Wentworth History

Discover the Rich History of our Luxurious Portsmouth Hotel

A member of the Historic Hotels of America, Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa, is the crown jewel of Portsmouth, NH - named to the National Trust’s list of Distinctive Destinations®. Constructed by the Campbell family in 1874, the Victorian “wedding cake” building guests see today was created by local ale tycoon Frank Jones, starting in 1888. 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. The central portion of our Portsmouth hotel, beneath the three mansard-roofed towers, is what remains of the original Wentworth, including the main entrance and lobby fireplace.

Wentworth by the Sea was once one of 400 grand hotels situated along the coast and mountains of New Hampshire, and the hotel maintained its international reputation as a premier resort for much of the 20th century. During this time the hotel hosted dignitaries and celebrities such as Annie Oakley, Gloria Swanson, Harry Truman and Prince Charles. By 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 Bening.

Wentworth by the Sea closed in 1982 after falling into disrepair and was almost demolished to make way for private homes. Fortunately, the 'grand hotel' was reborn after a non-profit organization, Friends of the Wentworth, helped save the endangered building from extinction and captured the imagination of local hotel company Ocean Properties Hotels, Resorts & Affiliates.

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 serve as the focal point for the 2005 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, which helped end the Russo-Japanese War. 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 many of the pivotal meetings and 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, the armistice that ended the actual fighting was negotiated and signed at our historic Portsmouth hotel.

A six year, $30 million reconstruction of Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa incorporated as many original architectural details as could be salvaged, and saw the addition of the 8,500-square-foot Spa wing and indoor pool as well as the luxurious Little Harbor Marina Suites. Awarded the American Institute of Architects' “Award of Excellence,” AAA Four-Diamond Award, and National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition, the Wentworth is once again an unrivaled destination among luxury hotels of Portsmouth and an unforgettable setting for vacations and celebrating milestone occasions.


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