In 1888, Charles F. Folger of Philadelphia purchased the former Elijah Alley house on Easton Street, just north of the main village of Nantucket. Folger hired carpenter Edwin R. Smith to design and build a new grand hotel for summer residents of Nantucket. Originally named the Point Breeze Hotel, the grand resort opened in the summer of 1891. The Queen Anne style hotel contained forty sleeping apartments in the upper floors and was dominated by a corner tower with billiards rooms and a bowling alley in the raised brick basement. Business was booming, and by the early 20th century, Folger expanded the hotel adding the east wing in the Colonial Revival style. In 1925, a fire destroyed the original Point Breeze Hotel, leaving just the East Wing. By this time, the days of the grand, wooden hotels was coming to a close. The Nantucket Institution for Savings acquired the hotel during the Great Depression, until 1936 when Gordon Folger Jr., grandson of the Point Breeze’s original proprietor, purchased the hotel and renamed it after himself, as the Gordon Folger Hotel. By the end of the 20th century, the building sat underutilized, the early 2000s when Little Gem Resorts purchased the hotel, seeking to restore this historic property back to her former glory. The original 1891 hotel was rebuilt in 2012, even down to its iconic corner tower, and the hotel was renamed The Nantucket. The hotel is open year-round and is lavish inside and out, providing you with a sense of home even when on vacation in the middle of the Atlantic!
As Ogunquit surged in popularity as a coastal summer retreat in the late 19th century, the flocks of city-dwellers needed a places to rest their head after splashing in the crisp Maine ocean. The original structure began with a mid-19th century house, likely in the Greek Revival style. It was expanded in the 1880s when it opened as a hotel for tourists, equipped with a mansard roof. The hotel consistently sold out of rooms in the summer months and the proprietors decided to expand in about 1897 with a sizeable Queen Anne style addition. A fire in 1951 destroyed the rear wing of the building and the conical tower roofs were removed, resulting in the final form seen today. The hotel is historically significant because it is the only surviving 19th-century hotel in Ogunquit that still serves as a hotel and largely retains its historic appearance, enhanced following a 2013 restoration by the owners who worked with David Lloyd of Archetype Architects. Other hotels of the period have either been converted to condominiums or been engulfed by modern alterations. The hotel was thus placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a large, and worthy addition!
As Cavendish and other rural towns of Vermont became summer destinations for the rich of the urban centers of the northeast, large estates began to sprout up, replacing old family homesteads. Allen Miller Fletcher was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the grandnephew of Josiah Fletcher, one of the original settlers of Cavendish in September 1853. He was the son of a successful banker and became a banker himself, building homes in Indianapolis and New York City. In 1881, he built a summer home in his ancestral home of Cavendish, taking the train up to relax and breathe in the clean air. While living most of the year in New York, Fletcher became involved in Vermont politics, winning the Republican nomination to serve in both the Vermont House of Representatives and the Vermont Senate in the early 1900s. During his time as a Vermont state senator, Fletcher commissioned architect Samuel Francis Page of the Boston-based firm, Fehmer and Page, to bring his vision to life. Page used English Cotswold-style architecture for his inspiration, and when completed in 1906, the home was the first in Vermont to be fully wired for electricity and equipped with an elevator! Fletcher also hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design the landscaping on the property. Fletcher would spend the rest of his life at his country mansion, going on to work as the Governor of Vermont from 1912 to 1915. Today, Fletcher’s beautiful mansion now lives as a magnificent holiday retreat known as the Castle Hill Resort & Spa.
