The Wentworth Hotel was built in 1873, the same year as construction of the Oceanic Hotel on the Isles of Shoals, visible in the distance from Newcastle, NH. Millionaire ale tycoon Frank Jones bought the hotel in 1879 under the name of his manager Frank Hilton & Co. Jones had owned the prestigious Rockingham Hotel in Portsmouth since 1874 and the Wentworth was the matching Seacoast jewel.
Under Jones' direction the hotel was expanded and a third floor added with its Mansard roof and the towers from which, according to the brochure, visitors could see as far as the New Hampshire White Mountains. Local legend says Jones designed the towers that were similar to those on his own Woodbury Avenue mansion in Portsmouth. A large dining room (120 x 42 feet) was added to the back. Jones also added a massive carriage house that held up to 75 horses. Brochure copy focuses, interestingly, on the quality of the local water and lists the complete scientific analysis of the water content. Emphasis is also placed on the extraordinary views from the large windows, a panorama, visitors are told, second to none in the East.
By 1881 the hotel could accommodate 450 guests. Manager Frank Hilton died that year at age 40 and was succeeded by George Thompson and then by G.K. Hill. In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur stayed at the Wentworth during a visit to nearby Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Around 1888 with the addition of the dining wing, a restaurant opened on the top floor and was opened to the public. During part of Jones era the familiar white hotel was actually painted a Nile green with a red roof. During the incarceration of hundreds of prisoners at the navy yard during the Spanish American war, their captured leader Admiral Cervera frequented the Wentworth and was treated as a local celebrity. Jones died in 1902 and ownership of the hotel passed to the corporate managers.
By Maryellen Burke
© 2000 SeacoastNH.com
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