History Researched and Written by Judy Helfand, owner of Cranmore Mountain Lodge from 1986 to 1997
As is often the case when innkeepers have been welcoming visitors for decades, guests will inquire as to the property’s history. Guests are curious about when the inn was built, by whom and over the years how it has evolved to be what they enjoy in the current day.
Writing the history of Cranmore Mountain Lodge requires detective work: Searching old newspaper articles, uncovering notes from interviews of previous innkeepers, reaching out to neighbors, completing a full title search and reviewing deeds of trust, examining records provided by websites like Ancestry.com, including census records, inspecting obituaries, and yes, even recognizing sources provided by the Wayback Machine, FACEBOOK and LinkedIn. The truth is the research process can uncover many facts; however, some bits of folklore and legend remain hard to document and therefore hard to prove.
History Pre 1938…
The property is located in the Village of Kearsarge, Town of Conway, Carroll County, New Hampshire.
The buildings that make up Cranmore Mountain Lodge are reported to have beginnings in the mid-1800s (possibly post-Civil War). If you look closely at the main house (that is, standing outside by what is referred to as the “side porch) it will become clear that the architecture is what is often referred to as “center hallway” or “center passage.” There is a double doorway that opens to a center hallway, stairs leading up, with common rooms to the left and right of the stairwell. This was the front door with a wonderful covered porch. At the top of the stairwell there are three original bedrooms (rooms #6, #7 and #8) and a bathroom.
From the same center hallway there are stairs that lead to the basement. This original section of basement has a foundation of granite, not poured, large enough to walk around, later to hold an oil burner and large water heater. It has a walk-out door leading to the pool and spa area of the current grounds.
The timing of the addition of the center section, which includes what has been used as the “front porch” since at least the 1930s, is not known. This addition includes the lobby area, the large country kitchen, and bedrooms #3, #4, and #5.
The property sat on +/- nine acres, included a barn and was considered a farmhouse. Legend has it that around the 1890s the octagon wing was added and the property was converted to an inn at that time. This octagon wing is only two stories (no attic) and includes rooms #1 and #2 on the second floor. The first floor section was, according to Julia Ruth Flanders Stevens, used for the staff dining room, the cook’s room and sundry storage.
Through the 1930s, the inn was known as the “Bybrook Lodge” as the property is bordered by Kearsarge Brook and Cranmore Mountain Resort was just in the beginning stages of development by Harvey Dow Gibson.
In 1938 the property was conveyed to Richard W. Flanders and his grandmother Susan F. Flanders from Martin and Almira D. Schoonman. Richard’s grandmother paid $9000 for Bybrook Lodge.
For history buffs, Martin (Marten) Schoonman married Almira Fuller October 21, 1927, in North Conway, NH. The 1930 US Census refers to their property as a farm and Martin being a tree surgeon. In the 1940 US Census, they still lived in the Village of Kearsarge, but did not live on a farm. Almira died in 1958 and Martin died in 1959, both are buried in the Kearsarge Cemetery (abutting Cranmore Mountain Lodge), which is land donated in 1858 by Simon Seavey for his family and friends to be buried.
1938 through 1950
As mentioned Dick Flanders’ grandmother purchased the inn for him and his then wife Eleanor. Sadly Eleanor died in 1939, but Dick stayed on running the inn and he loved to golf. At this same time Cranmore Mountain was being designed for skiing and the famous skimobile opened for the 1938-39 season. The popular snow trains were introduced in the late 1930s and continued to mid 1950s. It was in summer of 1939 that Cranmore Mountain (Mount Cranmore) ski resort owner Harvey Dow Gibson invited Babe Ruth to North Conway to play in a golf tournament. While playing golf (and avoiding a sudden rainstorm) at the North Conway Country Club, Mr. and Mrs. Babe Ruth and their daughter Julia were introduced to Dick Flanders.
Julia Ruth and Richard Flanders married in 1940. The event was announced in the Milestones section of TIME Magazine, May 13, 1940: “Married. Julia Ruth, 23, adopted daughter of baseball’s ex-King of Swat George Herman (“Babe”) Ruth; and Richard Wells Flanders, 31; in Manhattan. The Babe presented the bride with one of his old bats.”
It was also in 1940 that Mr. Flanders filed a name change with the State of New Hampshire to rename the inn Cranmore Mountain Lodge. Amazingly, Julia Ruth Flanders Stevens relates that this name change request happened on the same day that the Cranmore Inn requested a name change!
