Welcome to Stonehurst Manor!
The staff of Stonehurst Manor invites you to enjoy the luxury of this elegant, turn-of-the-century Victorian mansion. Set on 33 rolling acres, the manor offers a White Mountain vacation that is truly unique. From our exceptional mountain views to the peace and quiet of the Library Lounge, you’ll be surrounded by beauty and comfort.
Secluded atop a hillside among tall pines, The Stonehurst Manor seems miles away from the bustling downtown village of North Conway. Offering 26 guest rooms and one of the most popular restaurants in the Mount Washington Valley, the Manor is reputed to be the area’s foremost example of Victorian rural elegance.
The Manor was originally built as the summer estate of carpet baron Erastus Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Carpets – at one time, the largest carpet manufacturing company in the world. The estate was comprised of 500 Acres, serving the Bigelow’s as a working farm, which stretched from the Manor house itself all the way to the Saco River. The original property included a cottage for the gatekeeper, large stables, and servant’s house…. Many of these building are still intact today.
The Manor has 26 guest rooms; 16 in the original Manor house, 5 with both fireplaces and Jacuzzis, 3 with fireplaces only and 4 with Jacuzzis only. There are 10 rooms located in a motel style wing that is attached to the main manor home – the Mountain View Wing. Rooms in this wing offer the most spectacular sweeping view of the Moat Mountain Range.
The Manor has four dining rooms, and offers summer dining in the screened Veranda. Fine dining, offered in a casual atmosphere, includes a variety of choices from Prime Rib to gourmet pizzas. Our Pizzas and homemade breads are baked fresh daily in our wood fired oven! The Manor’s fire placed Library Lounge offers our guests a relaxed yet elegant experience.
Conceived and developed over the course of a quarter of a century by the Bigelows of Massachusetts, “Stonehurst” is the epitome of the English country estate in the New Hampshire’s White Mountains. In this region it was the supreme statement of rural elegance, rivaled only by “The Rocks” in Bethlehem and “Wyndham Villa” in Shelburne. In contrast to these other working farm complexes, however, Stonehurst Manor has retained all of its original major buildings. Despite physical alterations and changes in ownership and function over the years, the site conveys much the same impression as it did a century ago and provides important physical evidence of upper-class summer architecture and life in late-Victorian America.
The man behind the creation of “Stonehurst” and Intervale’s first summer resident was Erastus B. Bigelow (1814-79), the wealthy and well-known carpet manufacturer from Clinton, Massachusetts. Born in nearby West Boylston, he attended the district school and held various jobs during his teenage years. As a boy he pursued several intellectual and artistic activities, including arithmetic and music, his favorite pastime. By 1830 he had saved enough money to enter Leicester Academy, and he had visions of attending Harvard and studying medicine. Lacking his father’s backing and having exhausted his financial resources, he instead entered the dry goods business of S. F. Mores & Company in Boston, mastered stenography, and published a small work on the subject which did not sell well. He was destined, however to become an inventor and economist. His first major invention, in 1837, was a power loom for the production of coach lace, which established the technological basis for the many other power looms that would follow. In Leicester in 1838, he, his brother Horatio N. and two other men formed a new manufacturing enterprise, The Clinton Company, to build and operate new looms.
Over the next twenty years Bigelow’s mechanical discoveries multiplied and included power looms for the fabrication of Brussels and Wilton, tapestry and velvet carpeting as well as counterpanes, silk brocade, ginghams, pile fabrics and wire cloth. The town of Clinton, the center of the Bigelow manufacturing empire, grew up around the first mill, with additional factories at Lowell, Massachusetts and Derby, Connecticut. Over his career he constantly improved and refined methods of carpet production and his contributions to the industry were widely recognized in both the United States and Europe.
