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Wentworth Hotel
The Smith Era 1946 to 1980

A Novel about the Wentworth in 1969
Even MORE Smith Photos   New item

Kids Dancing Over its first century, ownership of Wentworth-by-the-Sea passed from Jones to Smith. After NH millionaire Frank Jones at the turn of the 19th century ownership passed through Harry Beckwith who closed the New Castle, NH resort during World War II. It reopened in 1946 thanks to Margaret and James Barker Smith, who purchased the historic property for $200,000. Three years later they purchased the Rockingham Hotel in nearby Portsmouth, also once owned by Jones.

New Hampshire's version of a high-society resort continued much as it had in the past. While talent like Cab Calloway and Xavier Cougat performed onstage, the guests remained largely white and Gentile. James Smith Sr. campaigned against the new fifty-cent minimum wage and, when a black writer was invited to lecture at the hotel, canceled the speech when hotel guests voted to "univite" the speaker. But slowly, 20th century attitudes found their way into Wentworth policies.

James Barker and Margaret Smith An extensive archive of publicity photos from the 1950s and 60s depict gala costume balls, tennis tournaments, formal dinners, debutante parties and beach scenes. It is an era seemingly untouched by the youth revolution sweeping the nation.

In 1969 a fire in a dormitory killed one person. In 1973 new construction was timed to celebrate the hotel's centennial and the 350th anniversary of the first settlement on the NH Seacoast. After 35 years, the Smiths sold the property to a Swedish company in 1980 for $5.6 million. The hotel was closed in 1982 and has been in the hands of a number of companies since.

By J. Dennis Robinson and Maryellen Burke

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Smith Era Photo Gallery
1950s and 1960s

Click on thumbnails for larger images
All photos courtesy of Friends of the Wentworth
and the Portsmouth Athenaeum collection.

Image 1 Image 2 Image 3
Image 4 Image 5 Image 6
Image 7 Image 8 Image 9

For more EARLY IMAGES click here.
Sample photo galleries include:

  • See the 1920s Wentworth brochure
  • U-boats Surrender in Portsmouth, 1945
  • "Illustrated Memories" of Seacoast NH, 1890s
  • "Illustrated Memories" of York and Kittery, Maine
  • Portsmouth Train Wrecks
  • Portsmouth Photos: "An Old Town by the Sea"
  • Old Dover Scrapbook
  • Memorial Bridge Dedication, August 17, 1923 Newsreel
  • Newly Discovered Ironsides Photo
  • Victorian Portsmouth
  • Attractive Bits Along the Shore, 1890s
  • Early Hampton Beach
  • Gosport Harbor, 1860s
  • The Ice Storm of 1886
  • "Old Ironsides" in Portsmouth

    1999 Attribute all use.

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