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Grand Again

Wentworth by the Sea Transformed from "Endangered" to "Enchanting"

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Wentworth by the Sea grand hotel NH

The Wentworth by the Sea in New Hampshire is grand again following a $25 million restoration.

© 2003 Kim Knox Beckius
Dateline: July 24, 2003
Last Updated: April 27, 2014

The Wentworth by the Sea, an 1874 grand hotel that had been moth-balled since the early 1980s, reopened on May 16, 2003 following a $25 million restoration of the historic property, located near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the island of New Castle. From what I heard, quite a few folks got teary-eyed when they stepped inside the lobby during the hotel's unveiling and first few days of operation. I cried when I had to leave after a too-brief, one-night stay in June of 2003!

Jodi Maskiell, Director of Sales & Marketing for the Wentworth by the Sea, a Marriott Hotel and Spa, explained that many of the visitors who were moved to tears were those who had honeymooned or vacationed at the hotel decades ago, local residents who had watched the vacant property magically resuscitated and supporters who helped to rescue the grand, seaside retreat from the wrecking ball.

As for me, my reluctant departure followed a blissful night's sleep, Banana Oatmeal Creme Brulee, a Warm Stone Massage and a Portsmouth Harbor Cruise.

There are many stories to tell about the Wentworth by the Sea, which, in 1996, was named one of the "11 most endangered places" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There is the story of the hotel's long history including its turn-of-the-century popularity, its role as the setting in 1905 for the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War and its most famous employee, Annie Oakley, who taught riflery to wealthy women guests. There is the splendid tale of the hotel's comeback, spurred by a private organization, The Friends of Wentworth, and made possible by owner Ocean Properties' investment in the restoration of this historic treasure. There's even a comical story about a man who overslept while the hotel was shuttered for the season: The caretaker, luckily, heard his screams. He was crawling down a dark hall, convinced he had died and gone to hell.

No worries. The Wentworth by the Sea is open year-round now, and you may just awake thinking you've died and gone to heaven. Though I could go on and on about hotel history and trivia, the breaking story of interest to New England travelers is that the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa is a delightful choice for fine accommodations, delicious dining and pampering.

My room, which had a partial ocean view, was spacious and comfortable: The Wentworth by the Sea offers 143 elegantly furnished guest rooms and, though they were not yet open when I visited in June of 2003, there are now 18 bi-level, waterfront Little Harbor Marina Suites in the "Ship Building," shaped like a grand ocean liner, located a short stroll from the main hotel.

Original Chef Daniel Dumont described the hotel's cuisine as "traditional, regional New England," and the breakfast menu alone was enough to make me miserable that I was only staying one night. How can one possibly choose between Maine Lobster Hash and Banana Oatmeal Creme Brulee? I went with the latter, which was the creamiest, richest breakfast I've ever savored, and luckily got to nibble off the lobster hash ordered by a dining companion, as well. In 2013, the Wentworth by the Sea changed up its main dining offering by introducing the more contemporary Salt Kitchen & Bar under the direction of new Executive Chef Ken Lingle. In addition to the main dining room, the hotel also boasts a casual Latitudes restaurant overlooking the water.

Yacht, sailboat and deep sea fishing charters and harbor cruise tours depart from the Wentworth by the Sea Marina. Tennis and paddle tennis courts are available. And guests have access to the 18-hole championship golf course at the neighboring Wentworth by the Sea Country Club. Originally designed in 1897 by George Wright, the "father of New England golf," the oceanview golf course was updated in 1921 under the direction of noted golf course architect Donald Ross and expanded to 18 holes in 1964.

If you're not already convinced that the Wentworth by the Sea is a one-stop vacation destination that you'd never want to leave, let me tell you about the Spa.

Next Page: The Spa at Wentworth by the Sea

See Also: Great Rooms: The Little Harbor Marina Suites at the Wentworth by the Sea

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