Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 148;
Hotel History: Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa (1865), Whitefield, New Hampshire*
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
One of America's great resort hotels, the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa had its origin in the post-Civil War period. On a rainy night in 1865, a group of travelers en route to Montreal were stranded when their stagecoach overturned in Whitefield, New Hampshire. The driver found shelter for his wet passengers a half-mile away at the home of William and Maryjane Dodge, who welcomed them with overnight lodging and a home-cooked breakfast. On that morning the spectacular views of the Presidential Range, a series of 5,000 and 6,000 foot peaks, were overwhelming. Later, the Dodges officially opened an inn called the Mountain View House in 1866 and, after several additions, could accommodate more than 200 guests by 1912 when the Belvedere Tower was added.
Like many other 19th century grand hotels that catered to the rich and famous, Mountain View House attracted guests including presidents, moguls, athletes, and guests who appreciated the outdoor activities available on a 12,000-acre resort facility. Some New Yorkers remember that they spent summer vacations at the Mountain View and that their fathers came for the weekend by overnight train. Railroad passenger service ended in the mid-1960s, a casualty of the interstate highway system.Tourism and timber have always been the lifeblood of this region's economic life. In the 19th century, the forests around Whitefield yielded lumber for shingles, clapboards, ship masts, butter tubs, and hardwood flooring. In 1884, the resort was managed by Van Herbert Dodge assisted by his wife Alice. Under their direction until 1919, the Mountain View was transformed from a medium-sized country inn to a substantial resort complex. The main building was expanded to accommodate 100 guests. In 1891-92, they built another three-story addition. A passage from Robert Greive's 1899 Guide Book to the Mountains of New Hampshire provides a graphic description:
The Mountain View House [...] is so arranged that all the sleeping rooms (which are large, each containing a closet), commands a fine view; and the house being fitted with electric bells, telegraph, local and long-distance telephone, billiard hall, parlor for dancing and theatricals, fire-places in public rooms, with a bowling alley and laundry connected, the guests do not experience the loss of any of the comforts of their city homes. The table is given special attention. Competent cooks are employed and fresh milk, cream and vegetables from the Mountain View Farm, together with choice products of the markets, render this important feature most excellent. The water is from the purest of mountain springs and the drainage is perfect. Near the house are delightful pine and maple groves. The extensive lawns are provided with tennis courts, croquet, base ball and golf (only after the hay was cut for the horses) grounds, which give ample opportunity for out-door recreation, and in-doors music is furnished for dancing. An excellent livery is connected, where good teams and experienced drivers can be secured at reasonable rates.
As its reputation spread, so did the demand for rooms at the Mountain View House. The Dodges met the challenge. Under the leadership of Frank Schuyler Dodge, the owner/manager from 1919 until his death in 1948, significant additions were made to the complex, particularly during the decade of the 1920s.
Following Frank Dodge's untimely death, his wife Mary Bowden Dodge ran the Mountain View House for five years until her two sons, John B. and Frank Schuyler, Jr. came of age and became co-managers. During their tenure in 1965, Century Hall, a modern and highly functional entertainment and conference center, was constructed to the east of the hotel. In 1967, when John shifted to the field of real estate development, Frank Schuyler took over complete management of the enterprise.
The hotel remained in the Dodge family until 1979 when the oil embargo and gas shortages forced the family to sell the property. The Mountain View Resort closed in the 1980s with the furnishings auctioned in 1989. After being closed for 16 years, the hotel was reborn when Kevin Craffey, a general contractor from Duxbury, Massachusetts purchased the vacant hotel including 4,000 acres, a 9-hole golf course, clubhouse, and conference hall for $1.3 million. Craffey enlarged each guest room and reduced the total number from 200 to 144. A kitchen and indoor pool were added on the ground floor, and a new spa was installed in the building's three-story tower to provide facials, hydrotherapy, massages, and similar treatments.
In 2005, the hotel was purchased by the American Holding Group, a holding company which owns historic luxury hotels, including The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida; Le Pavillon in New Orleans, Louisiana; The Cincinnatian in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in Charleston, South Carolina.
Mountain View is the only hotel in New Hampshire to earn AAA Four-Diamond honors in both lodging and dining from 2008 through 2012. Committed to environmental sustainability, the hotel is an official EPA Green Power Partner, receiving all of its electric power from the wind, including production from its own on-site wind turbine. For its many sustainability initiatives, the resort has been named an Environmental Champion by the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.
*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)
About Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."
Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting bookstore.authorhouse.com.