N.H. resort looks the part, from spa to greens

The lobby of the Mount Washington Resort, which opened in 1902, is called the Great Hall for good reason. The lobby of the Mount Washington Resort, which opened in 1902, is called the Great Hall for good reason.
By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / May 24, 2009
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BRETTON WOODS, N.H. - The smallest part of a recently completed $50 million renovation at Mount Washington Resort is the biggest thing people see when walking into the place.

"The Great Hall was basically pretty dark, with dark tones, heavy wool carpeting, that sort of thing, and we wanted to brighten it up," says Patrick Corso, president of the resort, which was bought in 2006 by Celebration Associates and Crosland Inc. "We restored the hardwood floors and on the carpet runners we created patterns representing the plant life that only grows on nearby Mount Washington."

The Great Hall, which would be called a lobby in most places, is cavernous. But it's the smallest part of the almost three-year renovation that was completed last winter. It adds a contemporary feel to this sprawling grand hotel at the backside base of Mount Washington. And it is such an attraction that there are docents on hand from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily to explain its history and decor along with the resort's.

The biggest change to the hotel, built in 1902 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 50,000-square-foot addition called the Presidential Wing, the hotel's first big addition in more than 100 years, Corso says. Spread over two floors, it includes a spa on the ground floor with 13 treatment rooms overlooking the Presidential Range. The photography of Brad Washburn, whom Corso calls "The Ansel Adams of New Hampshire," sets the theme for the spa.

The upper floor holds meeting space, including three boardrooms overlooking the mountains. The themes here are taken from a map of the White Mountains, based on the Harvard Map Collection.

One of the unique changes, according to Corso, is the landscaping on the roof of the new wing. The green roof, dubbed the Jewell Terrace, holds 43 species of plants, 20 of them indigenous and from the subalpine zone found on Mount Washington. They include Labrador tea, moss campion, three-toothed cinquefoil, bunchberry, alpine bluet, harebell, and White Mountain saxifrage. The middle of the terrace holds 400 people for weddings and other events.

In addition, the hotel's massive 900-foot wraparound veranda has been restored and guest rooms have been renovated, updating bedding, furniture, and artwork, Corso said.

Outside, a sweeping renovation of the 1915 Donald Ross-designed Mount Washington Course was completed last summer, led by Brian Silva, a Boston-area specialist on Ross courses. He worked from Ross's original plans, replacing some greens' contours and bunkering.

"It's a contemporary course, it plays 7,000 yards," Corso says, "and Golfweek has rated it number one in New Hampshire."

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe .com.

If You Go

Mount Washington Resort

Route 302

Bretton Woods, N.H.


Mount Washington Hotel from $199; Bretton Arms Inn from $169; The Lodge from $99.