Manor on Golden Pond is named after the hit movie classic On Golden Pond starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Heck, the cast and crew stayed here during the 1981 filming which was a huge PR boost for a village of a few specialty shops and 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. For over 150 years, tranquility and natural beauty have been the main features of escaping here.
Manor on Golden Pond sits prominently hidden on a hillside above Route 3 overlooking the lake. Built in 1907 by wealthy Florida real estate investor Issac Van Horn, what is now a grand manor evolved over the decades 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.
If you’ve already checked trip advisor or plan to shortly, you’ll see some negatives sprinkled among mostly glowing reviews. Repeat guests are numerous while others think the ambiance and service doesn’t merit the price. After staying here, I think I can explain. Typically, guests who spend $250-300 per night are used to a more corporatized ambiance…more staff at your shoulder, the latest in-room electronics, and obsessive maintenance inside and out.
Manor on Golden Pond is run by a husband and wife team with a small core of support staff. I think we can all identify with the allure of leaving the rat race behind buying an inn and escaping to the countryside. But there’s also the realities of a bigger house to maintain…a much larger roof, more painting, higher heating bills…you get the picture. Their budget is also impacted by seasonal fluctuations. But despite these challenges, they keep this gem of a property polished with a personal touch. If you care more about some charcoal marks on the carpet than the fact that you have your very own fireplace (many rooms have them) stocked with wood and fire starter along with fresh baked cookies at turn down, then you’re missing the point.
The library and sitting room to the left of the beveled glass entrance contains a remarkable library 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.
But save your culinary judgments for the Van Horn dining room featuring farm-to-table dishes prepared by Executive Chef Peter Sheedy. Sheedy was exposed early in his career to sourcing seasonal ingredients while preparing dishes at New Hampshire’s Canterbury Shaker Village Restaurant.
In addition to dishes on the menu changing every 2 weeks like classic New Hampshire baked beans made with maple syrup instead of molasses and a pumpkin soup with hints of curry & toasted spices, Chef Sheedy and his team offer 2-day “Fork in the Road” Cooking Class packages for learning behind-the-scenes preparation secrets of award-winning cuisine.
Intriguing themes include Contrabanned Cuisine: Forbidden Foods, an exploration of esoteric and conventionally taboo foods like Steak Tartare; Seared Foie Gras with Absinthe Sauce and Nutmeg-Scented Pain Perdue; and a Cloven-Hoofed Confectionary.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky & Manor on Golden Pond respectively. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored visit.