Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods

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Discover the Omni Mount Washington Resort Bretton Woods, site of the Bretton Woods conference of 1944 from which the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank were established.

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Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back to 1902.

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Constructed between 1900 and 1902, the Omni Mount Washington Resort cost Joseph Stickney a total of some $1.7 million to complete—more than to $52 million in today’s money. Stickney would rely on the architectural expertise of Charles Alling Gifford, whose worked included the Jekyll Island Club (another member of Historic Hotels of America). Its design incorporated some of the most cutting-edge innovations of its age, including a steel-frame superstructure, an electrical power plant, and a sophisticated internal heating system. Stickney and Gifford brought in some 250 Italian artisans to raise the Y-shaped structure by working on its exterior granite and stucco masonry. The location’s brilliant façade was joined by two, five-story octagonal towers, as well. But many of the interior spaces featured the same intricate attention to detail. The hotel featured more than 1,000 beautiful windows and nearly 5,000 electric lights. Intricate Italian plasterwork, crystal chandeliers, and Tiffany stained-glass accents adorned the lofty Great Hall and the neighboring Main Dining Room. The rustic brickwork in The Cave and the Conservatory’s acoustic dome were nearly as pleasing to the eye as the majestic geography of Mount Washington. Guests were awestruck by the columned Porte Cochere, too, as well as the subtle details of the Sun Dining Room’s carvings and the Grand Ballroom’s plasterwork.

The architectural style of the Omni Mount Washington Resort is that of Renaissance Revival. Renaissance Revival architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Spanish Renaissance Revival-style architecture was one of the many offshoots from the Neo-Renaissance movement that popularized itself among Western architects at the height of the Gilded Age. Yet, its emergence in the United States did not truly happen until the onset of the Roaring Twenties. So, in a way, the Omni Mount Washington was ahead of its time in terms of its architectural appearance. Buildings constructed with Spanish Renaissance Revival-style architecture often embraced an asymmetrical design that used multiple uneven sections to create the layout. Those segments were usually constructed with stucco and were connected by a series of stunning courtyards, arcades and hallways. Towers were also a common element, as were detailed curvilinear gables along the crestline of the roof. Many ornate carvings proliferated throughout the exterior, which gave an alluring sense of freedom and majesty.

The Omni Mount Washington Resort has since undergone additional construction work over the years, with the most notable transpiring during the 21st century. The first round of renovations occurred in 2007, following Celebration Associates acquisition of the resort a year prior. Among the areas that received the most attention were the historic Rosebrook Bar, the Great Hall, and the Veranda. Landscape architect Brian Silva also started renovating the resort’s renowned Donald J. Ross golf course, which had been in operation since 1915. Omni Hotels and Resorts continued the project two years later when it purchased the location in partnership with CNL Lifestyle Properties in 2009. The two entities spent close to $20 million toward continuing the work, focusing on the resort’s wonderful accommodations and iconic red roof. The corporation also added several new facilities, which included a 25,000 square-foot spa, an equally large conference center, and several new restaurants. One of those restaurants was even restored inside a historic train station that once operated on the grounds during the Gilded Age. Many of the scenic hiking trails and skiing facilities received an overhaul, as well, such as the ones found at Mount Stickney.

  • About the Location +

    The Omni Mount Washington Resort derives its name from Mount Washington, a celebrated national landmark that defines the landscape of White Mountain National Forest. The location possesses the highest point in the entire northeastern United States, with an elevation of more than 6,000 feet. Originally called Agiocochock by local Native American tribes, Mount Washington was named after George Washington shortly after the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War. The use of his name began a tradition in which the names of other U.S. presidents would be applied to the neighboring mountains. In all, eight other mountains bore the names of various presidents, forming a geographic location known as the “Presidential Range.” Those individuals are as follows:

    • John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
    • Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States
    • James Monroe, 4th President of the United States
    • James Madison, 5th President of the United States
    • John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States
    • Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States and New Hampshire’s only native son to sit in the Oval Office
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, 35th President of the United States

    Yet, local officials continued to name neighboring mountains after other prominent national figures, including Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, as well as Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. The Presidential Range is one of the central features within White Mountain National Forest and can be navigated by traveling along the Presidential Traverse.

    Mount Washington itself has attracted curious travelers for years due to its dominant command over the entire area. In fact, John Sebastian Cabot—one of the first Europeans to explore the New England coastline—could even see the mountain’s peak from the Gulf of Maine miles away. Americans have continuously visited Mount Washington ever since, as many have hiked through the region to experience its fauna and wildlife. Mount Washington today serves as a training ground for experienced hikers who plan to climb such harrowing destinations as Mount Everest and K2. In order for nature enthusiasts to traverse the steep topography of Mount Washington and the greater the Presidential Range, local outdoorsmen cut several massive trails throughout the countryside. Among the most historic of those trails is the Crawford Path, which was first developed by Ethan Allan Crawford in 1819. The pathway navigates the Crawford Notch to reach the summit of Mount Washington. Yet, there are many other novel ways to access the mountain, including the Victorian-era Mount Washington Cog Railway. Founded in 1868, it is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway!