Dick and Julia lived in Room #8 and ran the inn quite successfully for a number of years. They added the dining room extension in 1946 and they also added the fireplace to the common room, the chimney and fireplace being built by William Duprey or one of his sons who are listed in the 1940 US Census as contractors and bricklayers. Dick also built the bookshelves in the other common room.
In an advertisement that ran in the Boston Herald June 1940, Cranmore Mt. Lodge in Kearsarge, NH, is described as “a really comfortable vacation retreat – near North Conway and all sports, summer theater, etc. Our own vegetables, fruits and dairy. Excellent accommodations for 20. $3.50 daily, $24 weekly American Plan. July 1 – October 12.” American Plan includes three meals per day.
In July 1991, Julia shared that the name of their cow was Bossie and guests who wanted to enjoy a libation in the 1940’s had to go to the basement and sit by the boiler. Julia also reported that in 1945 (with WWII still proceeding) she and Dick decided not to hire a summer waitress. Instead Julia would be the waitress. To quote Julia Ruth Flanders [Stevens]: “Being a waitress is very hard work!”
Sadly, Julia’s father Babe Ruth passed away on August 16, 1948, and in the winter of 1949 her husband Dick became ill, traveled to Boston for care and passed away January 6, 1949.
Around March 1950, Julia Ruth Flanders sold the inn to two German couples with the surnames Wilms and Herriger. According Julia, Wilms was staying at Luke’s Homestead Inn and the owner Joe Luke was also a realtor. Mr. Wilms asked to see inns and businesses for sale! Sale price of Cranmore Mountain Lodge was $30,000.
The only property improvement attributed to Wilms was the original pond, really more like a goldfish pond; however, future owners Paula and Stafford Young were friends with the Wilms and their oldest son Peter reported that both Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wilms were wonderful artists.
1954 through 1965
Sometime in 1954 Cranmore Mt. Lodge was sold to William F. and Mary R. Sheehan. They had a young daughter, Loretta, who was just starting second grade and so began the long tradition of children growing up at the Inn.
In 1957 the first edition of the book “Flight Without Wings – The Biography of Hannes Schneider” by Gerad Fairlie was published. Hannes Schneider arrived in North Conway with his family on February 11, 1939. He was brought to North Conway by Harvey Dow Gibson (owner of Mt. Cranmore Ski Resort) to transform Cranmore into a major ski resort. The Sheehan’s purchased a copy of “Flight Without Wings” in 1957. Mary came across the book in 1997 and returned it to Cranmore Mountain Lodge’s innkeepers with a note: “Downsizing our books, I came across this and think you should have it in your bookcase!”’
The Sheehan’s owned the inn until 1964 and were frequent visitors in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s. On one visit in 1993 Loretta presented a slide show of their era to the guests. They recalled how Mr. and Mrs. Sheehan lived in room #8 and Loretta lived in Room #5 (in their time the rooms were connected by a door).
As time passed the Sheehan’s would make it a point to visit Cranmore Mountain Lodge. In the summer of 1996 Mary Sheehan came for a visit to meet family who were coming in from San Diego… at the time we were expecting Hurricane Edouard. There was a beautiful weeping willow tree that stood between the pond and the animal barn… a tree that Loretta had nurtured from a sapling and took time to “visit” with each trip to the inn. Sadly the windstorm preceding the Hurricane had taken its toll on the weeping willow. However, Mary Sheehan arrived at the inn just before our maintenance engineer felled the willow. Mary was happy for her timing that day.
When they sold the inn upon Loretta’s high school graduation they moved to Maine where Bill worked as a computer programmer.
1965 through 1977
Title to Cranmore Mountain Lodge was transferred to Paula and Stafford Young around September 1965. According to their oldest son Peter Young, he was seven when they moved to the inn with his parents and his two younger brothers Christopher and Timothy.
From a 1992 interview with Stafford Young, they operated the inn in the winter time and converted the original barn to a bunkhouse for youth groups to use for their ski vacations and eventually offered skimobile rides to their winter guests. That same visit Stafford asked to visit the recreation room of the dorm to look at the big fieldstone fireplace. He was so proud of it and then he walked over and looked carefully for a bit of carved initials. He said: “You see these initials? Some ski group teenager carved these the first night the dorm was open for guests. I was so upset with that kid, he had marred my beautiful fireplace!”
