Prospect House

The Prospect House hotel in Spofford helped make the lake there a vacation destination in the latter 19th century.

Heat and humidity are familiar elements of summer in the Monadnock Region. It was approximately 150 years ago that “going out to the lake” became a popular summer activity in the region as residents began to escape to the refreshing waters of the numerous lakes and ponds of southwest New Hampshire. John Herrick of Keene took advantage of the region’s natural beauty when he built a summer resort hotel near the shores of Spofford Lake in 1873.

The hotel, named the Prospect House, was a large four-story building that could accommodate 75 guests. Visitors from as far away as New York, where the Prospect House had an office, would visit the hotel to escape the heat and noise of the city during the summer months. Accommodations cost $2 to $3 per day or $7 to $10 for a one-week stay. Visitors traveled by train to Keene and then journeyed to the hotel by stagecoach, which traveled to and from the train station each day.

Advertising brochures proclaimed that the hotel was a “favorite and beautiful resort among the hills of southern New Hampshire.” The Prospect House also advertised as an “unsurpassed health resort” because of the pure water, mountain air, and the absence of malaria, fog and mosquitoes.

The hotel was enlarged to accommodate 100 guests a few years after it opened. It offered billiards, croquet, swings, bowling, bathing, rowing, sailing, hiking, and fishing for black bass and pike. Guests were also treated to scenic tours of the lake in the hotel’s steamboat the “Enterprise.” Hotel owner Herrick and three partners commissioned the construction of the steamer, which was launched with much fanfare on July 3, 1876.

Sixty private cottages were built on the shores of Spofford Lake by 1900 as former guests and local residents constructed their own housing at the lake. The Prospect House survived for more than 20 years, however, as one of Cheshire County’s few truly successful resort hotels.

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit hsccnh.org.