  • About the Architecture +

    Constructed between 1900 and 1902, the Omni Mount Washington Resort cost Joseph Stickney a total of some $1.7 million to complete—more than to $52 million in today’s money. Stickney would rely on the architectural expertise of Charles Alling Gifford, whose worked included the Jekyll Island Club (another member of Historic Hotels of America). Its design incorporated some of the most cutting-edge innovations of its age, including a steel-frame superstructure, an electrical power plant, and a sophisticated internal heating system. Stickney and Gifford brought in some 250 Italian artisans to raise the Y-shaped structure by working on its exterior granite and stucco masonry. The location’s brilliant façade was joined by two, five-story octagonal towers, as well. But many of the interior spaces featured the same intricate attention to detail. The hotel featured more than 1,000 beautiful windows and nearly 5,000 electric lights. Intricate Italian plasterwork, crystal chandeliers, and Tiffany stained-glass accents adorned the lofty Great Hall and the neighboring Main Dining Room. The rustic brickwork in The Cave and the Conservatory’s acoustic dome were nearly as pleasing to the eye as the majestic geography of Mount Washington. Guests were awestruck by the columned Porte Cochere, too, as well as the subtle details of the Sun Dining Room’s carvings and the Grand Ballroom’s plasterwork.

    The architectural style of the Omni Mount Washington Resort is that of Renaissance Revival. Renaissance Revival architecture—sometimes referred to as "Neo-Renaissance”—is a group of architecture revival styles that date back to the 19th century. Spanish Renaissance Revival-style architecture was one of the many offshoots from the Neo-Renaissance movement that popularized itself among Western architects at the height of the Gilded Age. Yet, its emergence in the United States did not truly happen until the onset of the Roaring Twenties. So, in a way, the Omni Mount Washington was ahead of its time in terms of its architectural appearance. Buildings constructed with Spanish Renaissance Revival-style architecture often embraced an asymmetrical design that used multiple uneven sections to create the layout. Those segments were usually constructed with stucco and were connected by a series of stunning courtyards, arcades and hallways. Towers were also a common element, as were detailed curvilinear gables along the crestline of the roof. Many ornate carvings proliferated throughout the exterior, which gave an alluring sense of freedom and majesty.

    The Omni Mount Washington Resort has since undergone additional construction work over the years, with the most notable transpiring during the 21st century. The first round of renovations occurred in 2007, following Celebration Associates acquisition of the resort a year prior. Among the areas that received the most attention were the historic Rosebrook Bar, the Great Hall, and the Veranda. Landscape architect Brian Silva also started renovating the resort’s renowned Donald J. Ross golf course, which had been in operation since 1915. Omni Hotels and Resorts continued the project two years later when it purchased the location in partnership with CNL Lifestyle Properties in 2009. The two entities spent close to $20 million toward continuing the work, focusing on the resort’s wonderful accommodations and iconic red roof. The corporation also added several new facilities, which included a 25,000 square-foot spa, an equally large conference center, and several new restaurants. One of those restaurants was even restored inside a historic train station that once operated on the grounds during the Gilded Age. Many of the scenic hiking trails and skiing facilities received an overhaul, as well, such as the ones found at Mount Stickney.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    Bretton Woods Conference (1944): The Omni Mount Washington Resort played an integral role in establishing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Both organizations came into being at the height of World War II, when 44 different countries met at the Omni Mount Washington Resort to discuss the restoration of the global economy. The gathering would go down in history as the “Bretton Woods Conference.” It was attended by some of the most noteworthy politicians of the day, including John Maynard Keyes of the United Kingdom and Henry Morgenthau, Jr., of the United States. All of the representatives agreed to a project known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), whose purpose was to provide financial aid for countries heavily affected by the war. The IBRD would later give birth to the World Bank. They also consented to create an International Monetary Fund, which would regulate imbalances in international payments while also stabilizing exchange rates. The two financial organizations still exist today and have been an essential component to bolstering the global economy in times of crisis.

    In preparation for the Bretton Woods Conference, the federal government sent 150 workers to the hotel in order to renovate its accommodations. Each worker received 50 cans of white paint and were told that, “if it didn’t move, it should be painted white.” As such, the mahogany doors, as well as several brass light fixtures and Tiffany windows were completely painted white. The U.S. State Department also sent hundreds of pieces of new furniture to the hotel to give it a timeless appeal. Activity throughout the Mount Washington Hotel resembled that of a bustling beehive. In all, the federal government invested millions of dollars into the project and requested that the construction work only take two months to finish. Nevertheless, the renovations impressed the many representatives who sojourned to the hotel that July. The continued to use the resort long after their debates had ended, as the dignitaries from the leading nations in attendance signed the official articles establishing the IBRD and the IMF within the resort’s now-famous Gold Room. (The Gold Room had originally been Carolyn Foster Stickney’s private dining room).


