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Water's Edge Resort and Spa

History: 
    Water's Edge Resort and Spa
 in Westbrook

History

The story of Water’s Edge Resort and Spa goes back to the early 1900s, when New Yorkers would escape the heat of the city and spend their summers in upstate New York or along the Long Island Sound. The hotel was originally a summer residence for the Knothe family, built in the early 1920s. Mr. Adolph Knothe was a New York manufacturer of men’s furnishings, suspenders, and garters. Knothe moved his business and family to Westbrook, Connecticut and opened a downtown factory where he continued to make quality crafted belts and suspenders.

The Great Depression caused a significant slowdown in production and demand for menswear. With the economic downturn affecting his business, Knothe sold his residence in 1940 to 29-year old Bill Hahn, a New York transplant who decided to transform it into a hotel. Hahn was already a resident in town, where he worked as a waiter and then manager of the former Castleburke Inn - a Westbrook hotel that was felled by fire in 1961, when he bought the home from Knothe.

After a year of renovations, Bill Hahn's Hotel opened on Memorial Day in 1941. He subsequently added additional amenities to the hotel, such as guest houses, a greenhouse, and even a movie theater. The post-World War II economic upswing afforded the hotel its busiest times. During the 1950s and 1960s, guests would travel to the hotel by train to the town of nearby town of Saybrook. The hotel provided door-to-door van service to the arriving guests and transported them back to the resort.

July 11th was always a special day at the hotel, when Hahn would celebrate his birthday with some of the better known celebrities of the day and used the occasion to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Famous guests have included singer and actress Barbra Streisand, actress Katherine Hepburn, director Woody Allen, and comedian Henny Youngman. Hahn was later recognized as the state's largest fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, pulling in $1 million through events at the hotel. His personal donations also helped purchase new medical equipment for Middlesex Hospital and the Shoreline Clinic in Essex.

Hahn died on Easter Sunday in 1979 and the hotel closed briefly. His sister, Ruth Hahn Richter, reopened and managed the hotel until her death in 1980, when it closed for good. The hotel was purchased by DGB properties in 1982 for $1.6 million dollars. The new owners razed several of the hotel’s existing 16 buildings in order to construct time-share units. The structures left standing received substantial renovations and capital improvements. Upon completion, it reopened as Water’s Edge Resort in December 1986.

Water’s Edge Resort and Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2017, dates back to the 1920s.


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