While Erastus Bigelow is most often associated with his many important mechanical inventions, he also established a reputation as an economist. He wrote about the tariff issue and expressed his advocacy of import duties in several articles and two books – The Tariff Question Considered in Regard to the Policy of England and the Interests of the United States (1862) and The Tariff Policy of the England and the United States Contrasted (1877). He served as the first president of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers. In addition, he ran for United States congress in 1860, but was defeated. He followed closely the field of scientific education, serving in 1861 as a member of the founding committee for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yale, Harvard, Williams, Dartmouth and Amherst marked his many achievements with honorary degrees. In “Stonehurst” Bigelow found a place for relaxation, repose and social entertaining, but also delighted in applying his penchant for invention in farming irrigation.
Erastus Bigelow made his initial land purchase in Intervale in 1870, acquiring the former Willey farm from Stephen Mudgett of Conway. He and his wife had some knowledge of the area from staying at Eastman’s Boarding house in 1865. Between 1870 and 1872 he added several adjacent tracts until he had amassed a substantial estate comprising of several hundred acres. For the location of the family house, he and his wife Eliza chose a lovely site on the crest of a slight ridge looking out over the Saco River, Intervale, toward Cathedral and White Horse Ledges, the Moat Mountain range and the Presidential Peaks in the distance. According to a marvelously rich family diary, “Annals of Stonehurst” in the manuscript archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society, construction on the house began in 1871 and was completed by May 1872 when the Bigelows took up occupancy. Materials for the building project were shipped by wagon from Center Conway and Fryeburg, Maine.
Commissioned as architects was the Boston firm of Snell and Gregson. The senior and best known of the partners, George Snell (1820-1893) came to the United States from England in 1850 and established a broad reputation as the designer of private homes, public buildings and warehouses in Boston. Somewhat of a departure of Snell’s Massachusetts work, the Bigelow cottage was a large Stick-style structure with such common features as steep pitched truncated (jerkin head) main and dormer roofs; scalloped eaves verge boards; thin, fragile looking eaves and porch trusses; and variegated wall siding with clapboards, flat boards and half-timbering. The plan was asymmetrical, with an attached veranda, Porte Cochere and rear icehouse topped with a pyramidal roof and cupola/ventilator. Unfortunately, this provocative building was totally leveled by fire on February 12th, 1875, but the Bigelows promptly rebuilt. Over the next two years, using the original Snell and Gregson plans, they recreated the destroyed cottage so that it was an almost an exact duplicate. They moved into the new house in September 1877.
Sadly, Erastus Bigelow was able to enjoy “Stonehurst” for only a brief few years before his death. His only child, Helen Bigelow Merriman, inherited the entire property. She had married the Reverend Daniel S. Merriman in 1874. Educated at Williams College and Andover Theological Seminary, Merriman (1838-1912) served for twenty-three years as pastor of the Central Church in Worcester, Massachusetts. During his tenure there he was a trustee of several educational institutions including Williams, Atlanta University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Abbot Academy, also in Massachusetts. In addition, Merriman was the first president of the Worcester Art Museum from 1896 until his death.
He received honorary degrees from both Williams and Yale and was known to be an learned and eloquent speaker. He and his wife took a great interest in the North Conway community, particularly the local Congregational Church and it was he who brought the Worcester architect Stephen C. Earle (1839-1913) to the village to design the new North Conway Congregational Church in 1884. The also influenced friends to buy land and construct summer residences in Intervale and served as the focal point for much of the social, intellectual and cultural life in the small community.
Helen Merriman, an artist, writer and philanthropist, served as president of the North Conway Public Library, founded Memorial Hospital in memory of her parents, held annual fundraisers and was active in local land and forest preservation. Although they were primarily summer residents, the Merriman’s probably had a greater effect on their community than any other vacation cottage owners of their era in the mountains.
