One of the largest Grand Hotels in Bethlehem was the Sinclair House. John H. Sinclair, who recognized the possibility of boarding business’s for summer visitors, built it in 1857 and ran it until he sold it in 1870. Sinclair’s first building was a tavern, with only eight or ten rooms. It was located on Main Street, on the corner of Agassiz Street, (now Rt. 142). Sinclair enlarged the hotel several times, beginning in 1861. Sinclair was also a lumberman, with a logging village and sawmill on the Gale River.
Sinclair sold the hotel in 1870 to J.A. Durgin and D.W. Ranlet. Ranlet’s share changed hands more than once, leading to the partnership of Durgin & Fox, which lasted until 1888 .Under their ownership, expansions continued, and guest capacity reached 300. Later owners were Daniel W. Harrington and William McAuliffe, who in 1908 formed the Sinclair Hotel Company and they also continued to expand the hotel. Thomas P. Conley owned the property in the 1920’s.
From the author's collection
Many guests came to the hotel to enjoy the clean air. Bethlehem had acquired the reputation of being a haven for those suffering from asthma and hay fever. Guests could spend their days sitting on the large porch surrounding the front of the hotel, men reading newspapers and women sewing and talking to friends. They could play croquet or golf, they could enjoy the local bowling alley, and they could watch baseball games with teams from the local hotels. Many participated in the elaborate, competitive coaching parades. The Sinclair, along with other hotels, maintained livery stables with stagecoaches and mountain wagons which provided transportation to local points of interest, such as Mt. Agassiz. Meals played a prominent role, with numerous menu choices for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Click here for two 1887 and 1888 menus and a breakfast menu from the early 1870s. In the evening, guests played cards or enjoyed an orchestra and dancing.
More recently, in 1937, the owners of the New Agassiz Hotel, Louis Michnoff and Dora Spiwack, purchased the Sinclair Hotel. The property then included the Sinclair Hotel, the Agassiz Hotel and the adjoining Fairlawn Hotel. The business began to cater to Jewish clientele. The hotel changed hands one more time, in 1946. Myron Herrman and David Spiwack bought it. The hotel attracted guests from Boston, New York City and Montreal, Canada. Guests would stay for days or weeks at a time, enjoying sports activities and entertainment, “Broadway Shows”. Several famous comedians and singers got their start on this circuit. As in earlier days, three large meals were served. The hotel continued to attract Jewish clientele.
The Sinclair Hotel closed after the 1974 season, a victim of rising costs and declining business. The property and contents were sold at auction in 1976. The vacant building was destroyed by fire on Oct. 24, 1978. An undated, early 20th century promotional brochure describes the latest amenities, such as toilet rooms on every floor, steam heat and it also describes other attractions in the area. It includes several photos of the interior of the hotel.
Use the photo album link below for photos of the hotel as it changed over time, and the fire that destroyed it.
The Grand Hotels of the White Mountains by Bryant
Bethlehem, New Hampshire A Bicentennial History 1974