In the first couple decades of the 1800s, Bangor, Maine, became the capital of the timberlands of the state, as thousands of acres of untouched forests were sold for lumber harvesting and shipping to other developing parts of the region. The massive cedar trees were shipped by rail and boat to cities like Boston, which lacked such large lumber. At the time, a group of wealthy lumbermen in Bangor wanted a hotel which would impress investors and visitors to the frontier town. Inspired by The Tremont House in Boston, an 1829 hotel that was then regarded as one of the pinnacles of luxury accommodation. The investors hired architect Isaiah Rogers, the same architect who designed the Tremont House years earlier, to design the Bangor House. The two hotels are strikingly similar in design. The hotel expanded numerous times over the decades, until the 20th century, when the town’s prosperity began to falter. Many of the additions have since been torn down as part of the building’s conversion to apartments, replaced by modern residential wings which are much lesser quality of design and construction. Thankfully, the historic core of Bangor House remains very well preserved and as it did nearly 200 years ago!
One of the lesser-known historic hotels in Boston can be found at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets in the Back Bay neighborhood, tucked behind the Boston Public Library’s Johnson addition. Exeter Chambers (now Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square), was built between 1889 and 1890 from plans by architect Theodore Minot Clark. Clark was a professor at MIT and the understudy of Boston’s famed Trinity Church architect, H. H. Richardson. Clark oversaw much of the construction of Trinity Church and his name is even engraved on the building. Exeter Chambers was constructed by the Guastavino Company, a very prominent contractor during the period noted for style and quality, known for the Guastavino tile. Cutting edge techniques such as compression arches and terracotta accents were featured throughout the structure. The hotel was vacant for many years and a renovation in 2004, which added three stories to the building, restored the ornate exterior to its former glory.
One of the earlier grand hotels in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, was Mount Pleasant House, built in 1875 after the arrival of the railroad through Crawford Notch. The hotel was located on a small hill where the Lodge at Bretton Woods is currently sited, across the street from the iconic Mount Washington Hotel. It was built by lumberman and investor John T.G. Leavitt and opened the following year. It was then a simple, almost box-like structure with only forty rooms, later expanded and “modernized” to accommodate the growing waves of affluent visitors from New York City and Boston every year. In 1881, Leavitt sold the hotel to Oscar Pitman and Joseph Stickney, the latter eventually became sole owner and acquired land across the street to build the Mount Washington Hotel in 1900. Possibly as a practice for his larger endeavor across the street, Stickney hired one of Portland’s leading architects, Francis H. Fasset, to design the additions and alterations. When Stickney died in 1903, just a year after his larger hotel was built, both properties were willed to his wife, Caroline. She ran the company through changing economic conditions and when she died, in 1936, the hotels were left to her nephew, F. Foster Reynolds. Reynolds decided that the Mt. Pleasant was not worth the expense needed to maintain it, and in 1939, ordered the building demolished, replaced decades later with the present building.
The Omni Mount Washington (originally the Mount Washington Hotel), surrounded by the great White Mountains of New Hampshire, was completed in 1902, at the end of the Gilded Age and the grand hotel era of America. The grand hotel was financed by Joseph Stickney, a native of New Hampshire, who made a fortune before the age of 30 investing in the coal business in Pennsylvania. In 1881, Stickney purchased the Mount Pleasant Hotel, a nearby summer resort and enlarged it, and acquiring a taste for hospitality development in the White Mountains (it was later demolished in the 1930s). He hired architect Charles Alling Gifford to design a new, larger resort across the street which in total, cost him over $50,000,000 in today’s dollars! Ironically, Joseph Stickney, had famously told the press on the opening day: “Look at me, for I am the poor fool who built all this,” as the economy was starting to turn right as the hotel opened. He died one year later in 1903. Nevertheless, up to fifty trains a day unloaded the families of the country’s wealthiest people, mostly from New York City, who stayed here for Summers at a time, leaving behind “the yellow fever and cholera in the cities” for fresh air and open space. The hotel’s design incorporated some of the most cutting-edge innovations of its age, including a steel-frame superstructure, an electrical power plant, and a sophisticated internal heating system. Roughly 250 Italian artisans were brought in to provide artistic touches to the structure by working on its exterior granite and stucco masonry including the two massive octagonal towers, and installing Tiffany stained glass windows.
