The Mount Pleasant House was built in 1875 by lumberman John T.G. Leavitt and opened the following year. It was then a simple, almost box-like structure with only forty rooms, but it would become of the largest and finest of the Grand Hotels. Its history, almost from its birth to its death, is well documented in photographs and guide book woodcuts. (The illustration at the top of this page is from Snow's 1877 guide and shows the hotel in it's first form.)
Across the road from the hotel was a sawmill (owned by Leavitt at the time) and a number of other buildings including a company store and homes for the mill workers. It was called "Stove Pipe City" because of the stove pipes extending from the small log buildings. By the early 1890s the mill was operated by V.R. Holmes but it was owned by J.E. Henry, one of the area's major lumbermen. These additional buildings appear on the 1892 Hurd map of the area, as well as on a hand done survey map in the Dartmouth College Collection. This map, dated 1895, identifies some of the related buildings as "The Red Store", a stable and a small building labeled "Jack". On the south side of the road, on the hotel property, the map identifies other buildings: The Log House, the Holmes Tavern, another stable near the tavern, and a building called the "Blind Tiger". One can only speculate about that establishment.
In 1881, Leavitt sold the hotel to Oscar Pitman and Joseph Stickney. They immediately enlarged it by adding a fourth story. Stickney owned Pennsylvania coal mines and railroad stock, and wanted to be in the hotel business. He invested heavily in the Mt. Pleasant House and would later build the Mt. Washington Hotel.
Stickney and his company added several buildings, increased the capacity of the hotel, and incorporated the latest conveniences for the guests.
In 1894, Stickney bought out his partners, becoming the sole owner of the hotel. He planned a major renovation that would turn the hotel into one of the finest in the region. His plans called for utilizing land across the road from his hotel, and in 1894, he purchased about 175 acres from J.E. Henry for $5,000. Negiotations were difficult as Henry was reluctant to sell. The first deal did not include the land or the buildings with the saw mill. The mill, operated by V.R. Holmes, supplied some of the lumber for the expansion.
An 1897 letterhead showing the remodeled hotel
Stickney was finally able to purchase the mill site and four hundred acres of land from J.E. Henry in Sept. of 1895 for an additional $5,000. Part of the land in this transaction was on the south side of the Maine Central Railroad tracks, extended to the summit of Mt. Stickney, and included the site of a defunct charcoal kiln.
Apparently, Stickney considered the price to be too high, but A.M. Allen, who was negotiating for Stickney, in a letter dated Aug. 12,1895, told him that "Henry's sons said they are not particular about selling because they could lease the mill for a five year period". They could charge 75 cents per thousand board feet of lumber cut and they said there was enough lumber that in the five year period they would receive about $9,000 and still own the land. Stickney paid their price and an additional $800 to V.R. Holmes, who may have still had some time on his lease.
Stickney hired one of Portland's leading architects, Francis H. Fasset, to design the additions and supervise the project. The main contractor, John Burrowes, was also from Portland. Burrowes estimate for the job was slightly over $24,000. Much of Stickney's correspondence survives, as do many of the bills for the project. Stickney added an electric power plant that would provide power for 750 lights. He had Walter Trask, a "sinker" of Artesian wells, drill a 400 foot well to assure a steady water supply, thereby eliminating a recurring water shortage. Trask' standard charge fro drilling was $4.00 a foot. Another well supplied the water power for the elevator, another for the laundry, and a water tank, also built by Trask at a cost of $800. was constructed on the hill behind the hotel. (Remnants of the water system can still be found.) A bowling alley was added and many of the guest rooms had private baths-not a common feature at that time. A blacksmith shop was built, the barn remodeled, a home was built for the stable master, a pump house was built and a new guest annex was also part of the project. A golf course, tennis courts and private lake (named for his wife, Caroline) would come later. The new hotel was ready or guests in 1895. It had a railroad station in the front and another in the back as two rail lines served the area.
Stickney at first contracted with Barron, Merrill and Barron to manage the hotel. (They managed the Crawford House, The Twin Mountain House and the Fabyan House.) However, when planning the addition and remodeling, he hired the firm of Anderson and Price to manage the hotel, starting in 1895, for a fee of $3,000 per year plus room and board.
A fascinating letter survives from Anderson and Price, dated March 14, 1895. It discusses their recommendations for improvements to the hotel, how to increase business, and their thoughts on competition. They anticipated significant friction with the Barron firm. "They will make a bitter and unrelenting fight, using every opportunity and every means to cut the business of the Mount Pleasant House." They recommended having "good music" and suggest hiring a four piece orchestra that they used in a Florida hotel at a cost of $98.00 per week. The letter stresses the importance of a good livery and good horses. They recommended a suitable manager for this part of the business and say they should "start with ten or a dozen horses". They suggested having a herd of twelve cows to supply milk, "if there is room to pasture them". If not "we might have six just to show the guests and buy the rest of our milk". They suggested developing walkways "on the hillside back of the house".
Stickney took their suggestions and built an extensive system of trails behind the hotel on what was then called Mt. Stickney. In 1897, a Bridle Path, two miles long, was built to the Summit. A log cabin was built, called "The Orchestra's Retreat". Another trail, called the "Carzon Trail", according to the hotel's brochure, zig-zagged up the mountain to the Birch Rock Spring and the Susquehanna Spring, with rustic seats along the way. There were other maintained trails in the woods.
Their letter has another very interesting suggestion-make a lake. "If you could dam the Ammonoosuc River and make a lake of the intervale in front, that would make another most important attraction. That would add beauty as well as boating and fishing to the attractions." They mentioned "a fine spring" at the back of the house and suggested "having a spring-house similar to that at the Poland Spring House or the Profile House and during the busy season keep a boy there to fill glasses for the guests."
The letter also is critical of the laundry operation: "The Mt. Pleasant House has been deficient in laundry. That should be made thoroughly effective."
A circa 1910 post card of the remodeled hotel
We can assume that their suggestions were given serious consideration and when Stickney built the Mt. Washington Hotel in 1902 Anderson and Price managed that as well.
Stickney died in 1903, leaving both properties in the hands of his wife, Caroline. She ran the company through changing economic conditions and when she died, in 1936, the hotels were left to her nephew, F. Foster Reynolds. Reynolds decided that the Mt. Pleasant was not worth the expense needed to maintain it, and in 1939, ordered the building demolished. Today, a motel stands on the property.
As you look through the Photo Album, you'll see how the hotel changed over the years, the variety of outbuildings, and finally, the demolition.