Stafford also built the new animal barn and repositioned the pond. Paula established the connection with the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company when as president of this organization, she and Stafford hosted the company members to live at Cranmore Mt. Lodge for the summer season. In 1970, the inaugural season, the Young’s hosted and welcomed the summer stock actors and technical staff, which included a very young and future Academy Award winning Geena Davis, future Academy Award nominee John Sayles, and future Academy Award nominee David Strathairn. Sayles and Strathairn both attended Williams College with Kearsarge, NH, native and future Emmy winning Gordon Clapp. Of course, Gordon didn’t stay at Cranmore Mountain Lodge, as his family lived just down the street.
It was believed that the Stafford’s had horses in the new barn and offered riding lessons for local youth. In 2016 Peter Young was able to verify many of the historical tidbits by providing his memories of his years growing up at Cranmore Mountain Lodge:
“We boys lived in Room 8 at the NW corner. We used the two bedrooms and bath. In the laundry area there was a bunk for the ski bums that helped out in the winter. My parents used the bedroom above the living room (Room 7). They bought the house (879 Kearsarge Road sold to the Young’s by Merrill H. Taber and Annie C. Taber) in 1970 I think. Arthur Wilms (both he and his wife were artists and good friends with my parents) had installed a concrete goldfish pond directly east of the granite retaining wall which my dad built. Unfortunately, it (concrete goldfish pond) heaved with frost and was never much good for anything but a burn pit. My father made a concrete dam and put in a larger pond that he used to put brook trout in.”
“I got a horse for my 12th birthday. We kept it at the lodge in the summer. We built a corral north of where the horse barn is. I boarded it at Nestle Nook Inn in Jackson, I cleaned stalls two weekends a month to help pay board. We built the barn a year later. Peter Gray owned North Country Produce and ran Pacers [a standard-bred horse that is used for pacing in harness racing]. Mr. Gray gave us a retired one and another that would not pace. We also had an albino horse and a pony for a while.”
“My dad worked for Lloyd Drew for a summer to get some construction experience prior to building the new animal barn. We boys helped out. We would help Sonny Lynch hay fields up in Bartlett in exchange for hay. I was horribly allergic to hay. That was no fun. We boarded horses sometimes. I gave riding lessons. I was the president of the local 4H horse club.”
“Whit Duprey was the one that converted the original cow barn to a dorm. He also put in the existing pond to help with the constant Alder migration south. There was a day and overnight camp, Hidden Acres at Cranmore Mountain Lodge for two summers, perhaps in 1971 and 1972. Also, I think maybe six boys from NY and MA would stay for a month and some local boys also on a day basis. In 1973 there was a camp for special needs campers. Charlie Bond owned Carroll County Hardware and lived North West kind of across from the Taber house (879 Kearsarge Rd) in the old Pope house. His wife Sue had a camp there for a two years but it became too popular and they needed more space. She rented from CML for a year.”
As mentioned, the Stafford’s owned the home at 879 Kearsarge and did not transfer ownership of that home in November 1977 to the new Cranmore Mountain Lodge owners, Bob and Dawn Brauel.
1977 – 1986
When Bob and Dawn Brauel purchased Cranmore Mountain Lodge in November 1977, they did not have children, but by 1985 they were parents to four children: Josh, Tara, Jenna and Callie. During the nine years that they owned and operated Cranmore Mountain Lodge they redecorated most every room in the main house, added four rooms to the loft of the original barn building complete with private bath and air conditioning. Additionally, they added the swimming pool, Jacuzzi, resilient surface tennis court, a basketball court and groomed the pond for ice skating and invited guests to use the hill at the far end of the parking lot for sledding or tobogganing. They were open year round and continued the Young’s tradition of offering snowmobile rides to their winter guests.
The Brauels added to the main inn by building owners’ quarters, attaching this addition to the previously mentioned octagon wing. The owners’ quarters consisted of three bedrooms, one and one-half baths, a full kitchen, living room with dining area, a play room and a deck. Part of this area is now Suite 12 which is right above the current owners’ quarters.
During the Brauel’s era the inn was often used as a headquarters for the judges and officials for the Volvo International Tennis Tournament which was held at Mount Cranmore from 1975 – 1984.
