Bretton Woods (NH)

(continuer en français) – Last updated: July 13, 2022

In 1944, this small town in the state of New Hampshire became the centre of the world for a few days.

As I was planning a route from Toronto to the coast of Maine, through northern New England, a name caught my eye on the map, Bretton Woods, reminding me of my college and university economics classes. I had never bothered to check the exact location of where the monetary conference took place, so it was with some surprise that this virtual place took on a precise geographical dimension.

From then on, it was obvious that I had to make a side trip, even if I dreaded the surrounding slopes for my then ageing car.

Today the big white building has regained the serenity of luxury hotels. Its real name is Mount Washington Hotel, and it offers a direct view of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, at 6,288 feet, 1,916 metres, above sea level.

The hotel was originally built in 1900 by an investor who made his fortune in the coal trade. Perhaps there is a reason for the bright white walls. Just as the property changed hands several times, the building was restructured and renovated several times, but still retains its traditional Y-shape.

In winter the ski slopes are not far away, in summer the hotel is literally surrounded by no less than two golf courses. Many other activities are also offered to suit the changing habits of visitors.

Large galleries welcome the less active guests, who are essentially looking for a moment of rest in a beautiful natural setting. The galleries, shaded by majestic porticoes, offer a grand view of a vast mountain landscape, with wooded slopes rising to the peaks dominated by the bald Mount Washington.

Inside, the atmosphere is as hushed as the salons of luxury establishments, the slightly old-fashioned layout gives a great impression of comfort. It is easy to imagine corridor talks between representatives of countries using their influence to steer decisions.

The Bretton Woods Agreements

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the international monetary system had to be put in order. A conference was therefore organised in July 1944 at which all 44 Allied nations sent delegations. The British were led by John Maynard Keynes, at the height of his fame, and the French by Pierre Mendès France, who later became Prime Minister. The debates were mainly between the United States, on the rise as a dominant economic power, and the United Kingdom, the former pre-eminent power.

The collective aim was to facilitate international trade by relying on convertible currencies with parities as fixed as possible. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was created to help stabilise the faltering economies. The Bretton Woods Agreements regulated monetary life for some 30 years.

Around Bretton Woods

The area around Mount Washington is sparsely populated. It is mostly forested and its unspoiled nature makes it a popular destination for residents of the major cities of the Northeast.

One of the region’s attractions is the historic Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides sightseeing tours. It offers a different perspective on the landscape, especially in autumn. Reusing old railway tracks, speed is not its goal, and passengers even get off on the rails while the locomotive manoeuvres.

There is also another tourist train to the top of Mount Washington, the Cog Railway, which has been in operation since 1869. to compensate for the steep mountain grades, its locomotives have a special shape. Another special arrangement is that the locomotive is placed behind the only car that it pushes up the slope.

The area is mainly covered by the White Mountain National Forest which covers 280,000 hectares. The forest offers numerous hikes of varying lengths and difficulty for all levels. The autumn season is particularly popular.

Saint John’s Chapel in Highland is often photographed for its woodland setting contrasting with its typically white walls.

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  1. Interesting information on the conference. I’d heard the name, probably in college at one point, but I’d long since forgotten the purpose of the conference.
    It also looks like another interesting railroad engine to explore there. Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve only ever visited Bretton Wood in the winter so it’s nice to see what the landscape looks like in the summer. Mount Washington Hotel looks quite impressive and luxurious. Thanks for taking us along on a virtual tour with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a truly gorgeous part of The U.S. and that hotel is stunning. Funnily enough it popped up on my screen a few days ago in an episode of ‘Stephen Fry in America’. I was so taken with the place it had me scrambling to to see their nightly rates. They say the hotel inspired Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel while he was writing The Shining. Great photography throughout this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the whole point of travelling, to see things that are out of the ordinary. Bretton Woods appealed to me because of the history, but the interest goes beyond that.


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