By Roger Cox, Editor
The Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire's White Mountains dates to 1902. Pennsylvania coal and rail magnate Joseph Stickney built the stately white hotel, employing some 250 Italian artisans to create, among other things, the exceptionally ornate plasterwork that still decorates the lobby, ballroom, and octagonal dining room. Renovated now after falling on hard times, the National Historic Landmark once again lures guests with its 900-foot wraparound veranda, four-course dinners, and full suite of resort facilities, including an 18-hole Donald Ross golf course, swimming pools, horseback riding, tennis, and hiking trails.
The resort sits on 2,500 acres in the White Mountain National forest in a ring of forested peaks. The tallest of these is 6,288-foot Mt. Washington, New England's loftiest. It is renowned for its windy summit where conditions are more arctic than temperate. The Ammonoosuc River flows past the hotel separating the knoll it sits on from the meadow beyond.
In 1944, the hotel made history when the representatives of 44 nations met there for the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. Known as the Bretton Woods Conference, this historic meeting established the American dollar as the backbone or benchmark of international exchange, pegging it to gold at $35/ounce. The Gold Room where they met is now cordoned off and except for new carpet looks much as it did then. That conference also led to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund. During that historic summer, the hotel never opened to outside guests, the U.S. Government having taken it over for the entire season (only one other summer since 1902 has the hotel not opened and that was following the Depression).
Pro Shop: 603-278-8989
Tennis was part of the resort experience when the hotel first opened, but it reached a crescendo in 1972 when what were then 12 red-clay courts became the venue for the inaugural Volvo International Tournament. The event subsequently moved to North Conway's Cranmore Racquet Club and then on to Stratton before ending up in New Haven, where it was replaced by the Pilot Pen. But it left a legacy at the home in rooms that bear the names of such former guests as as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, and Roy Emerson, all of whom played in the Volvo event.
Tragically, those courts have disappeared, replaced by a spa and conference center. Four new red-clay courts were constructed off to the east, but that hardly compensates for the loss of history. The hotel's solid tennis pro, Tom Over, continues to spend his summers at the hotel. After playing satellite events, Over went to work for Laver-Emerson Tennis Holidays at what was then their site at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island.
Tennis Programs. Over runs basic 1-hour clinics daily for adults and others for juniors, supplementing those with private lessons and sessions for stronger juniors (like those on high school teams), sometimes bringing in local junior players as well. "There are so many things to do here that people come up, play some tennis, and then go off to take advantage of the other activities," notes Over. "We do some round robins in late July and August when there are more players. We also set up matches, using employees and other guests. People like it up here. It's nice and relaxed." New on his calendar is a late Friday afternoon "Tennis Gathering," which gives guests who've just checked in a chance to hit with Over and to meet other players. Courts & Fees. $10/hour for resort guests; $14/hour for the public.
Golf Courses. The resort has 27 holes of golf altogether. That includes the original 18 holes designed by Donald Ross. Its front nine is relatively level and open, while the back 9 is hillier and more exacting. The 2nd and 18th holes cross the Ammonoosuc River. Par 71. Length: 6,543 yards from the championship tees. There is also a relatively new Mt. Pleasant 9-hole course and an 18-hole practice putting green.
And ... The hotel has two swimming pools, one indoor and heated, the other outdoor. Both are original to the hotel. There is also a sauna and Jacuzzi, an equestrian center, carriage rides, guided hikes, bike rentals (and guided mountain-bike trips), historical tours of the hotel and property, croquet, volleyball, fishing, and a video arcade and game room. The hotel is a short drive from coal-burning Mt. Washington Cog Railway, which goes to the top of Mt. Washington.
Children are encouraged and from late June to early September the hotel runs a dedicated program for those ages 4-12. It goes on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 6-9 p.m., seven days a week. There are also daytime babysitters available for those younger than 5. The daily activities include field trips, making cookies and ice cream with chef, tennis lessons, daily swimming, fishing in river, nature program, and arts & crafts. The evening program has kids eat early and then takes them to a movie. There is also a children's playground.
Guests have the option of dining in main dining room (which has live entertainment and dancing to five-piece band) from a menu that may have sautéed breast of chicken with artichokes, honey macadamia-crusted tuna, or broiled tenderloin with shrimp brochette supplemented by two health conscious low-fat, low-cholesterol choices like vegetable Wellington. Guests are assigned a table for the duration of their stay and thus have the same wait staff each night. That room requires a jacket but the smaller Bretton Arms Dining Room, while as elegant and without entertainment, does not, and neither does the family-oriented Fabyan's Station a mile away.
Afterward, there is entertainment in The Cave, an old speakeasy, which is one of six lounges. Kids and families can head for the Cranberry Creamery, an ice cream shop.
If you like the sound of the Mount Washington Resort, also check out:
The Omni Mount Washington Resort
Bretton Woods, NH 03575
Seasons. Although the hotel is open year-round, tennis season runs roughly from Memorial Day to the third week in October, with activity reaching a peak from July into September.
Travel Instructions. The nearest airport is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) in Manchester, NH, 82 miles to the south. Other options are Portland International Jetport (PWM) in Portland, ME, 89 miles to the southeast, Burlington International Airport, 113 miles to the west or Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), 170 miles to the south.
General Tourist Information. Visit the New Hampshire Office of Travel & Tourism website.