A Grand Hotel Within the White Mountains

In this installment of Larger Than Life: Architecture Through the Ages, we find that much is the same after 120 years in a majestic New Hampshire hotel.
A Grand Hotel Within the White Mountains
Looming near the original structure of the hotel is the Presidential Mountain Range, part of the Appalachian Mountains. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the range that includes Mounts Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, and Madison. Prominent in this exterior view is the main turret, one of three, and its red standing-seam, metal roof. The New Hampshire state flag flies at the tower’s top. Two dozen Juliette balconies, a balustrade connection to the building façade without a deck to walk on, serve more as decoration than for practical enjoyment. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
11/14/2023
Updated:
11/26/2023

Since the completion of the grand Omni Mount Washington Hotel in 1902, the structure stands as a window to majestic nature. To honor what guests can view of the imposing mountains from windows and experience while traipsing through surrounding woods and fields, the outdoors comes indoors in subtle ways.

“The hotel has always told the story of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, no matter where you look, inside or out,” said Craig Clemmer, director of marketing and history tour guide.

Now, a 269-room hotel, Omni Mount Washington has hosted presidents, poets, princesses, and generations of family members. At the turn of the 20th century, it was the largest primarily wooden structure with a unique steel frame in New England, and America’s gilded-age elite flocked to it, according to Mr. Clemmer.

“Sometimes, 50 trains a day would arrive at one of three [hotel] train stations from New York City, Boston, Montreal, and other areas, [and the destination was considered] the last of the grand hotels,” he said.

While the hotel has been added onto, renovated, and restored these past 120-plus years, much of the original structure is intact. In fact, many of the hotel’s expansive windows, containing more than a half-acre of glass; its 200,000 square feet of wood flooring; and most of its 2,000 doors are painstakingly preserved.

The hotel was built by New Hampshire native Joseph Stickney, who made his fortune in the coal and railroad industries. The architectural style is classic Spanish Renaissance revival. Craftsmen in droves were brought from Europe to lend their skills to the looming structure’s interior and exterior ambiance. Stickney hired American architect Charles Alling Gifford to realize his vision of a hotel like no other, open for the short Northeastern season lasting from late spring to fall. Not until 1999 did the hotel stay open for a winter season, due to available skiing and other cold-weather activities at the nearby Bretton Woods ski area.

