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Wentworth by the Sea

Wentworth by the Sea:
The Life and Times of a Grand Hotel


Once listed among the nation's most endangered historic properties, Wentworth by the Sea is back. Today New Hampshire's most famous seaside hotel is a touchstone to the past. This carefully researched and highly readable volume traces the hotel's first 130 years. Included are over 250 photographs and illustrations, with early never-before published images.

Available on
Released in 2004
Already it in its third printing
and makes a Great Gift.

at local lectures and book signings

  • 260 b&w illustrations130 years of history and more
  • hardcover with dust jacket
  • 230-pps with intro & full index
  • 8-pp color insert
  • glossy stock, large format
  • includes New Castle*& Wentworth family history
  • the untold story of the Campbell Family owners
  • Treaty of Portsmouth details
  • Smith Family Era
  • the Limbo Years
  • published by the famed Peter E. Randall
  • $35 + $4.50 shipping/handling (Continental USA only)

NEW: Author wins DAR Award
NEW: Robinson on NH Public Radio (listen to full show)
NEW: Robinson wins national history commendation for book
NEW: Book review by Rebecca Rule in
Concord Monitor

We almost lost the Wentworth. For two decades, as the twentieth century faded, Wentworth by the Sea hotel teetered on the edge of extinction. New Hampshire’s oldest seaside resort, built in 1874, was listed among the nation’s most endangered historic properties. The aging Victorian loomed empty and silent on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Only a few staunch preservationists dared hope for its survival. Then suddenly the hammers rang out. Starting with the original wooden shell, a thousand workers rebuilt the Wentworth into a modern luxury hotel and spa. It reopened just in time for its 130 th birthday.

This is much more than the tale of an old wooden hotel. Wentworth by the Sea is a survivor, intimately linked to the history of the Portsmouth area and its people. "Wentworth House" is the largest structure in the smallest town in the state. Formerly "Great Island", New Castle was once the colonial capital of New Hampshire. Locals say that Fort Constitution, just down the road, is the site of the first battle of the American Revolution. Across Little Harbor, New Hampshire’s first settlers landed in 1623. Today New Castle retains the character of the ancient fishing village it once was.

This too is the story of the proud Wentworth dynasty of royal governors who loaned their name to the hotel. It takes shape in the dreams of Sarah and Charles Campbell, the original owners, whose hopes were dashed in bankruptcy in 1877. It takes form in the hands of "robber baron" Frank Jones, Portsmouth’s ale tycoon. He spared no expense to reshape this Colonial Revival treasure, adding steam-powered elevators, the first electric lights and luxurious water closets. Here in 1905 the Treaty of Portsmouth delegates stayed, both Japanese and Russian, while negotiating a successful peace to a distant war as the world watched.

This volume traces the hotel’s fascinating history under a dozen managers -- including James and Margaret Smith who owned the Wentworth for 34 years. It follows the lives of guests and staff from the Gay Nineties to the Roaring Twenties, through wars, the Great Depression, the Space Age – and into the Internet Era. Once New England’s exclusive summer paradise for the wealthy, Wentworth by the Sea attracted presidents, famed performers, even a prince. Today it thrives again and remains a touchstone to New Hampshire’s past.

Carefully researched, illustrated with over 250 images and written in lively prose, this fast-paced volume reads like historic fiction. But every word is true.

J. Dennis Robinson is owner and editor of, one of New England’s most popular regional Web portals. A teacher, columnist, lecturer and video producer, he has published over a thousand articles about Maine and New Hampshire history and culture. He lives in Portsmouth with his wife Maryellen.

SEE: An Excerpt from the Book (PDF)

READ: Wentworth by the Sea Stories

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