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By the summer of 1905, war between Russia and Japan had waged for close to 18 months. Known as the Russo-Japanese War, it was a conflict that saw the powerful Imperial Japanese Army wrestle geopolitical control of Manchuria and Korea from czarist Russia. The crux of their rivalry boiled down to Russia’s presence in a Chinese coastal community of Port Arthur, which the Qing Dynasty had leased to the Russians for use as a military naval base in the 1890s. The area is now formally known as the District of Lüshunkou, although it has gone by other names like Lüshun City and Ryojun. Additional tensions flared in regard to perceived territorial rights to govern the entire Korean Peninsula, as well as the massive, resource rich region of Chinese Manchuria. Fearing the encroachment of Russian influence on its plans to build an Asiatic empire, Japan declared war on Russia in 1904.

Treaty of Portsmouth celebration 1905
Postcard sent by newspaper correspondent Edmund Noble to his wife, Lydia, celebrating the signing of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. Text reads: Hotel Wentworth, Portsmouth, Sept. 3, 1905. Dear Ma. The conference is now practically over; I shall therefore be home on Monday or Tuesday, probably Tuesday. The signing is to take place in the conference chamber, where all the negotiations have thus far been conducted. There's wet weather and fog here today. With love, Edmund.

Considered to be a world superpower by early 20th century standards, many observers believed that Japan had gotten in over its head. Yet, the small island nation managed to thoroughly defeat the Russian military in several notable battles at places like Liaoyang, the Yalu River, and even Port Arthur itself. At first, Nicholas II—the reigning czar—refused to accept defeat, confident that his forces would prevail in the end. But when Russia’s entire Baltic Fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima in May of 1905, Nicholas and his advisors started exploring avenues for peace.

August 8 1905 Russian and Japanese Delegation Arrivals

(From left to right) Russian, American, and Japanese Envoys arrive at Hotel Wentworth on August 8, 1905.

As President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt had paid close attention to the Russo-Japanese War. Offering to host peace talks between the two nations in early 1905, only the Japanese had originally expressed interest with Roosevelt’s proposal. Yet, with the disastrous defeat at Tsushima later that year, the Russians finally accepted Roosevelt’s suggestion that they all meet to discuss peaceful resolution.

Treaty of Portsmouth postcard Hotel- Wentworth and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Postcard shows the building at the Portsmouth Navy Yard where the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed, the Hotel Wentworth, and flags of Japan and Russia, all superimposed on an American flag. Postcard was sent by Edmund Noble. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. Text reads: Conference resumed today, Aug. 14, 1905. Edmund.

The President arranged for the delegates of the two nations to meet at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, hoping that New Hampshire’s cool climate would provide a welcome alternative to the sweltering humidity of the District of Columbia. In finding a place to house the delegates, the President’s staff reached out to the Hotel Wentworth. Its previous owner, Frank Jones, had passed away two years prior, so responsibility for its daily operations fell to the executive of his estate, Judge Calvin Page. Channeling Jones’ legendary hospitality, Judge Page offered to host each delegation free of charge.

Treaty of Portsmouth postcard 1905

Postcard depicting exterior of Hotel Wentworth sent by newspaper correspondent Edmund Noble. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. Text reads: Hotel Wentworth, Portsmouth. Aug. 24, 1905. Dear Ma. Card received. Doubt whether I shall be at home at end of week. Edmund.

All the while, Roosevelt presided over the talks, getting the two side to eventually sign the Treaty of Portsmouth. The document effectively ended the war, giving Japan its lease over Port Arthur as well as a wealth of territorial rights in Manchuria, Korea, and elsewhere in the northern Pacific. While the final version of the treaty was signed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, several earlier drafts had been written at the Hotel Wentworth. When Russia and Japan finally signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, the Japanese delegates celebrated by hosting an event called the “International Love Fest.” And for his part in the negotiations, President Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize.

This has been a Historic Hotels History Mystery.
For more fun facts, trivia, and historic highlights, check out our History Mystery pages for Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter below and follow us on social media to play along.

Question: Which historic hotel hosted envoys during the peace negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War?

1. The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection
2. Hotel New Grand
3. Historic Hotel Bethlehem
4. Wentworth by the Sea

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