Late 1986 – 1997
In December 1986, Dennis and Judy Helfand purchased Cranmore Mountain Lodge from Dawn and Bob Brauel. Together with their two young sons, Aaron (6) and Daniel (almost 3) they moved into the owners’ quarters and for more than a decade they called the inn home. The Helfand’s did a lot of major redecorating, but will be forever known as the innkeepers who brought guests private bathrooms, fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler systems, a paved parking lot, auxiliary electric heat, ceiling fans, a baby grand piano, a year round Jacuzzi, in-room phones, real storm windows, cross country ski trails, a fax machine, farm animals[a Jersey cow, pigs, sheep and rabbits], AAA and Mobil ratings, a bi-annual newsletter known as “Inn-Ovations” and Cranmore Mountain Lodge’s first website, domain, 800 number, and email address.
The Helfand’s were honored to play host to John F. Kennedy, Jr, the winter weekend of March 15-16, 1991. Young Mr. Kennedy was in town with his Brown University fraternity brother to ice climb. They checked in late and the reservation was in his fraternity brother’s name. At breakfast on Saturday morning Judy checked with the two late arriving guests to make sure their room #9 in the main inn was to their liking. After talking for a few minutes Judy realized that she felt like she knew the dark haired young man. She asked if they wanted to have dinner at the inn that evening to which they replied “yes.” And so it was, later at dinner that Mr. Kennedy asked for seconds. Judy told him he could have seconds if he could settle the bet going on in the kitchen among the staff. He agreed. Judy said: “I think you are JFK, Jr!” To which, Mr. Kennedy replied indeed he was. For the record, the next year Mr. Kennedy tried to return to Cranmore Mountain Lodge, but there was no room available at the inn.
In 1992, the Helfand’s had an opportunity to purchase the home next door to the inn located at 879 Kearsarge Road (not unlike innkeepers Stafford and Paula Young). When the Helfand’s moved next door they converted the owners’ quarters to a two bedroom suite and a townhouse that could accommodate 12 guests. In June 1994 Judy and Dennis had the main inn and the original barn building sided with vinyl siding taking both buildings back to the original white color and easy to maintain.
The Helfand’s operated the inn year round and reestablished the connection to the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company by welcoming the summer stock cast to rehearse at the inn and enjoy all of the amenities during their down time and welcoming their families as guests of the inn. Many an opening night party was held at Cranmore Mountain Lodge and eventually Judy served on the board of directors.
In the summer of 1997, Judy and Dennis made the decision to sell Cranmore Mountain Lodge, and so on September 11, 1997, title of Cranmore Mountain Lodge and the home at 879 Kearsarge Road was passed to Natalie and Garrett Blake.
Late 1997 – December 2001
Natalie and Garrett Blake purchased the inn when their young son Erik was three years old and Natalie was expecting a new baby in the spring of 1998. Together the Blake’s had a background in banking, culinary arts, real estate development and general construction.
During their years of owning and managing Cranmore Mountain Lodge they made some changes such as covering the 40 foot swimming pool and making it available to guests year round, reintroducing the guest room on the ground floor of the main inn, adding a laundry room for guests, converting the 40 bed bunk house to three ground floor suites (#19, #24 and #25), and hiring the best deck builders in Frederick, MD in order to add a patio deck off the main dining room.
In December 2001 Natalie and Garrett sold Cranmore Mountain Lodge and the home at 879 Kearsarge to Kevin and Jean Flanagan.
December 2001 – December 2006
For five years Kevin and Jean Flanagan called Cranmore Mountain Lodge home. Kevin reports on his LinkedIn profile that technical enhancements to the inn included the design and installation of a VoIP phone system, which allowed the inn to sell private calling cards for placing long distance phone calls, and the installation of a wireless intranet giving web access to guests and offered guests some “pet friendly” accommodations.
Kevin and Jean continued the tradition of having farm animals for the guests to enjoy. After Sarah the Jersey cow, who came to Cranmore Mountain Lodge as a three day old calf October 10, 1990, passed on, her place was taken by one black and white heifer called Daisy.
It was during the Flanagan era when they were painting the animal barn red a visiting guest and artist Ms. Anne Marie Bourgeois felt that the side of a red barn that had a cow as great as Daisy deserved better than just a coat of red paint. She picked up a brush and gave Cranmore Mountain Lodge a master piece. Additionally, Kevin and Jean had sheep named Queenie, Sheepie, Mee and Ewe. And let’s not forget their goats Trouble and Thunderbolt.
In December 2006 the Flanagan’s sold Cranmore Mountain Lodge to Thierry & Frederique Procyk; however, the house at 879 Kearsarge was not part of the sale.
December 2006 – the present…
We would be pleased to talk to you about all the changes and improvements we’ve done since we own the Cranmore Mountain Lodge and continue building the history of the Inn! In the meantime, you can meet us here!