Tuesday, January 4, 2011

a winter wonderland

The Balsams Grand Hotel & Resort c. 1918
Finally, the holidays have come to a close and 2011 has arrived bearing optimistic thoughts of wistful accomplishments for the coming year. Though in lieu of looking into the future, my family and I delved into the past with a vintage Christmas at one of New England's oldest and most famous grand hotels.

Tucked away in the northern New Hampshire mountains, The Balsams was first opened just after the Civil War in 1865. The summer inn, then called the Dix House because it was situated in Dixville Notch, boasted 25 rooms. It was later purchased by a wealthy developer from Philadelphia in 1895, when he renamed the inn The Balsams. Steadily, the inn was expanded and enhanced to house 400 guests, as it does today. Originally opened as a summer destination, the chilling beauty of New Hampshire's "winter wonderland" mountain scape, and sea of pine trees attracted guests from all over the nation to experience a breath-takingly beautiful and truly relaxing respite.
In the 20s- Vintage flare with only a few  modern additions

It is Christmas eve. The hotel has not lost it's vintage spirit amongst the decorative garland and twinkling lights and red poinsettias. Uniformed bellmen shuffles our luggage up to the 3rd and 4th floors and to our rooms while my parents check in, and I wander around the lobby. I'm surrounded by comfortable arm chairs and several roaring fireplaces, scattered around collections of bookshelves and letter desks. It looks more as though I've entered the home of some wealthy relative, and they have lead me into their cozy study rather than a giant hotel. Vintage magazine ads with pink cheeked skiers in bright red hats, photographs of 1920s summer wedding parties outside on the lawn, and antique photos panoramic views of the small pond and majestic hotel are displayed on the walls. There are families working on a puzzle of the Boston harbor. An older couple sits silently drinking cocktails by the fireplace enjoying the soft hum of guests exploring the length of the building. I find the activities list and note that hors d'oeuvres are going to be served soon. I cannot wait to eat the four star dinners complete with 5 courses and people in tall chef hats walking around the dining room.

My family hardly ever sits still and lounges during a vacation. There is usually some sort of athletic activity required each day before any member is deserving of their dinner. The Balsams owns their very own alpine skiing mountain, the Wilderness. It is no Sugarloaf, or Jay Peak, but there are no lines, the trails are wide and well groomed and the glades are plentiful. My mother, an avid cross-country skier takes advantage of the many trails that weave around the grounds of the resort and through the surrounding forests.
All photos are property of The Balsams Grand Resort & Hotel
During my evenings at The Balsams, post-skiing, I wandered through the library, the pool hall, and all the sitting rooms of the hotel searching the faces in photos of happy guests who frequented the Balsams decades and decades ago. Mostly, the walls were lined with giggling couples, newly weds, of course. My favorite photo was of these two lovely people. There was no caption under the framed photo, and I can only hypothesize to which year it was taken. I suppose it was taken in the late 1920s. There are so many things that I love about this photo. The vintage love that I am, couldn't help but feel inspired by her chunky heeled, two toned Mary-Jane's, or the asymmetry of her floral patterned dress. I wish all men would wear striped pants! How classy, especially with the slightly rolled leg. His hat, well, let's just say I have a thing for men in hats. I'm sure they had a lovely honeymoon. They looked fantastic!

Pretend you are going on your winter get-away! (with added florals for a hint of seasons to come...)
Mary-Janes: Barney's, Lip stick: Chanel, in Emotive, 
Shift dress: Top Shop


  1. It sounds just lovely! I've always wanted to stay in a romantic old hotel... and I could certainly imagine wearing that outfit to do so, though I imagine the heels would sink into the carpet! ; D

  2. haha true! at least i'll be stumbling around in style!

  3. lovely blog! let me know if you want us to follow each other:) thanks
    xoxo Sienna

  4. love your blog &the topshop dress!
    following you, follow back if you'd like.



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