On a dark and stormy spring night in 1865, a stagecoach traveling from Boston to Montreal bumped and plodded northward along what is now Route 3. The going grew steadily worse until, near the intersection of what is now Mountain View Road and Route 3, the coach hit a mud hole and tipped onto its side. As the two passengers crawled out, the driver recommended they walk a half mile up the then dirt road where he was sure there was a farm house. Perhaps the farmers would take them in for the night.
The wet and weary travelers made their way through the driving rain to the home of William and Mary Jane Dodge, who not only took them in and gave them a snug place to sleep, but provided a hearty farm breakfast that featured homemade fresh doughnuts, pancakes and sausages.
The guests so enjoyed the hospitality of the Dodges and the majestic 360-degree views that they implored their hosts to let them stay for a few more days. Before they left, the passengers made sure that they would be welcome to return for several weeks the following summer. During that extended stay, the Dodges became convinced that other tourists would enjoy their hospitality as well, and in the summer of 1866, they officially opened the Mountain View House, complete with a newly built two-story addition and a full veranda.
Word spread quickly and visitors came from all over the East to enjoy the delectable food, magnificent views, and the gracious hospitality of the Dodge family. As their fame grew, the Dodges responded in true New England fashion by expanding the Mountain View House outward and upward to meet the expanding needs of their clientele.
With each addition to the building, the Dodges would take out a new mortgage and each time it was paid off the family would celebrate with a ceremonial mortgage-burning.
In the early years of the resort, life was simple. Light was supplied from oil lamps and baths were taken in tin tubs brought into the rooms for guests upon request. Heat was from fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. The food came fresh from the Dodge family farm. Mary Jane Dodge ran the kitchen and became known for her excellent meals.
This uncomplicated life away from the crowded city was a welcome respite for most urban dwellers of the time. The poverty, crime, and disease that were rampant in the larger cities, especially during the summer months, drove families of means to the country, where life was simpler, calmer, and cleaner.
Many former U.S. presidents have enjoyed the beauty and the hospitality of the resort, including: Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon. Writers were often guests at the Mountain View House and the guest register has included Robert Frost, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Stephen King. Hollywood celebrities Betty Grable, Bette Davis, and all four Marx Brothers stayed at the Mountain View House. Other famous persons found the hospitality of the Mountain View House to their liking, notably: Norman Rockwell, Babe Ruth, John D. Rockefeller, and family, Lady Astor, and Neil Armstrong.
In 1922, the west wing was built, which included the new dining hall and kitchen. This dining hall was built with a round appearance so that the socially conscious guests would not worry that they would get a “corner table.” The Dodges claimed that no corners existed in the dining hall and all tables were equal. The dining hall, now remodeled and known as the Crystal Ballroom, was the hotel’s only restaurant for many years. The bar was located on the first floor where the tavern and fine dining restaurant are now located. Originally they were one large room with a dance floor. In later years, there was an “Arthur Murray Dance Studio” at the Mountain View House.
As the years went by, the family business was passed down to later generations, with each known for different accomplishments. Herbert Van Dodge was known for his foresight and patience. Under his management, the hotel moved from the stagecoach era to the train era to the automobile era. As the mode of transportation changed and the affluence of the traveling public grew, the Dodges happily began taking in guests who stayed the entire summer and returned every year. Some of the modifications to the hotel helped to accommodate the visitors who brought more luggage and sometimes their entire households. Herbert Van Dodge influenced many of his summer visitors with his calm ways and his habit of taking the “long view” of circumstances.
One of the changes was the popularity of chauffeur driven luxury automobiles among the affluent. In one of their additions to the property, the Dodges built a covered entrance where the limousines could drive through, drop their guests off, and pull through to park in front of the newly built chauffeurs’ quarters. Chauffeurs lived in this dormitory, sometimes with their families. This building still exists on the property, directly behind the hotel, and is currently used for storage.
