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The Grand Hotels of the White Mountains

About this exhibition

Museum Exhibition Dates: May 17 – Sept 12, 2019

Exhibition Locations: Museum of the White Mountains, Main Gallery

Opening reception: May 17, 5-7pm

Curatorial Team: Bryant F. Tolles, Jr., Cynthia Robinson, Rebecca Enman

Online ExhibitionClick here

Explore The Grand Hotels of the White Mountains, featuring the origins, development, and history of New Hampshire’s grand resort hotels. The creative visual journey includes paintings, photographs, various artifacts, and stories of the people who visited and worked at these gracious establishments. Special focus for the exhibition are the four surviving hotels: the Omni Mount Washington Resort, Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club, and The Wentworth Hotel.

“Last summer we celebrated the White Mountain National Forest, and this year we are thrilled to bring to life the rich history of the grand hotels that sprung up throughout the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, drawing the nation’s wealthiest families to New Hampshire,” said Cynthia Robinson, Director of the Museum of the White Mountains. “Entering the exhibit, one is transported to another time, and can experience the ‘grand hotel’ through the eyes of a guest, or perhaps a hotel worker, while learning the history of the grand hotel period and its significance to our state.”

During the golden age of the Grand Resort Hotels in the White Mountain region, between 1880 and 1910, there were approximately 30 hotels that could be considered “Grand,” meaning those that provided room for 200 guests, with elegantly styled dining rooms, parlors, and lobby spaces, incorporating recreation activities and events targeting an elite class of tourists. These gracious establishments cultivated exclusive worlds apart where the honored guests could truly re-create themselves. The exhibit also illuminates New Hampshire’s White Mountains as a case study for the American Plan hospitality model, where patrons paid one price for room, meals, activities and amenities – the precursor to today’s ‘all inclusive’ model.

Grand Hotel Odyssey Activity: Experience the beauty, grandeur, and historical underpinnings of the White Mountain Region by seeking out the locations of current day, as well as long gone, Grand Resort Hotels. Created by David M Leuser, Ph.D. Click here to view and print this activity.

The exhibit also includes video reflections of people who are intimately familiar with the Grand Hotels through a special partnership with New Hampshire Public Television.

Thanks to the many GRAND supporters of this exhibition.

(Click to make larger)

Grand Hotels Summer 2019 Speaker Series

Special series of related lectures by guest historians and experts. The full Speaker Series presentations are recorded and made available online.

Click Here for Full Summer 2019 Speaker Series List and Videos

The Grand Resort Hotels of the White Mountains: Architecture, History, and the Preservation Record
Presented by Bryant Tolles, Jr.
Tuesday, June 11, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

Architectural historian and exhibition co-curator, Bryant Tolles, Jr. shares the history and architecture of the grand resort hotel phenomenon and hospitality tourism in the White Mountains of New Hampshire from the pre-Civil War era to the present. Click here to learn more.

A Hotel Goes to Peace, Not War: The International Monetary Conference at Bretton Woods
Presented by Carl Lindblade
Thursday, June 13, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

Join us for this special presentation by Carl Lindblade, an amateur White Mountain Historian who serves as the official IMF story teller for the Omni Mt. Washington. He’s a former hotelier and UNH and PSU faculty member. Click here to learn more.

Grand Hotels as Summer Ritual
Presented by R. Stuart Wallace
Wednesday, June 19, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

White Mountain Grand Hotels were promoted and designed to give urban tourists an escape from the city that included all the comforts of home.  R. Stuart Wallace will tell the story of how hotel managers designed rituals and provided services compatible with middle class culture within a “wilderness” setting. Click here to learn more.

The Early Taverns of the White Mountains
Presented by James L. Garvin
Tuesday, June 25, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

The early taverns of the unsettled White Mountain region were essential to the survival and comfort of travelers who passed through the desolate notches, often in the winter months. James L. Garvin will describe these buildings and the services they provided, offering a stark contrast with the luxury of the grand hotels in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Click here to learn more.

Engaging Future Generations: Hosts and Visitors at the Grand Hotel
Presented by Dr. Adam Keul
Saturday, July 6, 2–3:30 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

NH’s Grand Hotels have stood the test of time by adapting to the needs of both visitors and employees. As demographics and market dynamics change, Dr. Adam Keul a tourism geographer and Associate Professor of Tourism Management and Policy at Plymouth State, will explain what can we foresee for the future of these historic sites? Click here to learn more.

As One Era Ends, Another Begins
Presented by Mark Okrant
Tuesday, July 9, 5:30–7 p.m

Watch Presentation Online

Join us for this special talk by author Mark Okrant. At the beginning of the twentieth century, automobile transportation gradually supplanted rail as the principal conveyor of summer visitors into the White Mountains. Soon, the destination hotel era yielded to smaller properties whose most compelling feature was advantageous location. Click here to learn more.

American Plan Hospitality
Presented by Stephen Barba
Thursday, July 18, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

Stephen Barba spent 48 years at The BALSAMS in Dixville Notch working his first three summers as a caddy and more than three decades as president and managing partner. Learn how the American plan hospitality heritage is rooted in the way pioneer families living on the frontier of New England accommodated occasional travelers and how this rustic homespun tradition naturally evolved into the core operating principle of destination Grand Resorts. Click here to learn more.

Politics and Profit: The Sinclair House in Bethlehem, 1840–1880
Presented by Rebecca W. S. More
Wednesday, July 24, 5:30–7 p.m.

Watch Presentation Online

Before the Grand Hotels defined the apogee of White Mountain Tourism, small hotels for transients and boarding houses abounded in the region. Rebecca W. S. More tells the story of the early development of the Sinclair House in Bethlehem and how diverse political and economic activities laid the foundation for a vacation mecca in the White Mountains. Click here to learn more.

Siting the Pemigewasset House within the Changing Landscape of American Tourism 
Presented by John Christ
​Thursday, August 8, 5:30–7 p.m

Plymouth’s Pemigewasset House was both a destination and a waypoint on the itineraries of many travelers as they ventured north to the White Mountains. This presentation by John Christ examines how the hotel met the evolving expectations of visitors as the landscape was transformed by new forms of recreation, modes of transportation, and desires for visual consumption. Click here to learn more.

Watch Presentation Online

Life Downstairs: The Legacy of British Servant Culture on American Pop Culture
Presented by Ann McClellan
(Rescheduled) Wednesday, August 14, 5:30–7 p.m.

Join Ann McClellan as she explores the history behind the rise and fall of British servants and why Americans are so fascinated by their stories on page and screen. Ann is a professor of English at Plymouth State University where she teaches classes on 19th and 20th century British literature and culture, Global literature, and film. Click here to learn more.

Watch Presentation Online


This speaker series is presented with support from MWM membership.