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Thomas Edison, famous American inventor known for such inventions as the motion picture camera and the light bulb.

    Joan Crawford, celebrated actress known for her roles in Mildred Place and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

    John Maynard Keyes, economist responsible for writing The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

    Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930 – 2002)

    Henry Morgenthau, Jr., 52nd United States Secretary of the Treasury (1934 – 1945)

    Fred Vinson, 13th Chief Justice of the United States (1946 – 1953)

    Anthony Eden, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1955 – 1957)

    Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940 – 1945; 1951 – 1955)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

    George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989 – 1993)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Ghost Hunters: Ghostly Conversations (2008)

    Ghost Hunters: The Princess and the EVP (2012)


Guest Historian Series

Read Guest Historian Series

Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 181;



Hotel History: Mount Washington Hotel (1902), Bretton Woods, New Hampshire*



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Ground-breaking for the new hotel was in 1900 and construction began in 1901. It was conceived and built by Joseph Stickney, a New York financier who owned the nearby Mt. Pleasant House. By the late 1890s, Stickney decided to build a more luxurious hotel opposite the Mt. Pleasant House. Two hundred fifty Italian craftsmen were brought in for the actual construction work. They lived in dormitories on the property, built for that purpose. Of the thirty grand resort hotels erected in the White Mountains between 1850 and 1930, only the Mount Washington Hotel was planned and built as a single entity from the start. It was designed by Charles Alling Gifford, who was recommended by Henry M. Flagler.



The hotel, designed to be open only for the summer and early fall, included the latest amenities. It had a railroad station and coaches to bring guests to the hotel from the station, it had a golf course designed by Donald Ross (which is still in use), it had an artificial lake, bridle paths, wagon roads, telegraph, running water, bathrooms, an elevator, modern refrigeration equipment, its own electric power plant (which is still intact), a plant for making illuminating gas should the electricity fail, a one-of-a-kind plant to print the daily menus and a daily newspaper for the guests. A large barn for horses and a garage for automobiles were added along with quarters for chauffeurs, dormitories for the staff (one for men and one for women), an orchestra, a choir, a heated indoor swimming pool and a billiard parlor. A doctor and two nurses were on duty on the premises.



Unfortunately, Joseph Stickney died one year later in December 1903. He left both hotels and other property to his much younger wife, Carolyn Foster Stickney. She ran both hotels until her death in November 1936. Carolyn left both hotels to her nephew, F. Foster Reynolds, who operated them through the Depression and well into World War II. He later sold the Mount Washington Hotel and the new owners had good fortune when the U.S. government requested the use of the facilities for the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference. This international conference was sponsored by the United Nations and 733 delegates from 44 nations attended. Its intent was to deal with international monetary and financial issues at the end of World War II. Substantial renovations were made to the hotel by the U.S. government.



In 1955, the hotel was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Morris J. Fleisher of Philadelphia, who operated the Hotel for fifteen seasons until its sale to 1969 to the Mount Washington Development Company. This company developed the popular Bretton Woods Ski Area and reacquired many out-parcels, thus consolidating the original Stickney Estate. Bretton Woods Corporation acquired the property in 1975. Under its ownership, The Mount Washington Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and 6,400 acres of beautiful woodlands were sold to the United States government for inclusion in the White Mountain National Forest.



In 1991, a new chapter in the hotel's history began as a group of New Hampshire businessmen joined forces to purchase surrounding property to ensure its place in the 21st century. Subsequent purchases of the Resort's two golf courses, surrounding development land and New Hampshire's largest ski area at Bretton Woods, successfully reunited all original Resort properties.



At Thanksgiving, 1999 the hotel opened for the Winter season for the first time. In January 2009 the Mount Washington Resort opened a 25,000 square-foot spa and a 25,000 square-foot conference center. Today, this renowned resort has recently completed a $60 million renovation and offers luxurious accommodations and countless activities including a full-service spa, New Hampshire's largest ski area, the original 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, riding carriage and sleigh rides, tennis and horseback riding. The Mount Washington Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is operated by Omni Hotels & Resorts under the official name of Omni Mount Washington Resort. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986 by the United States Department of the Interior.



*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013)



*****



About Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.



Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely published authors in the hospitality field. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by The New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by The New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's...fact-filled...Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf."



Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi is available for purchase from the publisher by visiting bookstore.authorhouse.com.

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