Building Description The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, Dixville Notch New Hampshire
The main hotel is a large building that evolved from a post-Civil War farmhouse/inn into a sprawling complex with numerous wings and additions. By 1918, the bulk of the complex was in place, but over the course of the 20th century, several small additions and infill areas have been built. Despite the multi-year construction period, all but one of the various sections share common features, giving the entire building a high degree of uniformity: wood frame construction clad with white vinyl siding; 2-1/2 or 3-1/2 stories in height; gabled or gambrel roofs, frequently punctured with gable or shed-roof dormers; red asphalt roofing shingles; end bays with angular or round turrets or square towers; and regularly spaced and traditionally sized windows with 1/1 replacement sash (historic sash was mostly 6/6, 6/2 and 2/1). The one addition with a substantially different design scheme is Hampshire House, a distinctive, five-story, stucco-clad wing that projects from the east end and was the last major addition to the main hotel.
The main block of the hotel is a south-facing "U" in the approximate center of the building that represents the original farmhouse/inn built in 1874: a 2-1/2 story, gable-front house with a 2-1/2 story ell projecting to the east and connecting to a gable-front barn ("A" on sketch map). In 1892 and again in 1895-96, the original building was substantially remodeled; its current appearance has changed little from that second renovation. The west section of the "U", originally the "house," has a continuous shed-roof dormer on both roof slopes that merges with the south-facing, shed-roof dormer of the ell. (Prior to the late 1890s, there was a series of gable-roof dormers on these slopes.) The roof eave that once ran beneath the dormers has been eliminated, probably in the late 20th century. Tall brick chimneys, all of which appear in a 1913 photograph, project from various roof locations. A one-story, hip-roof porch supported on Tuscan columns wraps around the south, west and east elevations of the "U". Appended to the southwest corner of the "house" gable end is a round, three-story turret with a conical roof punctured with dormers capped with steep gabled roofs. The turret is clad with vertical aluminum siding. An angled entry portico which leads onto the porch at the southeast corner of the "house" reflects a ca. 1911 Colonial Revival remodeling largely focused on the interior. Like all the exposed entrances in the main block, it retains an historic Colonial Revival door, in this instance surrounded by leaded glass sidelights and transom. The gable end of the "barn" is treated similarly to the "house", with an appended three-story, octagonal tower capped with a balustrade. A square belvedere with steep hip roof and finial provides access onto the tower roof.
The west wing ("C") is a lengthy 3-1/2 story wing added in 1910 that extends to the west of the main block and terminates in a massive, four-story octagonal end bay with a steep roof capped with a finial. Gabled dormers of varying sizes puncture the roof slopes. Historic 2/1 window sash survive on the top story and in most dormers. A one-story, shed-roof porch, originally open and now enclosed with aluminum sliders, spans the south elevation. The interior of the wing includes a ballroom and the ballot room where the nation's first primary votes are cast. Noted New Hampshire builder Sylvanus D. Morgan of Lisbon, N.H was the contractor for this addition.
Projecting north from the main block is "B," a 2-1/2 story wing which dates from ca. 1906 and was the first major addition, providing space for a dining room and barber shop. The north wing ("D"), built in 1911-12, is parallel to and just east of "B." The three-story addition terminates in a four-story, hipped roof block with gabled dormers and a fully exposed lower level. Windows contain a mix of 2/1 historic sash and 1/1 replacement sash.
East of the north wing and at right angles to it is a two-story lobby/dining room addition that is appended to the east end of the main block ("E"). A change in grade aligns its second story with the first story of the main block. Though built in 1912, the addition has been substantially renovated several times, particularly following a flood in 1960 and again in the late 20th century. The first story has tripartite windows and fully glazed doors, and the second story has single-light sash with two transom lights above. On the south wall, a shed-roof porch extends the length of the second story, a continuation of the porch on the main block. In 1990, a lengthy, glassed-in, covered walkway that terminates in an over-sized hipped-roof porte-cochere was added to the north side to serve as the primary entrance into the hotel lobby. Historic photographs of the addition taken soon after it was built show a two-story structure with a monitor roof, a porch in the same location as the existing, tripartite sash on the north elevation, and a wide opening at ground level that allowed carriages and automobiles to pass through. Then, as now, the ground level functioned as an entrance to the main lobby and the second level as an extension of the dining room.
The lobby/dining room addition leads to the most distinctive wing of the hotel, Hampshire House ("H"). The five-plus story, stucco-clad wing was built in 1916-1918 to plans prepared by Chase R. Whitcher and executed by H.P. Cummings & Co. Whitcher's design is highly evocative of the European Rhein and Alps regions. The wing is punctuated by eight, seven-story, hipped-roof towers, as well as dormers, Flemish facade gables, and full-height angular bays. The roof is covered with red tiles. Paired, over-sized brackets are found beneath the overhanging eaves. Window sash are 6/6, and tower windows are grouped vertically with wooden, pilastered frames that feature ornamental iron balconies.
Hampshire House was the first steel-frame, reinforced tile and concrete masonry structure erected in New Hampshire. Its architect, Chase R. Whitcher (1876-1940), was a native of Lisbon, N.H. and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For most of his professional life, his office was in Manchester, N.H., where he designed over 300 buildings in New Hampshire and elsewhere, including town halls, hospitals, commercial blocks, schools, hotels, and residences. It was likely that his social and political connections brought him to Hale's attention at The Balsams. The contractor for Hampshire House, H.P. Cummings & Co., was based in Ware, Mass, with offices in Woodsville, N.H., a construction company still in operation and known for its important commercial and institutional contracts, including most, if not all of the new buildings and wings erected at The Balsams between 1914 and 1918.
Three gambrel-roof buildings, all constructed in 1916 and none of which was originally attached to the main hotel, project from the northwest corner of the main hotel complex. The kitchen wing ("I") is a twostory (only one story exposed on the south side) addition sited parallel to the west wing and main block. Original window openings survive in the upper gambrel end, but remaining openings on that elevation have been blocked by a smaller, late 20th century, gambrel-roof-covered loading dock for food service delivery vehicles. The shed-roof dormers that originally punctured the north roof slope have been removed. The staff canteen ("G") is a 2-3/4-story building with shed-roof dormers on the lower roof slope and gable-roof dormers on the upper. Windows contain a mix of historic 6/1 and replacement 1/1 sash. Immediately east of the canteen and parallel to it is The Balsams Inn ("F"), also a 2-3/4 story building. The facade features two facade gambrel-shape gables and a gabled entry portico in the center of the building. Shed-roof dormers are found on the lower slope of the roof; two rows of windows are found in the gambrel ends. Nearly all of the historic 6/2 window sash remain. The Balsams Inn (also known as Winter Inn) was designed to provide the first year-round guest rooms.
Since the completion of Hampshire House in 1918, additions to the main hotel have been minor and include the one-story, gambrel-roof addition to the kitchen wing, the covered entry walkway, and one-story infill to connect the kitchen wing and staff dormitory to the rest of the building. The interior of the main hotel retains a high degree of historic trim. The public rooms in the original inn spaces reflect a major remodeling ca. 1911 in the Colonial Revival style. Elsewhere, interior features are a mix of vernacular Colonial Revival and late-19th century (flat or symmetrically molded casings, beaded-board wainscot and four-panel doors) detailing.