SARGENT’S PURCHASE — In time for its 150th anniversary, the Cog Railway has announced plans to build a hotel and restaurant about a mile below the Mount Washington summit.
There will be a preliminary discussion of the plan at the Dec. 8 meeting of the Coos County Planning Board.
The new facility, according to Wayne Presby, the Cog’s president, and Joel Bedor, one of the owners, would be built in an area known as Skyline, a former rail siding. The complex would be entirely within the 99-foot-wide tract of land the Cog owns from its base to the summit. The resort would operate from May to November, in keeping with the train’s schedule.
As envisioned, the complex would straddle the tracks.
Presby said the hotel would include about 35 “well-appointed” rooms and a full-service restaurant that would cater to hikers and tourists alike.
The building would be engineered “to withstand the weather extremes of Mount Washington and would be designed to fit into the natural surroundings and reflect the architectural elements of the original summit hotels,” Presby wrote. The footprint of the new hotel would be similar in scale to that of the Sherman Adams Building on the summit, which houses the Mount Washington Observatory and is part of the 60.3-acre Mount Washington State Park. Mount Washington is New England’s highest peak at 6,288 feet.
The hotel and restaurant would create 20 new jobs, Presby said, and provide an economic boost to the North Country through the use of local contractors. The project also requires construction of a sewer line down the mountain and a septic system at the base. If all goes well, the hotel and restaurant would be completed in time for the Cog’s sesquicentennial on July 3, 2019. The new, privately funded facility is a successor to the former Summit House Hotel, which welcomed guests from 1852 until it was destroyed by fire in 1908. Acquired by the railway in 1873, the Summit House boasted 91 rooms. The hotel was rebuilt after it burned and in 1951 the Cog and the hotel became the property of Dartmouth College.
When the college offered to sell both to the state of New Hampshire, lawmakers instead purchased just the acreage at the summit and tore down the Summit House to replace it with the Sherman Adams Visitor Center, which doesn’t accommodate overnight guests and offers only limited cafeteria-style dining.
The only places to stay overnight on Mount Washington are the Mount Washington Observatory, which rents space in the visitor center, and the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Lake of the Clouds Hut.
Presby said both of those options are spartan in their amenities.
The Cog operator says Mount Washington and the railway have seen a boost in tourism since the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia in 2003.
About 5,000 people a day make the trek to the top — more than 300,000 each season— arriving via the Cog, the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and on foot. Presby is betting more of them would like to spend the night than can be accommodated now.
Formerly the owners of the Mount Washington Hotel and Resort in nearby Bretton Woods, Presby and Bedor hope the new venture gives visitors a taste of the luxury of the historic summit hotels.
Presby said the new hotel would not compete with the future 65-room Glen House at the base of the eastern side of Mount Washington to be operated by the Auto Road. Nor does he see a renovated and expanded Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch as a direct competitor.
Story and photo provided John Koziol, Union Leader…