Late fall-through-winter snow covers much of the signature red roof of both the original 269-room structure and the newer building, the Presidential Wing, a 69-room hotel facility that includes a 25,000-square-foot spa and the Conference Center. Eleven miles of plumbing pipe were originally installed.  The 2 million square feet of lumber to build the original hotel was milled on the property. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
Late fall-through-winter snow covers much of the signature red roof of both the original 269-room structure and the newer building, the Presidential Wing, a 69-room hotel facility that includes a 25,000-square-foot spa and the Conference Center. Eleven miles of plumbing pipe were originally installed.  The 2 million square feet of lumber to build the original hotel was milled on the property. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The Cave bar was originally an underground squash court at a time when families summered at the hotel and enjoyed other early-20th-century pursuits, such as bowling, gentlemen’s billiards, and ladies’ bridge. It's constructed of exposed native New Hampshire granite and handmade bricks. “The stone grotto is underneath the porte-cochere,” Mr. Clemmer said. “During prohibition, barrels of whiskey were hidden in there, so instead of a squash court, it became a bar and night club.” The steel and brick-arched ceiling present exposed pipes, and the sturdy, 32-seat bar is crafted of solid rock maple from trees felled on the property when the hotel was constructed in 1900–1902. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The Cave bar was originally an underground squash court at a time when families summered at the hotel and enjoyed other early-20th-century pursuits, such as bowling, gentlemen’s billiards, and ladies’ bridge. It's constructed of exposed native New Hampshire granite and handmade bricks. “The stone grotto is underneath the porte-cochere,” Mr. Clemmer said. “During prohibition, barrels of whiskey were hidden in there, so instead of a squash court, it became a bar and night club.” The steel and brick-arched ceiling present exposed pipes, and the sturdy, 32-seat bar is crafted of solid rock maple from trees felled on the property when the hotel was constructed in 1900–1902. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The Great Hall holds a French-revival-style lobby that was restored in 2007 at the cost of $1.2 million. From the hotel’s original ballroom down the classical column-flanked, symmetrical hallway are handcrafted Windsor chairs with embossed “MW” green leather seats. The intricate moldings and corbels convey foliage designs, and the carpets feature designs of some of the region’s indigenous wildflowers, such as bluebells, buttercups, and sandwort. The many brass lighting fixtures and chandeliers in this space are all original. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The Great Hall holds a French-revival-style lobby that was restored in 2007 at the cost of $1.2 million. From the hotel’s original ballroom down the classical column-flanked, symmetrical hallway are handcrafted Windsor chairs with embossed “MW” green leather seats. The intricate moldings and corbels convey foliage designs, and the carpets feature designs of some of the region’s indigenous wildflowers, such as bluebells, buttercups, and sandwort. The many brass lighting fixtures and chandeliers in this space are all original. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
When Joseph Stickney married 29-years-his-junior Carolyn in 1892, he was to have only 11 years as her husband and only a little more than a year enjoying his hotel before dying in 1903 at age 63. Mrs. Stickney remarried French aristocrat Jean Baptiste Marie de Faucigny Lucinge and gained the unofficial title of “princess.” Dubbed the Princess Room, her private dining room has today become an intimate spot for enjoying a snack, playing a game, or simply meeting for a conversation. The room’s intricate leaded-glass transoms and gilded-paint ceiling are its focal points, while its dental or swagged moldings and gilded, swag-design-topped columns complete its Italianate style. The décor, red Victorian fire chairs (for putting one’s back to a fire), and blue-pillowed seating are new, inspired, and intended to complement the ornateness of the space. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
When Joseph Stickney married 29-years-his-junior Carolyn in 1892, he was to have only 11 years as her husband and only a little more than a year enjoying his hotel before dying in 1903 at age 63. Mrs. Stickney remarried French aristocrat Jean Baptiste Marie de Faucigny Lucinge and gained the unofficial title of “princess.” Dubbed the Princess Room, her private dining room has today become an intimate spot for enjoying a snack, playing a game, or simply meeting for a conversation. The room’s intricate leaded-glass transoms and gilded-paint ceiling are its focal points, while its dental or swagged moldings and gilded, swag-design-topped columns complete its Italianate style. The décor, red Victorian fire chairs (for putting one’s back to a fire), and blue-pillowed seating are new, inspired, and intended to complement the ornateness of the space. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The original dining room, with wide views of the White Mountains’ Presidential Range and its multiple Tiffany-style art-glass arched windows, includes, as of a 2015 renovation, an 18-by-18-foot marble bar as its centerpiece. The choir and orchestra lofts with ornamental railings were originally installed to accommodate local choirs (especially the Bretton Woods Boys Choir) that 20th-century guests enjoyed while dining. The crystal, brass, and glass-globe lighting fixture is original and reflects the flood of exterior light that penetrates the space through numerous windows. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
The original dining room, with wide views of the White Mountains’ Presidential Range and its multiple Tiffany-style art-glass arched windows, includes, as of a 2015 renovation, an 18-by-18-foot marble bar as its centerpiece. The choir and orchestra lofts with ornamental railings were originally installed to accommodate local choirs (especially the Bretton Woods Boys Choir) that 20th-century guests enjoyed while dining. The crystal, brass, and glass-globe lighting fixture is original and reflects the flood of exterior light that penetrates the space through numerous windows. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
Flowing from the main dining room is the Sun Dining Room. Despite various updates over the years, this space has retained the Italian hand-plastered, leaf-design work at the top of the columns as well as moldings over window pediments and corners of ceiling arches. The art-glass transom theme is carried into this spacious room, and the large leaded-glass windows with vertical transoms afford guests clear views of the outdoors. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
Flowing from the main dining room is the Sun Dining Room. Despite various updates over the years, this space has retained the Italian hand-plastered, leaf-design work at the top of the columns as well as moldings over window pediments and corners of ceiling arches. The art-glass transom theme is carried into this spacious room, and the large leaded-glass windows with vertical transoms afford guests clear views of the outdoors. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
Carolyn Stickney was infamous for taking her four-poster, 12-foot-tall rock maple bed with her everywhere she traveled. The bed is now in the hotel’s Princess Suite, and guests in the suite can now imagine what it was like to be the grand dame of such a grand hotel. Other furnishings in this suite have been updated but still maintain early 20th<strong>-</strong>century period elements; the former wood-burning fireplace now has gas logs. The magnificent views from this room are notable, as from all rooms at the hotel, which accommodates 1,800 guests property-wide. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
Carolyn Stickney was infamous for taking her four-poster, 12-foot-tall rock maple bed with her everywhere she traveled. The bed is now in the hotel’s Princess Suite, and guests in the suite can now imagine what it was like to be the grand dame of such a grand hotel. Other furnishings in this suite have been updated but still maintain early 20th-century period elements; the former wood-burning fireplace now has gas logs. The magnificent views from this room are notable, as from all rooms at the hotel, which accommodates 1,800 guests property-wide. (Courtesy of the Mount Washington Hotel)
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