From star-studded Beverly Hills to backcountry New Hampshire, havens of hospitality are revived

ITS expansive white exterior and red roof gleaming in the sunshine, the Mount Washington Hotel stands regal before its 6,288-foot namesake peak, the Northeast's highest, and the broad shoulders of the Presidential Range.

Children peer into a lily-pad-dotted pond as men play golf nearby; the hotel grounds are abuzz. Viewing this postcard-perfect scene, it seems almost impossible to believe the Spanish and Italian Renaissance-style building wound up in 1991 on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation auction block, possibly facing the wrecking ball.

But the grand hotel with the 900-foot wraparound veranda and Tiffany stained glass was saved, thanks to six Granite Staters who paid $3.15 million for the 26-acre hotel and resort - comprising the 1896 Bretton Arms Country Inn, the Bretton Woods Motor Inn, and the Townhomes at Bretton Woods - and Fabyan's Restaurant. Thereafter, the owners undertook the gargantuan task of overhauling the grand hotel with its 195 guest rooms.

Joel and Cathy Bedor, Wayne Presby, Robert Clement, and John and Jere Eames succeed a long line of Mount Washington Hotel owners dating back to 1902, when the building was opened by developer and coal-railroad tycoon Joseph Stickney.

In July 1944, the hotel won a place in history for holding the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference. The World Bank was organized, the gold standard set, and the dollar chosen as the basis for international exchange. And in 1972, the hotel chalked up a mention in sports annals as host of the first Volvo International Tennis Tournament.

While the hotel's history has been memorable, its financial soundness and upkeep have been spotty. But by many accounts, the new owners have changed that.

''The previous owners ran out of money, and they weren't from the area so they didn't care as much,'' says Holly Babin, editor of BusinessNH magazine, which named the Mount Washington Hotel & Resort ''1995 Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year.''

''Before the new owners, you could see through some walls. The porch was in disrepair, the roof needed replacement, the suites were outdated, and the plumbing wasn't good. The new owners have done major renovations and are taking care to restore architectural details,'' she adds.

Switchboard operator and 28-year employee Amy Kavanagh agrees. ''The hotel is in as good condition as I've ever seen it,'' she says.

Business is turning a profit and improving, reports Jennifer Huntoon, hotel marketing assistant. ''These owners understand how important the hotel is for the [area's] history and economy.''

The hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and 6,400 acres were sold for inclusion in the White Mountain National Forest. The Interior Department, in 1986, listed the hotel and Bretton Arms as National Historic Landmarks.

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