For the Seacoast region, this once-giant structure was the original "Hotel New Hampshire." Opened in 1874, Wentworth-by-Sea had already survived three "eras" of ownership, including the reign of local tycoon Frank Jones, when Harry Beckwith purchased it in 1920.
This gallery of images is depicts that great white Gatsby era which continued through until World War II. As in the past, The Wentworth was an exclusive hotel for the privileged few. The large expensively-printed brochure pictured here touts a clientele of "the best social, political and athletic life of the nation." From arrival to departure, the brochure promises, "Wentworth guests may expect and will, receive quiet, intelligent and self-effacing service from all employees." Private correspondence in the archives show clearly that only "Gentiles" need apply for reservations. Locals, however, did find welcome employment, even during hard times, among the scores of staff required to maintain the posh hotel each summer.
The Beckwith era brought many changes to the three-floor hotel on the hill in New Castle, just 58 miles from Boston overlooking the sea and the Isles of Shoals. The new owner added many windows, bathrooms, a bath house on the shore, a salt water pool, a 9-hole golf course and tennis courts. Beckwith installed "The Ship", a ship-shaped wooden structure with dressing rooms, a bar and a theater that survives today.
The brochure also shows that, in an era between two wars, that guests were concerned with safety. Lifeguards were on duty at the new cement swimming pool. Night watchmen patroled in the evenings. The promotional material goes into great detail about the 3,300 fire sprinklers and doubly backed-up water pumping system. Advertising highlights the careful purchase, washing and preparation of food. Beckwith, who also owned the famous Farragut Hotel in nearby Rye, was well aware of safety concerns in the post-Titanic tourism years.
But mostly, the brochure, like vacation literature today, promotes fun -- water-skiing, sailing, boating, every imaginable activity from masquerade balls to bridge parties. A dance band and a small symphony orchestra were on hand. Guest were invited to stable their own horses and bring the family as children were well distracted by a calendar of daily events.
The hotel closed during the war and the Beckwith era ended in 1945 just as Nazi U-boats were surrendering in nearby Portsmouth Harbor. The hotel was purchased in 1946 by James and Margaret Smith who ran it until 1980.
By J. Dennis Robinson
Research by Maryellen Burke, Friends of the Wentworth
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