Tourism and Spofford Lake
by Pam Walton, Vice President, Chesterfield Historical Society
Today, people from all over New England think nothing of driving to Spofford Lake to enjoy hiking nearby trails, snowmobiling, and water activities, but tourism is nothing new to the area.
It began in the 19th century, and was a major undertaking by stagecoach or train, not a day excursion. Seeing the future, Ezekiel P. Pierce constructed a granite building in 1831 near the Lake as a stagecoach stop where travelers could rest and find a meal. He named his structure the Lake House (known today as the Stone House Tavern) and operated it as a temperance establishment. And so, tourism and the draw of Spofford Lake began.
It is estimated that the original boat launch was in the southwest side corner of the Lake, somewhere between the present-day Starbuck and Copeland homes. In 1857, Pierce built a sailboat that was used to tour the Lake. Soon other sailboats arrived and it was off to the races with advertising posters as early as the 1850s promoting sailing adventures. A 9-hole golf course was then built between the Tavern and the Lake, with the first hole being located near today’s Linfield Lane.
By the late 1800s, Spofford Lake became an attractive place for the well-to-do to spend leisure time. Advertisements in New England newspapers were common, and tourism flourished. With its scenic grandeur, clear water and sandy bottom, abundant fish, horseback riding, trails to hike, and numerous aquatic diversions, Spofford Lake lured vacationers from Boston, New York, and Albany. They came by stagecoach, train, and car and stayed for a week, a month, or the whole season.
Some built their own homes after having vacationed at a lake lodge. The Prospect House was built in 1873 on the hill overlooking the present boat launch and operated until it burned about 1895. In the area of the present Camp Spofford was the Lakeside Inn, and the Lake View Hotel stood where the Cottages at Spofford Lake are now. In fact, there were two Lake View Hotels noted on the 1892 map. The second one was in the Silverdale area and included structures on Pierce Island. In 1895 that hotel was renovated and renamed the Silverdale Hotel. At the same time on the east side of the Lake, Woodside Cottages was run by J.H. Stearns, who tore down the structures in 1896 and erected the Pine Grove Springs Hotel (later the Lake Spofford Hotel). Pine Grove Springs and the Silverdale Hotels were large resorts accommodating up to 250 guests.
The Silverdale Hotel was sold in 1919 to Richard Averill, who used the lumber to build several summer cottages along the shore. In a couple of those present-day Silverdale cottages, you can still see the faded room numbers on the doors! The Pine Grove Springs Hotel remained open under different names well into the twentieth century.
The hotels, taverns, inns, tea rooms and golf links offered something for everyone and the establishments prided themselves on reasonable rates. Believe it or not, summer vacationers in the 1950s at the Spofford House could secure accommodations (American Plan) for $4.00 a day. The winter rate was a mere $3.00 a day.
In the 1930s-40s, Ware’s Grove hosted big bands, including Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. A 1935 ad noted that Ware’s Grove offered amusements, beach, ballroom, boats, cottages, and restaurants. Lodging options for the summer traveler who wished to enjoy the Lake were numerous into the 1960s.
In 1961, the Lake Spofford Hotel, then a thriving hotel restricted to individuals of the Jewish faith, burned. After the owner, Abe Jacobson, was denied a permit to rebuild, he sold the property. The remaining newer wing opened as the Lake Spofford Motel, but closed permanently a few years later after having been renamed Johnson’s on the Lake.
Names of lodgings in Chesterfield have included: Near Lake Inn (condos today), The Pillars, Westview, Sally Lunn Tea Room, The Villa Tea Room, San ‘N Sno Motor Lodge, Shamrock Ranch Cabins, Riverside Cabins, Spofford House, Cottages and Tents- Ware’s Grove Resort, Lake Spofford Cabins, Brookhaven Cabins, Snow White Cabins, Tower Light Inn and Motel, Spofford Motel, Erbhof, The Maples, Sherman’s Country Store and Motel, and the Chesterfield Inn (not the present-day establishment).
Today, the Lake hosts Camp Spofford, owned by the Evangelical Free Church, North Shore town beach for Chesterfield residents, Ware’s Grove beach (for anyone and everyone), and a few private clubs. A number cottages or cabins are available for rent and nearby there is the Chesterfield Inn, an upscale bed and breakfast, with fine country dining open to the public. But gone are the days when large establishments catered to tourists.
A variety of wildlife still call beautiful Spofford Lake home, with eagles and loons successfully producing young in 2020 for the first time in the better part of a century.
Thanks to Martha Dodds Potter and her 2008 book "Spofford Lake, A Retrospective of Her Cottages, Camps & Resorts." Learn more about Chesterfield, NH and the topics covered in this article by visiting Chesterfield Historical Society (CHS).
Page updated April 29, 2021