In the 1830’s, a farmhouse with an attached barn was built on the site the inn occupies. For most of the 19th century the farm sat quietly on Wells Road while the surrounding area became increasingly popular as an outdoor vacation destination.
The Great Outdoors
The first half of the 20th century saw a sizeable increase in the sport and stewardship of the Great Outdoors. In 1911, Congress passed the Weeks Act, creating the White Mountain National Forest bordering the farm property. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), putting thousands of men to work in the national and state parks and forests, building trails, constructing shelters and planting trees. In 1938, the State of New Hampshire installed the first aerial tramway in North America, dramatically increasing the popularity of skiing at Cannon Mountain. These laudable efforts by the federal and state governments made the White Mountains a year-round destination for hiking, skiing and sightseeing.
The Construction, 1946
World War II placed a temporary halt on the recreational development of the area. When the war ended in 1945, the country resumed its affinity for the Great Outdoors. William (Tally) V.C. Ruxton, a retired Wall Street financier who made his fortune during the Roaring Twenties, purchased the farm and the surrounding 250 acres with the intent of developing an elegant inn, tavern and restaurant to cater to outdoor enthusiasts.
Ruxton had spent the 1930s living in England, fox hunting and running the hounds. He had the land surrounding the inn graded to make an extensive level yard and the farmhouse renovated to resemble English inns similar to those Ruxton had frequented in Great Britain. The property was marketed as “a country inn with a country club atmosphere.”
The building was designed to cater to a wide range of guests. One end featured large rooms with private baths and sitting areas while the other housed bunkrooms for skiers and hikers, with a community bathroom at the end of the hall. A shooting gallery and a Carroll Reed ski shop were located in the basement.
Prior to the development of the western ski resorts, Cannon Mountain’s aerial tramway and Baron Hubert von Pantz’s Mittersill Alpine Resort made Franconia the ski spot in northern New England, and the inn attracted celebrities and sportsmen alike. While Bette Davis was in residence at Butternut in Sugar Hill, her friends would lodge at local inns. Academy Award winning actress Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, 1941) stayed at the Horse & Hound, and the guest register regularly featured the A-list from Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
The Horse & Hound 1950s-1970s
In 1952, Ruxton sold the property to Ira and Angie Stroup, a young newlywed couple in partnership with a close friend John Whitworth. Whitworth came from a prosperous Philadelphia family and brought with him considerable financial resources and a gift for generous hospitality.
During this period, the Horse & Hound became the après ski spot for skiers from Cannon Mountain. One could ski down the mountain via the Tucker Brook Trail and take several lesser trails to the back door of the inn. The ski parties during this period were legendary. The 1967 edition of SKI Magazine listed the Horse & Hound as one of the country’s “Dazzling Dozen” après ski destinations and provided the following description:
The Horse & Hound 1970s – 1990s
During this era, the Horse & Hound had several different owners. For a period the inn stood vacant and empty. In the 1980s, Bob and Sybil Carey purchased the inn and Sybil lovingly restored it. While Bob continued his day job as the Director of Radio an WGBH in Boston, Sybil ran the business and raised their young daughter. The couple provided exquisite French dining and on weekends Bob played the grand piano in the Lobby following dinner.
The Horse & Hound 1990s – 2010
In 1990, the Horse & Hound was purchased by Bill Steele and Jim Cantlon. For almost 20 years they lived at the inn with Bill’s mother, Miss Flossie. Legendary in the area, Bill and Jim poured their hearts into the Horse & Hound and truly made it their home and the adopted home of thousands of happy and loyal patrons.
The Horse & Hound 2010 – present
In December, 2010, the Horse & Hound was purchased by the present owners, Ron Homer and Ken Adler. The complete story can be found under Restoration.