In 1895 desiring a larger, more lavish and more fashionable summer residence, Helen Merriman orchestrated a complete refurbishing and enlargement of the main house at Stonehurst. The project took ten months to complete. The result, in what she called the English Manor style was an imposing shingle-style building in which the shape of the 1875-77 cottage is barely visible. Irregular in configuration of, elevations and floor plan, the Merriman house was sheathed with dark-stained shingles and the mortared fieldstone foundations and porte-cochere support posts were an effective contrast. The fenestration is irregular (original shutters have been removed) with double sashes containing small panes. The second story projects slightly over the first, with shingles flared above the demarcation line. Topping the house and providing an ample attic story are a series of intersecting gable roofs, clipped at their ends and penetrated by dormers similarly treated. The eave overhangs are pronounced with rafter heads exposed. On the front (west) façade, two second-story sleeping porches and a large first story veranda offer superb valley and mountain vistas. Although the original furnishings are gone, today the twenty-three-room interior is replete with magnificent English Oak woodwork, including fireplace, doorway and window surrounds, doors, beamed ceilings, built-in bookcases, textured wall panels and decorative carvings. The “Annals of Stonehurst” indicate that family friend Stephen Earle visited the estate during the construction period (he was present in October when the furniture was moved in), suggesting that he was the architect. Also from Worcester, C.O. Wheeler served as supervising contractor, directing the efforts of crews of stonemasons and carpenters.
The Bigelow and Merriman residences stood at the center of a model working farm and cottage colony, the buildings of which are nearly all intact today. Almost as soon as he had acquired the Mudgett property, Erastus Bigelow and his family took up summer residency in the farmhouse, altering it to meet their needs. Immense barns, a carriage house/stable and other outbuildings that are said to have been planned by Bigelow himself, joined the complex in 1871-72 on the west side of the Conway-Jackson road (now Route 16). These structures all reflect the form of the first main house, with clipped gable (jerkin head) roofs, board and batten siding and cupola/ventilators. North of the main house, acquired as guest overflow facilities by the family are the “Red Cottage” (on the main road) originally built by William C. Seavey in about 1865 and the “Brown Cottage” (on Neighbors Row), erected in about 1895. The latter building is a fine representative example of the transition in summer cottage architecture from the Queen Anne to the Shingle style.
In the summer of 1907, while the Merriman’s were traveling in England, the Stonehurst estate achieved notice as the temporary British Embassy for the Viscount James Bryce (1838-1922), the British ambassador to the United States. Bryce, his wife and their entourage occupied the main house, the two adjacent cottages, as well as space at the nearby Bellevue House Hotel. A prior visitor to the White Mountains in 1870 (a visit he recorded in his travel journal), Bryce was a noted politician, diplomat, conservationist, historian and legal scholar. In 1888 he published The American Commonwealth, which had great influence on the attitudes of his countrymen toward the United States. During that memorable halcyon summer, “Stonehurst” was at the center of international diplomatic exchange, the Bryce’s active and glamorous social life, and the ambassadors many hiking expeditions through the White Mountains. His favorite hiking companion was Rev. Harry P. Nichols, with whom he cut Bryce’s Path to Cathedral Ledge during his stay in North Conway.
After Helen Merriman’s death, the main house stood vacant for eleven years as she and her husband had no children to pass the estate on to. It has served as a lodging establishment since 1946, now an upscale country inn that includes the Manor house, a connected motel, privately owned condominiums and recreational facilities. Although the grounds of the estate have lost some integrity, the grand Manor house has retained its historical character and passed to the current generation largely intact, recalling the time when it was the focus of the invigorating, carefree late-Victorian summer life of the Intervale colony.
Helen Merriman and her husband did have one son, Roger Bigelow Merriman, who married Dorothea Foote. Roger Bigelow Merriman became a famous History Professor at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, he became close friends with fellow classmate Franklin D. Roosevelt who later became the 32nd President of the United States. Roger Bigelow Merriman later taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and was decorated with the Legion d’Honneur.
Roger (Frisky) Bigelow Merriman purchased Kimball Island on Squam Lake sometime around 1907, built a splendid camp on it and summer on Squam Lake until 1938.
The hurricane of 1938 destroyed all of the tall trees on the island – leaving the splendid old camp intact – and he sold the island in 1942 to the Derr Family of Boston. The Derrs own the island to this day.
After 1938 Roger Bigelow Merriman summered in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada across the bay from President Roosevelt’s beloved Campobello Island summer residence.