative philosophy that filled up Lucknow appeared in the Club. In the 1990s, Castle Springs, Inc., obtained a billiards table from the Club to replace the billiard table that Susan Tobey removed to her home in Plymouth, when Fred Tobey sold the estate.

Retirement life at Lucknow was founded on a fortune that began slipping away from Tom, almost as soon as he and Olive moved in. Theodore Roosevelt recommended that Tom invest in Russian bonds. These bonds became worthless at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Roosevelt also supposedly recommended that Tom invest in Cuban sugar [through futures?]; but a hurricane destroyed a crop and some of Tom's wealth with it. By the early 1920s, Tom's fortune was severely diminished.

The number of servants at the estate decreased. Tom tried unsuccessfully to sell the estate in the 1930s, printing a colorful brochure for the purpose. But few persons were in a position to buy such a property in the Depression. My grandfather, Fred Tobey, offered to buy the logging rights to the forest, which he estimated as worth $750,000; but Tom refused. Tom mortgaged the property. Eventually, he could not even pay local real estate taxes to Moultonborough. By the time Tom died, in July 1941, he was completely ruined.

John Dewey writes: “When he died in about 1942[1941], Uncle Mills and Aunt Irene went east to helpl Aunt Olive move back to Toulon (Illinois) where she lived until Grandmother died and then she moved to a retirement home in Laguna Nigel, in Southern California, where she was supported by Uncle Phil and Uncle Mills in the custom she have become used to when Uncle Tom was at his zenith.”{5}

The Plants’ Domestic Life at Lucknow

Tom Plant's immediate family was limited to himself and his brother, William. Tom had two daughters, children by his first marriage. Tom and Olive had no children; but the family of Olive Dewey was large and would fill Lucknow with the excitement and concerns of family and children. William also had a son. Lucknow was the primary residence only of Tom and Olive, but the frequent visits of her family prevented it from being a quiet retreat. William lived in a separate house on the estate. Olive had three brothers—Mills Dewey, Maurice Dewey, and Phil Dewey. Maurice worked for Uncle Tom as a time keeper for the Italian stone masons, who shaped the building stone and lived on the site. Maurice, attending Dartmouth, also worked in building Lucknow. Later, their children often visited their aunt and "Uncle Tom" in their castle on the mountain top.

As a boy and a teenager, John Dewey, the son of Maurice Dewey, visited Lucknow in the 1930s. In the letter below, given to John by his maternal grandparents, John's aunt Olive writes to her mother and father in Toulon, Illinois, about the visit of John and his father, Maurice to Lucknow in 1940. Maurice was in New Hampshire for his 20th reunion at Dartmouth College (in Hanover). Olive's detailed description gives a wonderful description of the boys' Lucknow—the endless forest, the wildlife, and the outdoor sports and play. It is a lovely vision with which to close the Plants' life at Lucknow.

Sunday June 23 [1940]

Dear Mother and Father,

If you have seen Toodles you know that I am not on my way home with the boys. I am terribly, terribly sorry to disappoint you and my self about not coming now, but I could not help it. The woman that I was going to get to stay here, has been sick for several weeks with rheumatism and flu and is still not able to work although she is getting better. I think in a few weeks she will be all right again. She is the wife of the man who lives in our stable house. Perhaps it is just as well that I did not try the motor trip, although I intended to, but the boys went to the fair (which they could not have done with me) and I prefer the train. I get tired on not-very-long motor trips, and I don't believe I would have lasted out to Toulon. Even Maurice was rather dreading the long pull home. Then, too, (which is most important) our affairs seem to be reaching a crisis, and I cannot be away until they are settled somehow.

If things do not clear up within a few weeks so that I can get away, and this nice weather holds, you will have to take a trip and come to see me. After you have been at home long enough so that you get the itching foot again, you can come this way for a change.

The boys made me a nice visit. I enjoyed so much having them, and I think they had a good time. I was rather about John's being able to amuse himself, especially while he was here alone, but I needn't have worried. If there was anything he did not do or any place he did not go and look into , I don't know where it was. He looked for wild animals, and he saw a fox, two deer, porcupines and woodchucks. Tom gave him a rifle and I told him he could shoot porcupines and woodchucks and he got one porc., two chucks and a crow. He had a canoe on our pond and he went all over that more than once. He fished by himself and although he did not know how to throw a fly and did not have any bait, he fixed a sinker on a fly and pulled it around the pond. The first time he caught four, then he and Maurice went out and he caught five more, one of the biggest I have ever seen taken out of the pond, and Maurice did not catch any. So we had a nice mess of trout for lunch. The boys cleaned them and John thought it was more fun to catch them, and I don't really believe he like to eat them very well. He ranged all over the place, down the stream, up the mountain roads, down to the MacDonald place two or three times (after woodchucks), and into every old building and shed on the place. While he was here alone, I saw him only at meal times. He played pool alone and with Maurice and with Tom, and the last night they were here, we all played. He examined all the country around, and the heavens above, through the telescope and told me what he could see. When Maurice was not here, he helped me with the dishes; made his own bed, washout is socks, pressed his clothes; he was up and out with his gun before breakfast and after supper. In fact until the last day or two I don't know when [where] he was still except when he was in bed and riding in the car. He and Maurice went up to the tops of our mountains one day, in our mountain car. They got stuck in the mud on a soft road and Maurice had quite a time to get the car out [the rest of the sentence is indecipherable].

