Nowhere in America exudes history like New England. Where cities south and west sport wide streets and endless sprawl, New England still feels like strolling the set from “Hamilton,” minus the singing and dancing. Historic landmarks are the backdrop for many of the small towns, countrysides and big cities of the Northeast, making for hotels rich in artifacts and tradition. Take a ride with us through New England’s colorful rolling hills, and stop into some of its most historic hotels.
Ocean House Resort, Watch Hill, R.I.
OK, so technically the Ocean House that stands above the bluffs in the quaint seaside town of Watch Hill has only been around since the mid-2000s. But it’s a stunning replica of the grand original, which served as a Gilded Age country escape from 1868-2003. The 159-room property was rebuilt for the 21st century, now boasting only 49 vastly larger rooms and 18 “signature suites.” The luxury resort is part of the Relais & Chateau family of hotels, and is one of only 13 Forbes Triple Five Star hotels in the world.
Omni Parker House, Boston, Mass.
This storied Boston hotel has been around since 1855, making it the oldest continually operating hotel in America. Its guestbook is a who’s who of historical figures over the last 100 years, hosting everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to violinist Yo-Yo Ma, drawn by the 19th-century opulence that still fills the halls. The Parker House’s list of former employees is nearly as impressive as its guests, counting Malcolm X, Emeril Lagasse and even Ho Chi Minh as its alumni. But what most people know it best for are its famous dinner rolls, a rich, buttery biscuit-like treat you’ll find in restaurants around the world.
Wentworth by the Sea, New Castle, N.H.
Ever heard of the Treaty of Portsmouth? How about the Russo-Japanese war? No? Well, had you been around in 1905 you probably would have, as the leading global conflict at the time dominated headlines. It ultimately ended at Wentworth by the Sea, not in an inexplicable battle on U.S. soil, but in peace talks organized by then-president Theodore Roosevelt. The treaty won him the Nobel Peace Prize, and the hotel a place in history. The sprawling castle by the water went on to be one of New England’s poshest escapes through much of the 20th century before closing down in 1982. It was close to the wrecking ball and topped many “Most Endangered Places” lists in the mid-’90s. It was thankfully acquired in 1997, and reopened to full splendor in 2003.
The Kendall Hotel, Cambridge, Mass.
This MIT-adjacent hotel in Kendall Square hotel notches its place in history thanks mostly to its former role as a city firehouse. The old Victorian building was once home to Engine 7, and its upstairs firemen’s dorms have been converted into high-end luxury hotel rooms. The 73-room boutique is awash in firehouse relics and 19th-century antiques, as well as exquisite reproductions that harken back to the space’s blaze-battling legacy. For fans of history and firefighting, no hotel in New England offers more.
Westin Portland Harborview, Portland, Maine
Oceanside Maine resorts have a ton of historic charm, but no hotel in the state has places in both political and rock ‘n’ roll history quite like the Portland Harborview. When the hotel opened in 1927 as the Eastland hotel, it was the largest and grandest in all of New England. Drawn by its splendor, Eleanor Roosevelt booked a room here in 1946, but was denied check-in with her dog Fala. That little bit of infamy stuck with the hotel until the 1980s, when Ozzy Osborne tossed furniture off the Eastland’s rooftop pool. The prince of darkness was escorted out of the city, but that didn’t stop hotel guests from trying to imitate his antics, leading to the pool’s ultimate closure. The Eastland shuttered in 2011, only to reopen a year and a half later as the Harborview. They let pets stay now, but still no pool.
The Griswold Inn, Essex, Conn.
The Griswold Inn is as old as America itself, founded as an inn and tavern for shipbuilders and mariners in 1776. Its walls are a lesson in Essex’s maritime history, ranging from revolutionary warships to the recreational yachtsman. The hotel was home to protests during the women’s temperance movement of the 1840s, and many banners from the era hang inside today. Its Tap Room was originally constructed as a schoolhouse in 1735, and when the Griswold wanted to repurpose it as a bar the full structure was dragged up Main Street — by oxen — in 1801. The bar has been the hotel’s most enduring legacy, and was a purported stop for rum runners along the Connecticut River during prohibition.
Publick House Historic Inn, Sturbridge, Mass.
Simply throwing the word “historic” in your name doesn’t necessarily grant you immediate historic status. Otherwise America would be awash in places claiming to be the “Historic Motel 6.” But if your hotel started in 1771, then housed and entertained revolutionary troops, you can definitely claim a place in history. Especially when the tavern where they all hung out is still running. Even the bakery at the Publick House is historic, as the daily breads are cooked in authentic Yankee ovens dating back to the 1700s. The hotel is filled with antiques, too, giving guests a sense of Colonial-era immersion during their entire stay.
Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa, Whitefield, N.H.
A yellow beacon of luxury in the colorful New Hampshire hills, this endlessly popular resort has stood since 1865. It added a golf course in 1900, immediately upping its reputation as a country getaway for the leisure class, then topped the place off with an Italian Revival tower in 1912. Over the years, its guests have included presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon, all the Marx brothers and even Babe Ruth. Today, it’s still an iconic family getaway, and has notched dozens of awards from travel organizations and magazines.
The Landmark Trust, Dummerston, Vt.
The Landmark Trust is not so much a hotel, but more the most historic VRBO in America. This collection of homes in the southern Vermont countryside includes the house where Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book,” an old sugarhouse and a home in the middle of a pick-your-own apple orchard. There’s also an 1837 farmhouse that boasts its own orchard and the 1802 Amos Brown House, done up in antiques and period pieces. All of the properties are only a few miles from bustling-yet-relaxing Brattleboro, one of the state’s few remaining hidden gems.
Omni Mount Washington Inn, Bretton Woods, N.H.
When it opened in 1902, the Mount Washington Inn was the grandest resort of its kind, boasting a staff of 350. It cemented its place in history in 1944, playing host to the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference, which, among other things, birthed the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. That slice of financial history aside, the Mount Washington Inn has also housed three U.S. presidents and countless celebrities, and landed itself National Historic Landmark designation in 1986. Once only a summer retreat, the Inn is now open all year round, and is conveniently located near the Bretton Woods ski resort.