After Joseph Stickney’s death in 1903, Carolyn his widow, became extremely rich (the couple never had children). Carolyn spent her summers at the hotel for the next decade, a nearby chapel honoring her late husband. The hotel did well in the subsequent decades until the advent of income tax, Prohibition, and the Great Depression, which harmed many large resorts’ profits. In 1936, Mrs. Stickney’s nephew, Foster Reynolds, inherited the hotel, but it closed in 1942 because of World War II. A Boston syndicate bought the extensive property for about $450,000 In 1944. The Bretton Woods monetary conference took place that year, establishing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After subsequent owners, in 2015, the hotel and the Bretton Woods Mountain Resort were purchased by Omni Hotels & Resorts, who have been advocates to the history and preservation of the building and surrounding area, also overseeing the hotel’s inclusion to the illustrious Historic Hotels of America list.
There is so much more I could write about the Omni Mount Washington Resort, from the incredible interior spaces, to Carolyn’s marriage to a French prince, to the supposedly haunted sites… So much history to uncover, so little time!
The historic Omni Bretton Arms Inn, adjacent to the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, was built as a private home in 1896. The home was designed by, and occupied by architect Charles Alling Gifford, while he oversaw the design and construction of the iconic Gilded Age hotel. After the hotel nearby was opened, the interior was converted to hotel rooms, and opened to guests in 1907. The Colonial Revival building features a central mass with two wings. The building was occupied in 1944 as the headquarters for the Conference Secretariat during the 44-nation Bretton Woods Monetary Conference. The Inn was granted National Historic Landmark designation in 1986 and has recently undergone a $1.4 million renovation focused on bringing the outdoors in. Part of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, this property offers more seclusion and less crowds compared to its larger neighbor. Just down the road from the Bretton Arms is the equally stunning Bretton Woods Stable, likely built at the same time.
The largest building on Main Street in Stockbridge has to be the Red Lion Inn, a regional institution and one of the best places to rest your head in New England. The inn got its start just before the Revolutionary War. According to tradition, Silas Pepoon established a small tavern on the corner of Main Street in 1773, under the sign of a red lion. A year later, angry citizens gathered at the tavern to boycott English goods and to pass resolutions protesting the oppressive Acts of Intolerance levied against the colonies. Since its earliest days, the inn was a vital gathering place for locals and has continued to play an important role in the life of the community ever since. In 1862, the inn was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Plumb, avid collectors of rare and fine items, who became renowned for their impressive compilation of colonial antiques. A fire in 1896 destroyed the building but its remarkable array of collectibles was saved and the inn was rebuilt within a year by designs from Harry E. Weeks, a Pittsfield-based architect.
The Wesley House on Lake Avenue is the sole survivor of the numerous large hotels that sprung up in Oak Bluffs in the mid-1800s in response to the growing summer colony and tourism after the growth of the Methodist Camp Meeting Association. While many such hotels did not fare so well with storms and fires, the Wesley House has thrived over the years, even expanding multiple times as Martha’s Vineyard has continued to see larger summer crowds. The Wesley House was named after its original owner, Augustus G. Wesley, who was born Augustin Goupille in 1843 in Saint-Gervais, a village near Quebec City. Goupille emigrated to the U.S. in 1859, and in 1869 changed his name to Augustus G. Wesley. Whether his name change was motivated by sympathy with the teachings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, or to endear himself to the Methodists who would soon patronize his cafe (and later hotel), is not known. Mr. Wesley built the hotel for the sum of $18,000, after seeing the demand for larger lodging options with limited space near the ocean. The original main entrance fronted Commonwealth Square and the Wesleyan Grove, before shifting the entrance to the more prominent Lake Avenue. The hotel remained under Wesley’s ownership until he was convicted of attempted arson of the hotel in 1894, for the insurance money, and on September 25 of that year, he began serving a sentence of three years at hard labor in the New Bedford House of Corrections (but was pardoned after just ten months).
The hotel ownership was passed to a family friend and after subsequent owners and expansions, it was purchased by Lark Hotels in 2015, changing the name to Summerhouse, and completely updating the interior, while preserving the iconic Second Empire exterior with balconies.