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Historic Hotels in New Hampshire's White Mountains
By Steve Bergsman
When the Central New Hampshire Paranormal Society came to the historic Eagle Mountain House and Golf Club in the small mountain burg of Jackson, they discovered paranormal activity involving a young boy and girl on the hotel's second floor. The paranormal experts also declared the ghosts friendly, not malicious.
So when my wife and I arrived back at the hotel late one evening and were climbing the stairs to our room we stopped at the landing on the second floor to look down the long hallway. All was normal, nothing paranormal. Such is life — or life after death — for historic hotels.
At one time there were 24 grand hotels in New Hampshire. These massive wooden structures boasted more than 100 rooms, huge dining and dancing establishments, acres and acres of property, and usually a golf course. Many had wraparound verandas, just the right place to sit in a rocking chair and watch the day go by.
Today five of those structures are still standing, although not all of them are operational. One of the five is the aforementioned Eagle Mountain House, where my wife and I stayed for three nights on a journey through the White Mountains, but we visited two others and then on our return trip toward southern New Hampshire we stopped on the coast and stayed at one more, the restored Wentworth by the Sea.
The first Eagle House accommodation was erected on the present site in 1879, and a year after it burned in 1915, the current structure was built. It went through some hard times, but the current owner, Hay Creek Hospitality, has been steadily refurbishing it.
The handsome white clapboard building sits in the hills outside of Jackson. A two-lane road separates it from the golf course, which in the winter is part of an acclaimed cross-country trail system. There is also an outdoor pool across the road, but I never got to see it. When my wife and I arrived it was buried somewhere under a deep pile of snow.
The lobby area boasted great old wood walls and featured big, deep-seated furniture and even a telephone booth. Off the lobby was the library or game room - a feature of many historic hotels. Farther on in the other direction could be found the dining area — and our one meal there was excellent, especially the flatiron steak and cobbler-ish dessert.
The major oddity was the original elevator with the two doors that needed to be manually closed; it elevated four stories at the speed of rust formation. There is a spa at the hotel and in the basement a whirlpool bath, workout room and sauna.
Just down the road sits the Wentworth, where the first inn was opened in 1869. It grew to be a massive property with 24 different buildings spread out over acres of land. Although it has been downsized now, owners Fritz and Ellie Koeppel have vigorously restored the main buildings, adding such features as private hot tubs.
Probably the most famous of the grand hotels is the Mount Washington, or as it is now called, the Omni Mount Washington Resort. We didn't stay here, either, but I had always wanted to visit, so after a morning traversing the runs at Bretton Woods Ski Resort via zipline, my wife and I went for lunch at the resort's Stickney's Restaurant. We chose the standard — a lobster roll and home-made chips. Then we went full gusto for dessert with a red velvet cheesecake. Excellent!
The Mount Washington was the last of the grand hotels to be constructed, opening in 1902, and it was the site of the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, which established financial order after the conclusion of World War II. Among its many accomplishments was the creation of the International Monetary Fund. The conference's main venue, the Gold Room, with its larger round table, can be visited by guests.
This is one of the great hotels of America with much to rave about, but one anecdote will suffice: I was standing on the upper terrace at the rear of the resort with the hotel's director of sales. The view of the surrounding mountains was so outstanding that I said, "Only once have I ever seen a view this good from a hotel terrace, and that was at the Banff Springs in Canada." The director laughed and said that when a photographer was hired to shoot this panorama, he kept saying he wanted the "Banff shot."
The final stop on our little tour was another grand hotel, the magnificent Marriott Wentworth by the Sea just outside of Portsmouth. Built in 1874, this resort and spa can also boast a bit of history because it hosted the peace conference that ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. This beautifully restored hotel commands a grand setting on one of New Hampshire's coastal islands.
The most historic hotel I visited was the Farm by the River, a bed and breakfast in North Conway. It's located on a horse farm that has been in the same family since the reign of England's King George III (1760 to 1820). The original house was constructed in the late-1700s, but it now boasts a hot tub with a killer view to the great New Hampshire outdoors.
WHEN YOU GO
Eagle Mountain House and Golf Club: www.eaglemt.com
The Wentworth www.thewentworth.com
Omni Mount Washington Resort: www.omnihotels.com/mtwashington
Marriott Wentworth by the Sea: www.wentworth.com
Farm by the River: www.farmbytheriver.com
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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