A LOOK BACK | The Balsams Resort

A LOOK BACK
AT OUR HISTORY

TAKE A HISTORICAL TOUR

You may already know The Balsams. You might know it for its legendary culinary tradition, or its unparalleled 11,000 acres of sprawling wilderness. You might have heard stories of socialites who visited, waltzed, and dined here. But even if you’re familiar with The Balsams, we’ll bet there are some things you didn’t know. This iconic grand resort has a colorful and fascinating history. Here are some of the highlights.

Call 603.255.2500 to arrange your personal showing or visit our Ownership Inquiries page to have us contact you.

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

The first structure on the site was built in the 1860s, and was listed in local records as a “House of Entertainment” – a common description (at the time) for places that served as restaurants or public houses (pubs).

The first records reflecting lodging services date to 1874; lodging was added after a fire destroyed the original building. The newly-built Dix House was a modest, 25-room summer inn, from which White Mountain travelers discovered the immense beauty, solace, and wonder of Dixville Notch.

HENRY HALE BUILDS THE BALSAMS

Henry Hale, who owned The Balsams between 1895 and 1922, was a fascinating businessman. Among other things, he invented the reversible Pullman train coach seat. Upon taking ownership of The Balsams, Hale made dramatic improvements to the property.

Hale’s work included creating Lakes Gloriette, Abenaki, and Coashakee, which fed through an elaborate series of canals to the hydroelectric plant that powered the resort. He purchased 16 nearby farms to provide fresh food for guests, and hired famed designer Donald Ross to lay out the Panorama Golf Course.

The Hale House, which still stands and is currently in use as the headquarters for our weekend Real Estate Showings, was built in 1902 and became the main residence for the Hale Family in 1912.

The Hampshire House, constructed from 1916 to 1918, transformed The Balsams into an elegant, 400-room grand resort. It was the first steel-frame, reinforced tile and concrete masonry structure erected in New Hampshire. Henry Hale commissioned Architect Chase R. Witcher (1876-1940), a native of Lisbon, N.H. and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to design the structure. By this time, wealthy guests arrived by train and stayed for months.

Explore the building of The Balsams by scrolling through our photo gallery:

The Dix House circa 1880.
The Hale family. Henry Hale, the patriarch, owned The Balsams from 1895-1922. He made many changes to the property.
The Hale House, formerly known as Beaver Lodge, which the Hale family moved into in 1912.
The construction of the Hampshire House.
The penthouse in the Hampshire House being constructed, circa 1918.
Some of the tireless labor force who built the Hampshire House.
The Hampshire House
Donald Ross' original hand drawn design for The Balsams Panorama golf course.

AN ESCAPE FROM HAY FEVER

The heart of The Balsams’ soul-soothing elixir is its unparalleled natural beauty. That’s what drew the Dix family and inspired them open the first inn: to take advantage of the incredible natural splendor of the Notch. In that era, there was a strong belief that majestic surroundings were ideal places to focus on wellness and relaxation. We think that idea still holds true!

Now, we’re certainly not claiming that it’s impossible to experience allergies at The Balsams. But apparently, there was something about the local mix of fields and forests that made it a rarity. The Balsams even earned approval by the Hay Fever Association – yes, there was such a thing. The Association’s secretary, a Rev. Dr. Peacock, wrote in a 1904 brochure: “Within 24 hours I felt and saw that the Notch was a paradise indeed for Hay-Fever exiles.”

While we continue to advance, we don’t lose sight of what originally drew Hay Fever sufferers and nature enthusiasts here: 11,000 pristine acres of wilderness. With more than 5,500 acres in permanent conservation, it will stay that way. Explore the outdoor activities guests have enjoyed at The Balsams by scrolling through our photo gallery:

A view of the hotel from Table Rock - mid 20th century.
Lake Gloriette, at the heart of The Balsams, has long been the center for fun and relaxation alike.
Guests skating outside the lobby that connected the Dix and Hampshire Houses.
Classic New England ski racing at The Balsams Wilderness Ski Area after its opening in 1966.

A CULINARY LEGEND

The Balsams is known for its rich tradition as a grand resort, but its legendary culinary status sources to 1954, when Neil Tillotson (known to guests and staff as “Mr. T”) became the owner. Tillotson, too, was a successful industrialist; he made a fortune by discovering new ways to create products with latex rubber, including inexpensive toy balloons and medical examination gloves.

Tillotson focused on superb food and exemplary service. Chef Phil Learned led the kitchen, relying heavily on local milk, butter and cream from registered Jersey cows and freshly caught trout from Lake Gloriette. This was farm-to-table cuisine, generations before the term was coined.

Every detail was anticipated, right down to the glass carafes of pure spring water placed on every table in the dining hall of the original Dix House.

The Balsams set standards for the highest levels of service and quality. Scroll through our photo gallery to see the rich culinary history here:

Servers headed to the grand dining room with carafes of spring water straight from the source.
Early transportation by automobile made The Balsams that much more accessible for those looking to get away from city life.
The Balsams has long been a destination for wealthy socialites looking to waltz the night away.
The grand dining room - classic and elegant.
Guests fished Lake Gloriette, dropped off their catch at the kitchen, and had it perfectly prepared for their dinner that night.

TODAY: THE BALSAMS REBORN

Throughout the years, The Balsams was a forerunner in destination travel. It expanded the concept of what a resort could be.

We’re bringing that vision back. We fully understand what drew so many people here for more than 150 years, because it drew us here, too. It’s mountains, lakes, views, sparkling clean air and water, and 11,000 acres of wilderness, with more than 5,500 acres in permanent conservation.

You have a unique opportunity to be part of the next chapter of The Balsams. Our unique ownership program includes fully-furnished, luxury one- and two-bedroom residences in the historic Hampshire House. Your Balsams residence comes with an Owner’s program that can eliminate some or all of your carrying costs. It also includes membership in The Century Club, which features benefits including ski, golf and spa privileges – and much more.

BECOME PART OF THE REBIRTH OF THE BALSAMS.
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