During our anniversary trip to the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitfield, NH, we made a lunch stop at another of the "grand" hotels in the state of NH.
The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, NH, was a 30-minute drive from the MVG.
This "other" grand hotel offers spectacular views of Mount Washington. It's a very large grand hotel with nearly double the 145 guest room capacity of the MVG we stayed in.
Unlike the MVG, the Mount Washington is clearly visible from a roadside view. Its white and red colors are quite striking when contrasted against the snow-capped mountains behind. These photos were taken a few weeks ago in mid-May.
The Mount Washington Hotel was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It was built by Joseph Sticky, who made his fortune in coal mining and railroading before age 30. He spared no expense in building the Y-shaped hotel which was started in 1900 and completed in 1902. Stickney brought in 250 skilled Italian artisans to work on the granite and stucco masonry and woodworking. The hotel had its own private telephone system and post office. As the most luxurious hotel of the time, its clientele were wealthy guests from major East Coast cities, Boston, New York and Philadelphia; as many as 50 trains daily stopped at three train stations in Bretton Woods.
Sticky died at 64, a year after completion. His widow summered at the hotel for the next decade. Under its first manager, the hotel was a success, but the advent of income tax, Prohibition, and the Great Depression curtailed business. After her 1936 death, Mrs. Stickney's nephew inherited the hotel and closed it in 1942 because of WW II.
During a hotel tour, we learned that in 1944 when the U.S. government was looking for a site for a worldwide monetary conference to deal with the financial aftermath of WW II. The Mount Washington Hotel was chosen because of its location and room for 730 representatives from 44 nations. That conference is known as the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference.
The hotel was not always open year-round. It would close in late fall and re-open in the spring. It re-opened for its first winter season in 1999. This 19th century grandfather clock is one of the few original pieces remaining in the Great Hall (lobby). Before the hotel was open year-round, the starting of the clock signaled the beginning of the summer season. On the final day, the last guest would stop the pendulum until the next season began.
Beyond the lobby or Great Hall is the Conservatory, originally called the Hemicycle. This half-circle shaped sun parlor is built almost entirely of plate glass with surrounding views of the Presidential Mountain Range. The domed ceiling is ringed with Tiffany glass and gives the room natural acoustics for musical performances, still held there.
But the hotel, vacant for years, was in disrepair with roofs that had collapsed under heavy snowfall. Two months before the conference start, the U.S. Government sent workers with 50 cans of white paint each and instructions to paint everything white. Without concern for historic preservation, paint was applied on mahogany doors, brass fixtures in the Great Hall, and some Tiffany windows to make everything look clean. The Conference took place over 21 days in July 1944; hotel owners were paid $300,000 for the loss of business and a daily room charge of $18 per person.
Years later restoration efforts focused on removing the white paint, traces of which are still visible today in the hotel.
Our day trip to visit the Mount Washington Hotel was a "bucket list" stop. We had seen this imposing structure on previous trips to the area, but had never stopped in. This time we were glad we did as it was really another grand experience.