The Brief Life of the First Oceanic Hotel
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
Page 1 of 3
The annual sailboat race to the Isles of Shoals is awash with history trivia. The original Gosport Regatta drew competitors from up and down the New England coast. After the race those yachtsmen celebrated at a grand new hotel called the Oceanic. It was the height of Victorian luxury, but it no longer exists. What's that you say? The Oceanic Hotel still stands on Star Island? Read on. (continued below)
The First Tourists
Native Americans were the first souvenir hunters at the Isles of Shoals. Recent archaeological digs prove that prehistoric visitors arrived at least 6,000 years ago. Then came countless hundreds, likely thousands, of European fishermen beginning in the 1620s. The town of Gosport, New Hampshire was established on Star Island in 1715.
Who built the first hotel on the islands ten miles out from Portsmouth Harbor? To be honest, we're not sure. But it looks like the Haley family began operating the Mid-Ocean House of Entertainment on Smuttynose Island as early as 1810. The Haleys sold four islands (Smuttynose, Cedar, Hog, and Malaga) to a cranky entrepreneur from Portsmouth named Thomas Laighton in 1839. Laighton re-opened the Mid-Ocean House, then built an enormous hotel of his own on Hog, which he wisely renamed Appledore Island. The Appledore Hotel opened in 1848, well ahead of the tourist boom. At its peak, Laighton's hotel could accommodate 500 guests.
Adventurous early travelers like writer William Leonard Gage had the option of staying among the fishing families of Star Island. Gage often lodged at the Gosport House on Star operated by Oregen Caswell and his wife Mary, whom he greatly admired. Caswell's brother Lemuel ran the Atlantic House nearby. Lawyer and writer Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast, also stayed with the Caswells at Gosport, but found it less than appealing. "The whole island had a strong fishy smell," Dana later wrote, "and in going ashore we had to walk over a surface of fishes’ heads and bones, which the fishermen leave on the beach, just where they throw them.”
CONTINUE OCEANIC HOTEL
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