Wentworth History

Portsmouth NH -- Historic Hotels of America member, Wentworth By the Sea Hotel & Spa, the only grand seaside resort left standing on the New Hampshire coast, is the crown jewel in a preservation-committed place – Portsmouth/New Castle -- named to the National Trust’s 2008 list of Dozen Distinctive Destinations.®

Constructed by the Campbell family in 1874, the Wentworth guests see today as a splendid, Victorian “wedding cake” of a building was created by local ale tycoon Frank Jones, starting in 1888. The central portion of today’s hotel, beneath the three mansard-roofed towers, is what remains of the original hotel, including the main entrance and lobby fireplace. After painting the building a mossy green, Jones and his professional management team modernized the hotel with bathrooms, steam-powered elevators and large elegant rooms that attracted guests from around the world.

Once there were 400 grand hotels along the coast and in the mountains of New Hampshire. Only four remain and Wentworth By the Sea itself, closed in 1982 and having fallen into disrepair was almost demolished to make way for private homes. The 'grand hotel' was reborn after the Friends of the Wentworth, the nonprofit group that helped save the endangered building from extinction captured the imagination of local hotel company Ocean Properties, Ltd. 

Rescued from the wrecking ball and its place on the National Trust's “Most Endangered Sites” list, Wentworth reopened in 2003, just in time to be a focal point in 2005 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. In 1905, Judge Calvin Page, executor of Frank Jones’ estate, had agreed to the NH Governor’s request to host the 25 Russian and Japanese peace conference delegates at no charge for as long as their deliberations lasted. For 30 days in August, the delegates shuttled back and forth to the nearby Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for the formal negotiations; meanwhile much of the back channel diplomacy for which President Theodore Roosevelt earned the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize took place through the telephones and telegraph wires of the hotel. Though the Treaty was signed at the Shipyard on September 5th and New Hampshire now commemorates that date as Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day, many of the pivotal meetings and receptions took place at the hotel and the armistice that ended the actual fighting was negotiated and signed at the hotel. The hotel's Roosevelt's Lounge is named in honor of that history.

Wentworth By the Sea maintained its international reputation as a grand resort for much of the 20th century, hosting government and entertainment celebrities such as Annie Oakley, Gloria Swanson, Harry Truman and Prince Charles. But in the early 1980s, the idea of the grand hotel had fallen out of fashion just as its then-owners, the Smiths were ready to retire. At its lowest point, the hotel was a backdrop for the thriller, “In Dreams” starring Robert Downey, Jr., Aiden Quinn and Annette Benning.

The six year, $30 million reconstruction of Wentworth By the Sea Hotel & Spa added an 8,500 sq. ft. Spa wing with indoor pool and Jacuzzi, fireplaces in 18 of the guest suites, and the waterfront hideaway Little Harbor Marina Suites. Awarded the American Institute of Architects' “Award of Excellence,” AAA's Four Diamond award, and National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition, the 161-room hotel has incorporated the three distinctive original Victorian towers and as many architectural details as could be salvaged. 

Once again part of the fabric of Portsmouth/New Castle, Wentworth again is “the place” for weddings and other social events, for visiting celebrities including the Presidential Primary campaign candidates and Japanese dignitaries following the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail of the iconic sites of the Nobel Peace Prize story.