The day Maurice went back to Hanover was a lovely day and I thought I would like the ride so John and I drove him over. It took us two and a half hours, we stopped and looked around the college [Dartmouth College] for about an hour and then John and I came home. We got to Plymouth about 7 P.M. (that is 30 miles from here) so we stopped there and had supper. This was on Friday, and Maurice did not come back till Monday. John went after him, but I did not go, as I had a lot to do and was going to have some callers in the afternoon. One night we went to Laconia to the movies, as I wanted to see "Waterloo Bridge", but we were disappointed, as it is long drawn out and very tragic. Maurice and I took a short drive one day partly for errands, and once we went over to Center Harbor for lunch. There is a small hotel there that serves very good meals; Tom was in Boston. But he would not have gone anyway, as he prefers to stay at home and help himself if I am not there. He came back that afternoon late and we all went to Meredith to meet him.

I had a letter from Aunt Jule inviting us to stop off at Van Hornesville to see them, and perhaps we would have done so if I had gone along, but Maurice said he could not spare the time to stop.

They left yesterday morning for Boston, and were taking the shore road so John could see the ocean. I suppose they saw the Deweys last night and this morning, but Maurice intended to drive to New York today. He plans to spend two days at the fair [New York World's Fair] and get home Friday night or Saturday. I hated to see them go. We got along nicely with the work. Maurice washed the table dishes for me every meal and helped around in other ways as he could or I wanted. He is very good help.

I hope you are settled by this time, and are not trying to do too much. Maurice said he thought you had a good girl [hired domestic help], and I hope you still have her. I hope you are having pleasant weather, and that it is cool. So far we have had queer weather, due to the war, I guess. The last two or three days have been actually cold, and I have had to put my winter clothes back on. I just took them off. We have had a very few quite warm days. There were actually snow flurries a day or so ago in northern New York state. We have to keep the fireplaces going.

Don't feel badly about my not coming now, for I intend to see you very soon, one way or another, and we never [indecipherable]. Much love to you and all.




Most details are from Barry Hadfield Rodrigue, Tom Plant : the making of a Franco-American entrepreneur, 1859-1941 (New York : Garland Publishing, Inc., 1994), except for information as noted below.

1. Reminiscence of John Dewey, as communicated to Ron Tobey by Dale and Christine Dewey Martin, e-mail, September 15, 1996. [Return]

2. Reminiscence of John Dewey, as communicated to Ron Tobey by Dale and Christine Dewey Martin, e-mail, September 15, 1996. [Return]

3. Elizabeth Crawford Wilkin, From “The Castle and The Club—Bald Peak Country Club” (Typescript © Copyright 1964 Elizabeth Crawford Wilkin., pp. 4-5). [Return]

4. Elizabeth Crawford Wilkin, From “The Castle and The Club—Bald Peak Country Club” (Typescript © Copyright 1964 Elizabeth Crawford Wilkin., p. 6). [Return]

5. Reminiscence of John Dewey, as communicated to Ron Tobey by Dale and Christine Dewey Martin, e-mail, September 15, 1996. [Return]

6. Letter courtesy of John Dewey, September 1996. [Return]


Why did Tom Plant name his estate, “Lucknow”? The name is molded into stain glass insets in window panels by the carriage entry to the mansion, “Luck” on one side and “Now” on the other. Biographer, Barry Rodrigue, does not know, but thinks it likely that the name was invented by Olive and Tom by joining “Luck” and “Now”. In email correspondence with me in 1996 and 1997, Dale Martin and Christine Dewey Martin wrote that, when reviewing family correspondence, they discovered one family member writing that “Dad [Maurice Dewey] always said he [Tom] named it after a retreat of Napolean's but I do not know where it was.” I have not been able to locate a reference to “Lucknow”, or to the word's French or German equivalents, in memoirs about Napoleon by his aids and servants.

Revised, September 3, 2007.