History of The Eastern Slope Inn
In the summer of 1937, Harvey Dow Gibson, a Conway, New Hampshire native, purchased the Eastern Slope Inn, which had been known as the Randall Hotel. Gibson was born and raised in North Conway, educated locally at nearby Fryeburg Academy, and later Bowdoin College in Maine. He enjoyed a successful career in New York’s financial community and was the president of Manufacturers Trust Company in New York when he and his wife returned to North Conway for the 1937 New Year’s holiday.
Watching his daughter take ski lessons in nearby Jackson brought back memories of the rivalry between North Conway and Jackson, a rivalry that continues today. Harvey Gibson determined, at that time, to make North Conway the ski center of the Eastern Slope Region, now known as the Mt. Washington Valley.
Shortly after purchasing the Inn and a large part of Mt. Cranmore, Gibson consulted with his friend and fellow ski area developer, Averell Harriman. Harriman was busily transforming Sun Valley, Idaho into a world-class ski resort, and he suggested that Gibson build the most modern tramway (ski lift) then possible. Thus, the Cranmore Skimobile was constructed, and an original car from the Skimobile sits at the front of The Inn today.
With the purchase of Mt. Cranmore, the Eastern Slope Inn, and the installation of the Skimobile, Gibson moved closer to making North Conway the epicenter of skiing in the northeast. However, he was far from finished. Gibson purchased the Eastern Slope Ski School and headquartered it at the Inn. At this time he learned of a man so talented at ski instruction that his style of skiing lives on today, Hannes Schneider.
Unfortunately, Schneider was interned in a Nazi prison camp in Austria, but Gibson was not deterred. Through his international banking connections, Harvey Gibson arranged for the release of Hannes Schneider and his family and brought them to North Conway.
The arrival of Hannes Schneider seemed to tie everything together, and Mt. Cranmore and North Conway began to boom. Schneider led the development of Cranmore and the development of his revolutionary skiing style, while he continued to provide ski instruction. Soon Mt. Cranmore, with the modern facilities and the engaging personality of Hannes Schneider, became one of the most popular Ski Mountains in the United States. Harvey Gibson continued to develop the Eastern Slope Inn, realizing his vision of North Conway as a sports mecca. The Inn was opened year-round, and Carroll Reed’s Ski Shop was located in the Inn along side the Eastern Slope Ski School. To further the Eastern Slope Inn’s cause, Gibson set out to provide the Inn with a stunning array of winter and summer sporting activities.
In the summer of 1938, the Inn inaugurated the Eastern Slope Horseshow, which brought nationally famous horses and riders from New York. The event was considered the finest attraction in the White Mountains and continued until the 1950s. 1939 saw two more major events: the national radio broadcast delivered by Lowell Thomas featuring an interview with Hannes Schneider and the establishment of the Eastern Slope Gold Racket Tennis Championship. The tennis tournament drew the best players in the United States and was reported to be “the strongest field that had competed in a singles tournament in New England in years.”
The Inn continued to be successful for many years after Harvey Gibson’s death in 1950. However, the Inn fell on hard times in the 1970s when the country was stuck in a deep recession fueled by the now infamous Oil Crisis of the late 70s. Sadly, in 1976 the Inn closed its doors.
The following year, Eastern Mountain Sports acquired the property and opened a retail outdoor sporting goods store on the ground floor of the Inn, and continued to operate the Inn’s restaurant. 1980 saw a dramatic turn in the Inn’s fate: a limited partnership group, Eastern Slope Inn Associates, purchased the property from EMS with the purpose of restoring the Inn to its former glory.
The restoration began with the Inn’s lobby and the second and third floor guestrooms. No expense was spared in the restoration process; the walls were gutted; new wiring and plumbing installed; insulation, soundproofing, and the addition of thermopane windows rounded out the extensive project. Modern fire-safety systems and a computer-controlled climate control system, which monitors the energy of the building, were installed.
On Friday, July 17, 1981, the Eastern Slope Inn resumed hotel operations 55 years to the day after its first opening. The following summer the Eastern Slope Inn was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Inn’s transformation into the modern era continued with the introduction of a vacation time-sharing program. Vacationers could now stay at the Inn in traditional fashion, by the night, the weekend, or longer. However, vacation ownership allowed for a fourth option: the purchase of a specific week each year for the term of 99 years. For an average price of $4,800, a member prepays his or her vacation lodging costs at today’s prices.
Development continues today with the addition of cottages and other buildings adjacent to the main inn such as the Savard House, the Norcross Building, and the Randall House. In 1999, the Inn became a property of the Mount Washington Valley Accommodations & Conference Center, an entity owned by Eastern Slope Inn Associates. The Inn is now part of the second largest lodging and conference facility in New Hampshire...and continues to evolve into the 21st century.
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