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Lounging at the Farragut Hotel

Women on the porch of Farragut Hotel on SeacoastNh.comGoing, Going, Gone! Time is running out to see the Victorian Hotel exhibit currently on display at Rye Town Museum. "Summering in Rye: Over a Century by the Sea" continues only through October. When this show is done, like the hotels themselves, it’s gone forever.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Saturdays to end of October
Rye Historical Society

 

 

 

LAST CHANCE TO SEE RYE EXHIBIT
"Summering in Rye: Over a Century by the Sea"

This exhibit at the Rye Town Museum closes at the end of October. It chronicles the full experience of Rye Beach's resort years from the 1840's to the 1960's including all its hostels and innumerable boarding houses. Museum hours are Saturdays 10-2 or by appointment; call 964 7730. The museum is located in Rye Center beside the Library, just off Washington Rd. Don't miss a chance to lose yourself in a time gone by.

Farragut Hotel in its final days/ Rye, NH / Rye Historical Society on SeacoastNH.com

REMEMBERING THE FARRAGUT
By Alex Herlihy

Who are these ladies of wealth and leisure? We don’t know. But they represent an era, now gone, when the rich and famous lounged the summer away at great wooden hotels like the Farragut.

The first Farragut Hotel in Rye, NH opened in 1868 and burned in 1882. A far more elegant replacement opened in 1883. Like its luxurious cousin, the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel in nearby New Castle, the second Farraguit was known far and wide. It spread out along the rocky Atlantic shore at the up-and-coming tourist destination in Rye. Shaded by the famous Farragut willows, framed by classic Victorian cupolas and served by the deluxe Farragut Coach -- this great lady served the rich and famous. Locals too flocked to the restaurant, bar and playhouse, for almost a century. It is rumored that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald summered here briefly in the 20's, perhaps finding some inspiration for Gatsby.

Unidentified ladies reading and napping on Farragut porch in Rye NH/ Rye Historical Society

Owner John Colby Philbrick pulled out all the stops for his guests, even carrying them into the surf to dunk their oilskin-covered heads before they exposed their entire bodies to the Atlantic chill. Philbrick, along with others at Rye Beach, was so overcome with excitement at the visit of Admiral Farragut to his Atlantic House (located just behind the Farragut site) in 1866, that he named his new hotel after the great man.

Admiral David FarragutThe hotel's front lawn and tennis court stretched right to the rocky shore, until Ocean Boulevard cut through them in 1902. A gazebo was built on the rocks for ocean views and a willow shaded path lead to St. Andrews Episcopal Church, then beyond to Philbricks Beach, a small crescent reserved for the exclusive summer guests.

After the new hotel was built a multi-purpose building across the road was added for all manner of occasion -- from religious services, dancing, parties, theater (and later film) – as well as gambling. Mr. Welds hall was the top entertainment center of Rye Beach.

Generations of guests kept the old lady going long after most other hotels had vanished. But the Farragut, alas, was not as fortunate as the Wentworth, No "Friends of the Farragut" gathered to save the great hotels of Rye. No Ocean Properties arrived in time to rescue her.

The Farragut was razed in 1975 to be replaced by a brick shell, the skin of a future hotel that remained empty for three decades. Now that too has been razed. The lovely open space where the hotel stood reminds what much of Rye and coastal New Hampshire looked like before the rise of the tourist hotels that began early in the 1840s. 

Playing chess at the Farragut Hotel/ Rye Historical Society

Second Ocean House Hotel, opened 1865, burned 1873.  It was the talk of the East Coast with its luxury, its 400 rooms and its 100 person tower with a commanding view from 60 feet up./ Rye Historical on SeacoastNH.com

 

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