Sitting prominently hidden on a hillside above Route 3, Manor on Golden Pond was built in 1907 by wealthy Florida real estate investor Issac Van Horn. The hotel is named after the hit movie classic On Golden Pond starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. The cast and crew even stayed there during the 1981 filming, which was a huge PR boost for a village of only a few specialty shops and a marina on Squam Lake. Although monumental, this movie is but one event weaved into the much broader fabric of time in New Hampshire's Lakes Region.
What is now a grand manor took decades to evolve as guest expectations and innkeepers changed. Current innkeepers Brian and Mary Ellen Shields have steadily made improvements to the inn since 2004, earning it the distinction of being New Hampshire's first Small Luxury Hotels of the World member.
While some reviewers have less than stellar things to say, there are others who return again and again to this boutique property. After staying there, I think I can explain the varying responses. Typically, guests who spend $250-$300 per night are used to a more corporatized ambiance like more staff, the latest in-room electronics, and obsessive maintenance inside and out. However, the manor is run by a husband and wife team with a small core of support staff which may not be what every affluent traveler is looking for. Yet, what they do offer is a more personal touch, which includes things like fresh baked cookies at turn down.
As a boutique hotel, it still has all the amenities you could need while vacationing in New Hampshire and provides an intimate and homey atmosphere. The library and sitting room contains a remarkable collection of vintage classics as well as coffee table books, board games, and a complete photo album profiling all the innkeepers throughout the property's history. This is the place to linger during their signature afternoon tea when your itinerary doesn’t have you out exploring the lake on several boat tours, hiking local trails, or simply sitting out on your private patio listening to an occasional loon call.
Along with its charming public spaces, there is also a great dining room which features farm-to-table dishes prepared by Executive Chef Peter Sheedy. Chef Sheedy was exposed early in his career to sourcing seasonal ingredients while preparing dishes at the Canterbury Shaker Village Restaurant. In addition to dishes on the menu changing every two weeks and include items like classic New Hampshire baked beans made with maple syrup and a pumpkin soup with hints of curry and toasted spices. Chef Sheedy and his team also offer two-day "Fork in the Road" Cooking Class packages for learning behind-the-scenes preparation secrets of their award-winning cuisine.
For over 150 years, tranquility and natural beauty have been the main appeal for guests wanting to stay at Manor on Golden. Upon visiting, I was pleasantly surprised at the small details that the hotel takes into consideration daily. It’s for that reason that I will again return one day.