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Mt. Washington Hotel On Ice
Bretton Woods, NH
March 2001

Mt Washington Hotel It took us 100 years to finally visit the historic Mt. Washington, one of New Hampshire's last grand hotels. We went to imagine how it must have been for visitors to the many SeacoastNH hotels of the 19th century - at Wentworth-by-the-Sea, the Farragut in Hampton, or at the Appledore or Oceanic Hotel on the Isles of Shoals. The big difference - those places all closed for the winter, and so did the Mount Washington throughout the 20 the century.

This is only the second year that the grand hotel in ritzy Bretton Woods has opened for winter. Joseph Stickeny imported 250 Italian craftsmen (most of whom left) to New Hampshire and created this giant structure in 18 months from 1901 to 1902. Then he promptly died, leaving it to his eccentric wife who then married into European royalty. When other hotels charged $5 for a night, the Mt Washington charged $20. The price and the NH version of luxury has been artfully restored by a group of investors who saved the building from possible destruction.

We arrived just before the major snow storm of 2000, but still had plenty of snow and refreshing 10 degree weather while cross country skiing over the frozen golf course and into the idyllic woods. Few visitors, for some reason, were sitting on the porch that faces the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Lots of visitors, however, clustered around one fireplace in the expansive lobby, hit the free drink hour, toured in the shops and bars in the cavernous bottom floor. We ended up with table #1 in the sunny dining hall for our three-day visit as the documentary photo shows. There is an ancient indoor pool, superb skiing, plenty of food, lots of family-style entertainment.

You have to be a real International Monetary Fund fan to dig the historic room where the Bretton Woods agreement was signed. Still, the building itself, and the lifestyle feel historic, Renovators have uncovered hundreds of wooden doors (painted white with government funding) and Tiffany glass windows. A live operator runs the little elevator. Electrical fixtures installed by the Edison Company are still in use. The stark open atmosphere of the 1902 hotel is back. Dozens of similar hotels operated throughout New Hampshire, but the old wooden giants simply could not survive.

New Hampshire residents should be required by law to spend time in the White Mountains every few years. We didn't find the traffic to be a problem, except along the woodsy trails near the Basin and the Old Man of the Mountains. There annoying, loud, aggressive "personal snow machines" filled the pine-scented air with gas fumes and jostled for position on the paths. There oughta be a law. -- JDR

Mt Washington Hotel winter scene

Mt Washington Hotel postcard

Mt Washington Hotel dining room

Mt Washington Hotel meal

Mt Washington Hotel staircase

Mt Washington Hotel porch

Mt Washington Hotel Ski Room

Dennis Robinson by brook

Snowmobilers on the trail

Photos by J. Dennis Robinson
(except the one of JDR by Maryellen Burke)
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Copyright 2001 by SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.

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