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 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.
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.
Designed in 1893 by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, Wheatleigh is an early example of Renaissance Revival architecture which became popular for country estates in the early 20th century. The estate was constructed for Henry Harvey Cook, who purchased over 250-acres of forest and lawns overlooking Lake Maheenac for his summer “cottage”. Cook was a New York-based businessman who made his fortune in the railroad and banking businesses, and he wanted a summer house to escape to every year. He named his home “Wheatleigh” as an homage to his family’s ancestral home, Wheatley, Oxfordshire. The mansion is approached by a circular drive that terminates in a formal entrance court partially enclosed by a buff brick wall and evergreen trees, centered on an octagonal marble fountain decorated with a shell and leaf motif. Upon Cook’s death in 1905 Wheatleigh passed to his daughter, Georgie, the Countess de Heredia. Under her ownership the formal garden was opened for evening worshipping services and musical events. Following de Heredia’s death in 1946 the property was divided and changed hands numerous times. In 1976 the mansion and 22 acres were opened as a resort hotel, known as the estates historic name. The Wheatleigh remains one of the most esteemed luxury hotels in the country.
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.
One of the larger hotels in Kennebunkport, the Colonial Revival Colony Hotel, built in 1914, provides historic charm with views of the Kennebunk River and Atlantic Ocean. Owner Ruel W. Norton had the new hotel built on the site of the Ocean Bluff Hotel (1873, burned 1898), to attract summer people, many of which stayed for months at a time. The Colony was originally called Breakwater Court until 1947, when George Boughton purchased Breakwater Court and changed the name to The Colony Hotel to complement their Florida property, The Colony Hotel in Delray Beach Florida. The hotel was designed by John Calvin Stevens, who lived in Maine and designed an estimated 1000+ buildings in the state, many of which in the Shingle or Colonial Revival styles.
Built in 1923, this striking French Eclectic home is by far one of my favorites in Brookline! The home was built for Emile Coulon, a hotelier. Coulon was born in Le Mans, France and worked in several European hotels before moving to America, first settling in New York in 1901. Fluent in four languages, Coulon was also well-read and catered to the luxurious clientele many of the hotels he worked at. After one year in New York, he moved to Boston and started as a waiter at the Hotel Touraine. By 1912, he leased the Hotel Westminster and five years later, the Hotel Victoria. He later leased the Hotels Touraine, Lafayette and Vendome in the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression. Coulon was elected president of the Massachusetts Hotel Association. Emile and his wife lived in this French style home, likely designed with his French roots in mind, for just five years before they moved to a unit in the Vendome to be closer to his 24/7 job. He died in 1947 in his beloved Vendome apartment.
The Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, NH stands on land once part of a grant to Captain Joseph Pinkham. Pinkham, one of Jackson’s first settlers, erected a log house in 1790 on land that now makes up the current hotel grounds. The log cabin was replaced by a frame house which stood directly on the site of the present hotel which eventually became part of the first hotel. The Eagle Mountain Farm as it was called, consisted of
300 acres of hilly terrain covered in forest and fields and lined with old stone walls.
In 1879, decedents of Pinkham opened up the farmhouse to twelve guests. Over the next few years, they expanded the farm house and built a cottage, ultimately accommodating 125 guests. In May 1915 the hotel was destroyed by fire, and the couple decided to re-build what would become one of the few surviving grand mountain resort hotels in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On the fourth of July in 1916, the new Eagle Mountain House, designed by Arthur Hale, the owner, opened to large crowds.
Like all large hotels of the era, the Eagle Mountain House was nearly self-sufficient. Its farm produced vegetables, dairy products and meat for guests. Ice was cut from the pond and sold throughout the village. A livery on the grounds accommodated horses and carriages, but a bigger attraction was no doubt the hotel garage, complete with attendants and automobile supplies for complete servicing. On-site entertainment was provided by the hotel orchestra which offered concerts and weekly dances. Flower beds and careful landscaping dotted the grounds. Outdoor recreational facilities included a golf course (laid out in 1931), tennis courts, croquet courts, shuffleboard court, and fishing and swimming in the nearby Wildcat River. By 1926, a bathing pool had been constructed. The hotel even had a resident deer family that inhabited the grounds of the hotel, amusing porch loungers, many of whom were visiting from urban areas. The hotel’s major recreational asset, however, was (and still is) its proximity to the White Mountains.