About Sunset Hill
About the Innkeepers
Alonzo “Lon” Henderson and, his wife, Nancy Henderson decided to become innkeepers "someday" more than a decade ago while they were career Army officers. When their second daughter was born in 1999, they decided to give up jobs in corporate America and buy the country inn of their dreams, in the middle of New Hampshire’s White Mountains complete with the award winning Restaurant at Sunset Hill and casual New Hampshire Tavern and a view of the Cannon Mountain ski slopes, Mount Washington, and 40 other named peaks. Two years later the Hendersons purchased Sunset Hill’s historic golf course, and protected it all with a conservation easement.
Sunset Hill House Inn and Restaurant is still their dream, and they remain the world’s happiest innkeepers at least 80% of the time. Lon and Nancy ere enjoy serving our guests, raising our four children (we adopted two more in the summer of 2009), and being active in our church and community.
Sunset Hill House History
Sunset Hill House traces its history to the Grand Resort Hotels of the New Hampshire White Mountains. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, residents of Boston, New York and other East Coast cities traveled by train and horse-drawn coach to stay for the season at the old resort hotels. These resorts were referred to as "houses" despite their huge scale. There, the wealthy and influential exchanged the humidity, heat and pollution of coal-age America for the cool mountain air of New Hampshire.
Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, was particularly well-situated as a House. Its location, high atop Sunset Hill Ridge, has been long-recognized as having the best accessible mountain views in New England. Construction began in 1880 after the railroad came to neighboring Lisbon Village (Sugar Hill Station,) and by about 1910, the Sunset Hill House Grand Hotel, with its restaurants, pool and golf course, could accommodate over 350 guests, 300 staff and all the animals needed to transport and feed a small town.
When the invention of the automobile allowed urban travelers to make "day-trips," and the graduated income tax was imposed, the age of the grand resort hotels began to end. Sunset Hill House was among the last to close its doors. Finally, in the fall of 1973, due to an aging physical plant as much changes in its clientele; the main hotel welcomed the last of perhaps a million guests. The main building was torn down in 1974.
The present Sunset Hill House Inn was also built in 1880 – but as the servant’s quarters for the Grand Hotel. Around 1900, management realized that many of the servants enjoyed a better view than most of the paying guests so Sunset Hill House was converted to guest accommodations. It was touted as being quieter, while still convenient to the goings-on at the main house. Unlike the grand hotel, Sunset Hill House Inn offered its guests what was then-cutting-age modernity: exotic luxuries like private bathrooms, hot and cold running water, electricity and central heat.
When the grand hotel was torn down in 1974, the present-day Sunset Hill House began its modern existence as a destination country inn, boasting upscale lodging and fine dining in two restaurants, as well as a full banquet facility. Recreational activities such as golf, skiing and a pool, were also featured. Despite its popularity, it suffered from an aging infrastructure, and by 1993 was condemned and sold at public auction. However, it was completely revamped in the ensuing year and returned to its former position as a premier New England vacation destination.
When innkeepers Lon and Nancy Henderson discovered the inn in 1999, they immediately saw in it the same things that have appealed to more than a million guests: location, location, location. The stunning White and Green Mountain views left them speechless. Combined with caring service, fine food and historical lodging, it proved an irresistible combination. They were able to purchase this historic New Hampshire inn in March 2000.
As much as the Hendersons are Sunset Hill House’s fortunate innkeepers, they also see themselves as the curators of this magnificent tangible piece of America’s history. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the grandeur of Sunset Hill House while letting you share in the intimacy and charm of a fine country inn.