A summer stay at Mountain View House meant a leisurely country lifestyle so that guests could enjoy regular bridge games in the parlor or under the shade of the maple trees in front of the hotel, walks in the lovely begonia gardens, and afternoon teas on the veranda. It was a time of relaxation and simple pleasures with a strong sense of propriety, as the founder, William Dodge, was a deacon in the local church.
By 1900, a nine-hole golf course had been installed, de- signed by Harvard math professor Ralph Barton. The Dodge property was still a working farm at this time and most of the course could not be played until the hay had been harvested. Feeding the horses came before playing golf.
During the early mid 1900s Frank Schuyler Dodge expanded the hotel further. In 1939, the Sport House (now the Club House) was built to accommodate the golfers and in 1946 the heated in-ground pool was installed just outside. Tennis courts were built around the same time.
In 1948, Frank Schuyler Dodge died suddenly and his wife, Mary Eunice Bowden, was left with the daunting task of running the hotel and raising their three children. Soon their sons Frank Schuyler Jr. and John Dodge ran the hotel together, traveling to Florida during the winter to work in a grand hotel, learning more about being hoteliers. They also brought staff back with them from Florida to work at the Mountain View House during the South’s slow summer season. At this time there were dormitory buildings to the rear of the hotel for the transient summer staff’s housing.
As transportation became faster, many husbands would stay in the city during the week and take the train to Whitefield to stay with their families for summer weekends. Mountain View House became known for its Friday night dinner dances held to greet the returning husbands.
John Dodge eventually left the family business to pursue his own business interests. Frank Schuyler Dodge Jr. continued to run the Mountain View House, building Century Hall (now Presidential Hall) in 1965, to honor 100 continuous years of Dodge family ownership and management of the hotel. Century Hall was used for conferences and social events. It allowed the Dodges to have special events on the property and bring in business to stem the tide of waning summerlong guests.
By 1965, the guests who had returned every year and upon whom the Dodges had built their business, were aging. The hotel was becoming known for its elderly clientele. In 1979, the Dodges elected to sell the hotel to a group named Mountain View Associates, headed by Robert and Ann Diltz. This was a time when many of the region’s grand hotels closed or burned to the ground. These grand hotels, which had enjoyed so much prosperity, had difficulty making the transition to four-season, short-stay travelers.
Mountain View Associates soon sold the resort, and the Mountain View House changed hands once again. By 1986, the resort had closed its doors. Several attempts were made to reopen it, without success. In 1987, the American Savings Bank of Buffalo, New York purchased the Mountain View House. The entire hotel, grounds, and contents were put up for auction in 1989. The contents were sold, but there were no acceptable bids for the buildings and the grounds. In 1990, Charles Carroll purchased the Mountain View House in a foreclosure auction, but the hotel remained dormant for the next several years.
In December 1998, Kevin Craffey, a contractor from Duxbury, Massachusetts, who had a vision of recreating the splendor of the “golden days” of the grand resorts of the White Mountains, purchased the Mountain View House. In June of 1999, the Mountain View Golf Course was reopened after renovations to the pool, club house, tennis courts, and lawns. In May 2002, after the completion of a $20 million restoration, the Mountain View House proudly reopened as Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa.
In June of 2005, Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa was purchased by its current owner, American Financial, who set out to further enhance the property. From 2005 to 2007, new additions to the resort have included a health and wellness studio with personal trainer and yoga studio, 17-seat movie theater, a family-oriented game room, a regulation-size croquet lawn, an additional wedding terrace, and four, classic clay tennis courts. Renovations have been completed on Presidential Hall, a state-of-the-art meeting facility, the dining rooms, Tavern, Club House, grounds, and the golf course.
Today, Mountain View Grand creates an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness where city dwellers can once again find the comforts of gracious hospitality surrounded by the natural unspoiled beauty of the White Mountains. Our guests can still sit on the veranda, stare at the far horizon, and soak in the pristine beauty that is preserved on the 1,700 acres.