Dixville Notch, New Hampshire – The signature green and white china is packed, Adirondack chairs are stored and the hallway lights are dimmed.
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in the forests of northern New Hampshire – a distant destination nestled in a mountain pass for lovers of nature, good food and turn-of-the-century elegance – is closed for now. How long is anyone's guess.
The nearly 150-year-old hotel in Dixville Notch is known for its Ballot Room, where the inhabitants of the village are the first to vote for president at midnight at the New Hampshire primary day and the nation's election day. Offered for sale in July 2010, it is waiting for the right suitor. It closed on tredje September 14
"There is a spark in our lives," says Bruno Ponterio, 80, a retired headmaster of Rye Brook, NY He and his wife, Joann, spent their honeymoon at the resort during the summer of 1959, impressed by the view, the service and cuisine. They have returned over the years with their children, including their 50th anniversary two years ago.
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The Tillotson family, whose patriarch, ran a rubber factory and is credited with inventing the latex balloon, has owned the facility since 1954. Before he died in 2001 at the age of 102, Neil Tillotson indicated that the resort and other assets sold or given away and proceeds to charities. But the hotel has been making losses for years, and the money is coming out of the assets of a family trust.
The resort, with its mix of Victorian and the alpine village of architectural influences, holds up to 400 guests. They can dine at the sweep-around porches overlooking a circular flower garden, swimming pool, Lake Gloriette and groove.
The plant board seeking a new owner who can modernize the property – there has been some renovations, but not a major overhaul since a new wing was added in early 1900 – and preserve their past, a balance that many hotels of a certain age and body type works to maintain.
Historic hotels around the country are facing more competitive pressure these days, constantly trying to engage in new marketing campaigns to attract customers, says Thierry Roch, executive director of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
"They are in the same boat as all other hotels, they are hard to find deals during a time when companies cut back on business travel, group business declining," Roch said. "But the advantage is that there is more awareness in the market for historic hotels. They have a name, they've got a reputation, they've got the word of mouth."
Some historic hotel continues to perform very well in this economy, says Roch. Others see reduced occupancies are seen to reinvest in their hotels, improving the roof or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, for example, to make them more attractive to future customers.
At The Balsams, where the corridors showcase old photos and anecdotes – including a spoon in a frame on a debt-ridden woman who returned the receptacle for many years after the honeymoon there – there has been discussion about putting in a new roof, insulation and windows. Although occupancy has been good, is a concern to improve energy efficiency. The hotel is run by steam heat generated by a biomass plant that was used in previous years to run Neil Tillotson is nearby factory.
"It is our biggest expense other than our workforce, so it's tough to compete as a hotel, it's tough to make the bottom line work, when your energy costs are so high," said Jeff McIver, The Balsams' President and General Manager . 'It is one of the factors why we are not profitable, and to fix it is a large company. "
He said the directors of family-based fund that owns the plant has been studying alternative fuels, such as geothermal technology.
Another historic hotel, Mountain View Grand in New Hampshire's White Mountains, was built in 1865, fell into disrepair and closed in the 1980s, but reopened in 2002 after a multimillion-dollar rebirth. One of the additions was a wind farm operation that provides all of the hotel's electricity. It saves money and executives believe there is a great way to become more environmentally sustainable, said Gene Ehlert, marketing manager.
Historic hotel owners have long recognized the need to couple modern conveniences with a sense of returning to an earlier era.
"They wanted all the amenities, they wanted all the bells and whistles," said Cathy Bedor, who was in a partnership that owned New Hampshire's Mount Washington Hotel for 15 years before selling it to a company in 2006. "But they wanted a taste of stepping back in time, and that was exactly what we tried to do."
Mount Washington was built 1902nd When Bedor and other partners bought the hotel at auction in 1991, they worked to restore it to its original luster by studying the carpet in antique postcards, reading old newspaper accounts that described the room, and stripping layers of paint on the brass chandeliers to show them that they was already in the early 1900's.
Bedor, which operates the Mount Washington Cog Railway, a train that climbs to the top of the northeast's highest peak, said the Bretton Woods hotel had a great interest because it was the site of a historic conference in 1944 which laid the foundation of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
"If it were not for that, I'm not sure it would have been such a hue and cry when there was talk about maybe tear the property down because surely it is very expensive to keep the business than if you were to start from beginning, "Bedor said.
The Ponterios, who has spent the week-long summer holiday at The Balsams in 35 years, loves caring, attentive staff and the sophisticated dining room and gourmet meals. They like swimming and paddle-boat – or do nothing at all.
"I'm not unhappy that there is no TV in the room," Ponterio said. "One would think that you would miss it, but you do not." Guests are invited to take a book home with them from the library in the rooms and check back when they return.
The Balsams Grand Adventure offered a plan for the summer starting at $ 209 per person, double occupancy, and with food, golf, boating and other activities. Its winter plan, including food and skiing started at $ 199 per person.
A luxury hotel dating back to 1778, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., Furloughed about 650 employees in 2009 in the middle of a sharp downturn in the economy and sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stay afloat. The previous meeting place for presidents, and the site of an underground Cold War nuclear bunker for Congress revived with new owner Jim Justice. He introduced a PGA tournament, build a casino and steakhouse, and added new features to old traditions – like "Greenbrier Waltz" and other musical performances by staff in period costume – to go with afternoon tea. Income and occupancy rates are on the way back up, said Lynn Swann, director of public relations.
The Greenbrier offers a variety of seasonal and holiday packages. Its two nights discover package with outdoor activities begin at $ 369 per night based on double room.
At Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Georgia, says managing partner Kevin Runner lower occupancy has caused revenues to approximately 15 to 20 percent lower than normal in recent years. Part of the challenge is that the hotel was built in the 1880s and renovated 25 years ago, is in a state park that has been under renovation for a year. A new convention center, the shops and other hotels are planned for the island.
"We are not experiencing decline year after year," Runner said. "We went down to a wall and then we just kind of stayed there and been around the same level in recent years."
Depending on the building and room, Jekyll's base rates through November 26 ranging from $ 189 in a single room to $ 439 for the Presidential Suite.
In New Hampshire, the Ponterios hoping to book a summer holiday at The Balsams next year, sitting at his favorite spot next to the pool. They recognize a new owner could renovate the place – but they like the old world charm as they are.
As Mrs. Ponterio said to her husband: "The only place I see where you relax and you are not concerned about anything is when you go to The Balsams."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material May not be published, broadcast, rewrite or redistributed.
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