A CELEBRATION OF HISTORY, TRADITION AND MEMORIES
The rich history of Eastern Slope Inn Resort finds its roots deeply embedded in the natural splendor of the greater North Conway and Mount Washington Valley; influenced by four men, spanning three centuries, and all of whom shared a common vision and passion for the region. Its origins began as an idea in the mid 1800’s, became a vision at the turn of the century, a passion in the 1920’s and a resurrection in the 1980’s.
During the early 1800’s, Melvin Seavey built a simple boarding house on the property – accommodating 50 guests. As the Civil War was coming to an end and a separated nation embarked upon a time of healing and unification, the region began to gain popularity as a vacation destination. The then popular American literary Naturalist Movement heavily influenced society at the turn of the century; vacationers were in search of mountain summits, babbling brooks, rolling rivers and wildlife. Embracing the opportunity, James T. Randall purchased the structure from Melvin Seavey in 1864 - renaming it the Randall House and inspiring the Eastern Slope Inn we know today.
In its heyday of America’s Gilded Age, the Randall House was a destination for vacationers as the Mount Washington Valley evolved into a popular vacation setting for the growing middle class, as well as wealthy city dwellers. Guests often arrived in June with steamer trunks and stayed for the summer season. Their desire to visit the region can best be summed up by the words of Naturalist John Muir when he wrote in 1873, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” Later in 1887, Randall constructed the Music Hall, known today as the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse.
It was against the granite backdrop of Cathedral Cliff, Whitehorse Ledge and the Moat Mountain Range that the Randall family suffered a grave loss when the original Randall house burned to the ground in 1902. Undaunted, James’ son Harry Randall rebuilt and the Hotel Randall opened its doors in 1903. By 1916 the hotel was comprised of 50 rooms, and expansion continued throughout 1917 with the purchase of the Sunset pavilion where the present day Randall House resides.
As more tourists flocked to the region in the 1920’s Harry and his two sons, Carl and Phillip, constructed the inn we know today - designed and constructed in the Colonial Revival style of architecture by H.E. Mason in 1926. The Reporter, North Conway’s then local paper, described the inn as the “finest hotel in New Hampshire.” Unfortunately, just as Harry Randall’s dream became reality, so did the unforgiving economic times brought on by the stock market crash and the Great Depression.
Originally known as the Randall House, the resort was purchased in the summer of 1937 by acclaimed business entrepreneur Harvey Dow Gibson - a Conway, New Hampshire native. Harvey Gibson had a vision to make his beloved Conway a destination for travelers and skiing enthusiasts alike. Gibson’s vision and love for the region spawned a new era not only for the greater North Conway and Mount Washington Valley region, but also in ski resort development, and in the way Americans skied.
At a time when New England ski areas had narrow, twisting trails, Gibson created wide swaths of open terrain suggestive of the alpine landscapes of Austria. With a grant of $15,000 from the Works Progress Administration and assistance from the town of Conway, Gibson was instrumental in clearing the roughly 200 acres of open slopes to become Cranmore Mountain. Gibson opened Cranmore in the winter of 1937-38, with a rope tow originally built by Carroll Reed in Jackson serving as the lift.
With a keen focus on service and an entrepreneurial spirit to guide him, Gibson purchased the then recently constructed Randall Hotel, renaming it the Eastern Slope Inn to pair with the ski area. To accentuate the charm and elevate the value of Cranmore’s offering, Gibson enlisted renowned skier, Hannes Schneider from Austria to lead the resort’s ski school, bringing with him a “new” style of skiing – the Arlberg approach. To do so, Gibson took an active role in negotiating Schneider’s release from Nazi imprisonment, bringing Hannes and his family to North Conway to open the Hannes Schneider Ski School at Cranmore.
The personable Austrian ski instructors of the Hannes Schneider Ski School, in conjunction with a new method of skiing added a glamorous, exotic element to Cranmore and the Eastern Slope Inn that continues to evoke a sense of awe and splendor among Guests as they enter the Inn’s revitalized historic grand lobby.
In the 1970’s, like many distinguished New England hotels, the Eastern Slope Inn fell into decline as demand dwindled for grand hotels and operations ceased. In 1977 the inn was purchased by Eastern Mountain Sports and converted into a retail establishment. As part of this conversion, many of the public spaces were altered to accommodate retail functions.
It was not until 1980 when Joe Berry - a local developer and avid skier personally and professionally connected to the Mount Washington Valley was drawn to the potential of this historic inn. Driven by a strong sense of community and a passion for the region, Berry embarked upon a pursuit to return this stately inn to its original elegance and splendor. Akin to that of a phoenix, the Eastern Slope Inn Resort was literally resurrected to its grand magnificence in 1981, 55 years to the day after its initial opening, doing the Randall family and Harvey Gibson proud.
Today, the towering pillars of Eastern Slope Inn Resort welcome guests from around the world. The historic elegance and awarded history of the Resort is reflected in Eastern Slope Inn’s unyielding commitment to guest satisfaction, fond memories and a love for the greater North Conway and Mount Washington Valley region. Upon entering the grand lobby, guests are taken back to an era of extravagance where brass chandeliers offer a warm glow accentuating the rich detail embodied in the craftsmanship prevalent in the resorts architectural detailing, complimented by period furnishings and elegant sitting areas. A large fieldstone fireplace is often a favorite place for guests to gather and reflect upon the day’s activities or to share in relaxed conversation.
Eastern Slope Inn Resort’s historic elegance is greatly influenced by the resort’s prominent location and richly embedded history in the Village of North Conway and throughout the Mount Washington Valley. Decades may have passed since the Resort’s inception, however the unwavering pursuit to ensure guests arrive with enthusiasm and return home with fond memories has never been more evident than it is today.