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The Forgotten Founders of Hotel Wentworth



Another family member, Dr. Amory Jewett, Jr., may have played a part. Jewett had married one of Sarah Campbell’s sisters. When she died, he promptly married another. The doctor had fallen on hard times when, after curing a small town of smallpox, he contracted the disease himself. When rural folk in Massachusetts then refused to be treated by "the smallpox doctor", Jewett needed a new career. Using money inherited from his grandmother, he invested his savings into the Wentworth Hotel and, for a short time, served as a manager with his brother-in-law Charles.

Rare photo of the exterior of the original Wentworth Hotel in New Castle, NH (c) from Campbell family archives"Land is changing hands at this seaside resort," the Portsmouth Journal reported in March of 1874, "and ere long the town will be renowned for its summer residences."

Erastus Mansfield, a Massachusetts builder and another relative of Chase, apparently designed the original boxy "L-shaped" hotel. The 82-room hotel was a success, but Daniel Chase was over-extended in a tough recession era. A bankruptcy report dated June 8,1877 shows Chase was in debt to 95 creditors for a whopping $369,376.90. Among those owed money was builder Erastus Mansfield ($2,200) and Sarah Campbell of New Castle ($4,500) and Dr. Jewett ($2,700). The family business had gone bust.

Amazingly, Daniel Chase recovered from his debts, re-established his rum distillery, and died a wealthy man three decades later. His lengthy obituary makes no mention of the Wentworth Hotel fiasco. Dr. Amory Jewett later tried his hand as a pharmacist, then as a farmer, but never found much success. Charles and Sarah Campbell went back to running their nearby cottage. Charles, in an odd twist, became winter caretaker and night watchman of the hotel on the hill. He survived until 1908 and the job passed to his adopted son.

wbsbooklink.jpgFrank Jones bought the Wentworth in 1879. Over the next two decades Jones poured money into the property, making it among the most luxurious seaside resorts in New England. Jones added steam-powered elevators, electric lights, expansive golf links, tennis courts and docks for visiting yachts. It is his Wentworth Hotel, with its tall towers and sloped Italian roof, that survive today.

Before Jones’ died in 1902, he had expanded the posh hotel to 800 feet long. Through most of the 20th century the great white building dominated the western end of New Castle. In the 1980s and 90s a series of owners developed the hotel grounds into private luxury condominiums and razed portions of the ancient building. Each threatened to tear the whole structure down, but local preservationists prevailed. By the time the current owners, the Walsh family of Ocean Properties, saved the hotel, it had been cut back to its 1880-era size. Amazingly, embedded inside the modern structure, are the timbers of George and Sarah Campbell’s original dream hotel from 1874. Members of the Campbell family living in the region today have retained only memories, a few artifacts and photographs, and the right to say – our family built the Wentworth. 


J. Dennis Robinson’s complete history of Wentworth by the Sea is available online and at the renovated hotel in New Castle, NH. It is currently in its third printing. The book was published by Peter E. Randall, Publisher, commissioned by Ocean Properties and The Friends of the Wentworth, the nonprofit organization that saved the historic hotel from destruction. The photos in this article are used by permission of the Campbell family descendants with thanks from the author.



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