House Crush: The Lucerne Hotel, Canaan, New Hampshire

by Leona Jaeger

This special home is not just *any* crush, it’s an Avalanche of Crush!
When I first saw the photos of this Canaan home, this Greek Revival goddess, I wanted to squeal so loudly my seams would burst! The stunning front façade with the “look at me” gable and balcony pulls you toward it like the wafting aroma of Grandma’s from-scratch pumpkin pie. Stately columns stand at attention at the entry and the smaller columns that wind their way around the wraparound porch create the homey feel of the proverbial white picket fence.

Built in 1798 and first known as Gilman’s Tavern (a colonial stagecoach tavern), the original building consisted of the main house with a barn creating an ell structure. But around 1890 this lovely was converted to the Lucerne Hotel. The Lucerne was owned by the Weeks family, and subsequently given to their adopted son, William Hinckley, who had a reputation of being a wonderful and accommodating host and proprietor. In 1908, Mr. Hinckley had the large barn moved to a nearby location where he continued to use it as a livery stable. In its place a new and extensive two-story ell was constructed which included a number of additional guest rooms, a kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms. With the expansion of the hotel and the fact that it was located on Canaan Street Lake (previously known as both Hart’s Lake and Crystal Lake), the Lucerne quickly became a popular summer hotel. Parties on the lawn, musical entertainment, swimming, hiking, croquet, tennis, and golf were just some of the ways you could spend your days there.
In the 1940s the home was converted to accommodate the Cardigan Mountain School (an all boys prep school which is now located just down the road). Later, from the mid 1960s to mid-1970s, it became the campus of a tiny liberal arts college called—appropriately—Canaan College. It was later bought by a family who has since used it as a primary residence.
Upon entering the Canaan Street Home, you may be tempted to break out into a waltz as the ballroom-sized great room greets you. Currently, there is a barge-length dining—no, feasting—table centered in the room surrounded by several cozy seating areas for nestling into. Very inviting! With large windows spaced evenly along the walls, there is no lack of light or view to the beautiful and serene lawn outside. Do you want to experience that lovely yard? Then walk out to the back porch which spans the width of the home. Wide and smooth and surrounded by lacey-edged woods, I can easily imagine what it may have been like playing a friendly game of croquet or lawn bowling on a lovely summer day at the Lucerne. Better yet: flash-forward to today and I would be inspired to invite friends to dine alfresco at dusk, raising and “clinking” glasses while waiting for the stars to peek out from behind their twilight canopy. (Soul therapy, I tell ya!)
Inside, every guest room has it’s own window to allow plenty of light and sweet fresh air to tickle the curtains. My favorite feature? The 3rd floor attic! It has a wood-planked barrel ceiling that screams “Fantastic!” and the possibilities for this space are endless!
The current owners have developed plans for converting the home to an inn, with some changes already started. Whether you want to keep this amazing beauty as your primary residence or are looking for an opportunity for an inn, B&B, or other hospitality venue, this home has endless opportunities!
From the sturdy practicality of a colonial saltbox, to the lavish details of a High Victorian, Leona believes that each old home holds a beauty, solid craftsmanship, and history that is a mystery and wonder to be explored and appreciated. Leona’s dream is to find a huge farmhouse with high ceilings, wide-planked floors (complete with hidden artifacts under a loose plank), a wraparound porch, and enough acreage to house a horse or two, some dogs, cats, goats, and a ring-tailed lemur. In her spare time she can be found with her face pressed and distorted against the car window, ogling the fantastic old homes in the surrounding areas of Pasadena, California where she lives with her loving husband (who patiently peels her face off the windows and tells her to breathe) and her vivacious 9-year-old daughter.

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