Nobody Asked Me, But… #268: Hotel History: Wentworth by the Sea
History of the hotel: Wentworth By The Sea, New Castle, New Hampshire (161 rooms): The Wentworth by the Sea (formerly the Wentworth Hotel), built in 1874 by Daniel E. Chase and Charles E. Campbell, was the largest wooden structure on the New Hampshire coast. It was purchased in 1879 by Frank Jones, a wealthy owner of banks, breweries, insurance companies, racing stables, railroads and the largest shoe button company in the world. Jones hired the talented Frank W. Hilton (no relation to Conrad) to manage and promote the Wentworth. Hilton introduced steam elevators, the Western Union Telegraph, a telephone wire to the Rockingham Hotel, high-tech outdoor electric arc lamps, flush toilets, a dishwasher, croquet and lawn tennis, a billiard room, public baths, competition sports halls, horses and an in-house orchestra. With the death of Frank Jones in 1902 the hotel was sold but had no further successful owner until Harry Beckwith bought the Wentworth in 1920 and ran it for 25 years.
In 1905 the hotel housed the Russian and Japanese delegations who negotiated the Treaty of Portsmouth to end the Russo-Japanese War. President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the peace talks and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Frank Jones’ executor, Judge Calvin Page followed his will and the Wentworth provided free accommodation for both delegations. After the signing of the final document at the Portsmouth shipyard, the Japanese organized a “International Day of Love” at Wentworth.
In 1916, the famous 56-year-old Annie Oakley was persuaded by manager Harry Priest to demonstrate her riding and shooting skills to guests of Wentworth. Two sports, golf and swimming, sum up Beckwith’s focus. He hired the famous Donald Ross to design New England’s finest nine-hole course. Beckwith built the Ship, a massive new building shaped like a cruise liner and located between Rye Bridge and the hotel pier. He also created an ocean-fed plunge pool with a new cement floor. In keeping with America’s racist fabric, Beckwith promised his guests that they would receive the best accommodations reserved for non-Jews. The Wentworth thrived through Prohibition and even survived the Great Depression, but was closed during World War II when the military took over the hotel’s facilities for the duration.
In 1946 the Wentworth was acquired by Margaret and James Barker Smith who provided hands-on and knowledgeable management for 34 years until 1980. During these years they focused on entertainment, masquerades, celebrations of the Mardi Gras, guest photography, tennis, fresh seafood. , extension of the golf course to 18 holes, a new modern Olympic-size swimming pool, new expansive floral plantings, and more. Many celebrities have visited Wentworth: Zero Mostel, Jason Robards, Colonel Sanders and Frank Perdue, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Ralph Nader, Ted Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Temple, Richard Nixon, Milton Eisenhower and John Kenneth Galbraith, among many others. On July 4, 1964, Emerson and Jane Reed became the first African Americans to overcome the hotel’s longstanding segregation policy by dining at its restaurant.
By the mid-1970s, the Wentworths and Smiths were aging and deteriorating. In the fall of 1980, after thirty-four consecutive summers, the Smiths sold the hotel to a Swiss conglomerate, the Berlinger Corporation, which unsuccessfully attempted to operate the Wentworth year-round. Finally, Henley Properties, the fourth owner in seven years, bulldozed eighty-five percent of the “more recent” buildings and gutted the older part of the hotel down to its wooden posts. With declining fortunes and changing owners, the Wentworth closed in 1982. After plans for its demolition were announced, it appeared on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s Most Endangered Places and on History Channels. America’s Most Endangered.
In 1997, Ocean Properties acquired Wentworth by the Sea and, after extensive renovation and restoration, reopened in 2003 as a Marriott resort. The hotel is a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Hotels of America.
All of my following books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the title of the book:
- Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hospitality Industry (2009)
- Built to Last: Hotels Over 100 Years Old in New York City (2011)
- Built to Last: 100+ Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
- Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Waldorf Oscar (2014)
- Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hospitality Industry (2016)
- Built to Last: 100+ Year Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
- Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
- Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
- Hotel Mavens: Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig (2020)
- Great American Hotel Architects Volume 2 (2020)
If you need an expert witness:
Stanley Turkel has been an expert witness in over 42 hotel-related cases. His extensive experience in hotel operations is beneficial in cases involving:
- slip and fall accidents
- wrongful deaths
- injuries caused by fire and carbon monoxide
- hotel security issues
- drams store requirements
- hurricane damage and/or business interruption
Feel free to call her toll-free at 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignments.
Stanley MHS, ISHC Turkel
+1 917 628 8549
Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC