Located on the eastern side of New Hampshire’s largest lake, Wolfeboro has always been among our favorites of all New England towns. With a year-round population of about 6,300, it simply has everything you’d ever want in a town, and, yes, although many have come to retire here in recent years, it is, indeed, the oldest summer resort in America—officially chartered in 1770.
So a few months ago, we paid a visit to this lovely old town on “the big lake,” as Winnipesaukee is known, to see what properties are available. Among eight real-estate companies in town, we chose to contact Prudential Spencer–Hughes, a firm established 25 years ago. The day we dropped by, the agency had 72 homes for sale in the area (about 30 on the lake), plus 30 rentals and quite a bit of lakeshore land, too. Mike Travis, a Wolfeboro resident and a former advertising and marketing man, was our guide, and together we decided that probably about a half-dozen of those 72 homes would be all we could cover in a day. So, after a coffee in his downtown office, we were off on our Wolfeboro adventure.
Soon, we discovered our mutual interest in genealogy. For instance, can you believe that Mike has an ancestor who, in 1607, helped found Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America? How impressive is that?
Our first property, once a summer camp for boys, wasn’t actually in Wolfeboro but rather in an area on the lake technically in Alton but referred to as “Wolfeboro South.” We fell in love with it at first sight. The panoramic views out of those huge living-room windows—extending for miles over open water to distant islands and mountains—took our breath away.
But, of course, the house is a veritable mansion, with 15 rooms, 10 bathrooms, and three huge stone fireplaces, plus a two-bay boathouse, an elevator, and, well, everything you’d expect to find in a lakeside mansion. Price: $6,380,000. (Probably worth every penny—if you happen to have that many pennies.)
Back on the road again, heading for Springfield Point, Mike told us that the next Wolfeboro property he’d show us was where former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (and entourage) stayed during his 2007 visit to the United States. Oh, boy—probably a modest little lakeside bungalow, right?
Well, as we actually expected, we’ve never walked into a home so grand: 37 rooms, 11 bathrooms, a six-car garage, a three-bay boathouse, and on and on. At least its 58 acres may be subdivided, with 2,349 feet of lake frontage, sandy beach, and, of course, total privacy in every direction. We couldn’t keep track of all the kitchens, what with there being a main one and a summer kitchen plus a guest kitchen. Probably a few more as well. Anyway, suffice it to say, President Sarkozy must have been very happy here. Price: only $13,600,000. Do you think maybe the owners would accept a little less? (Probably not.)
The third place we visited—on Sinclair Lane in Wolfeboro—was also pretty much a mansion, as reflected in another big price tag of $4,498,000. While the first two are fairly new, this one, with 18 rooms, was built in 1910, although much has been done to it since then. We particularly loved the over-the-water boathouse (such structures are no longer allowed to be built on Winnipesaukee) from which you can look across miles of lake. Nice sandy beach next to it, too. Among the property’s many, many wonderful features are two good-size, man-made waterfalls in the entryway patio area. All in all, the nuts.
“Is there anything in Wolfeboro we could conceivably afford?” we asked Mike as we drove through downtown on our way to a property in neighboring Tuftonboro. “The next one can be yours for $599,000,” Mike replied, and we returned to chatting about our various ancestors. Another of his, for instance, one Commander William Barret Travis, fought and died with Davy Crockett at the Alamo. (We couldn’t begin to top that one either.)
Turned out that the Tuftonboro property is a nine-room condominium with three bedrooms, two fireplaces, a detached garage, two deeded dock slips, a sandy beach, and even shared tennis courts. Really close to the water, too. We loved it.
We were back in Wolfeboro for our fifth property, a privately owned five-room cottage on a shared beach and dock area, all part of a resort called Piping Rock. The only conceivable drawback to this one is that you have to park your car at the top of a fairly long wooden walkway leading down to the cottage and the lake. Considering the $314,900 price, however, that wouldn’t bother us.
Our final property was on Dame Road in Tuftonboro, a fully renovated 1790 farmhouse with seven fireplaces, six bathrooms, and no less than 78 acres of beautiful, mostly open land with wonderful views. No, it’s not on the water, but Winnipesaukee is nearby, and the swimming pool is magnificent. Owners Steve and Nancy Menefee showed us around, carrying two cute little dogs they’d just acquired. (They plan to move to Tennessee to be near children—thus the availability of this place.) Six outbuildings include two barns, a two-story game-room house, and an adorable children’s playhouse. Price: $1,585,500.
On our way back to Wolfeboro, we urged Mike to continue telling us about some of his most interesting ancestors. Well, he said, he had a great-great-uncle, William DeLarry Trimble Travis, whose paintings of Civil War battle scenes are on display in the Smithsonian. Wow.
Later that evening we wondered what Mike’s ancestors had to do with the six properties we’d visited that day. Our conclusion: nothing. On the other hand, for us it all added up to a particularly fun day of moseying around the first summer resort in America. Thanks, Mike.
For details, contact Michael Travis, Prudential Spencer–Hughes Real Estate, P.O. Box 510, 22 South Main St., Wolfeboro NH 03894. 603-569-6060 (office), 603-303-2599 (cell); spencerhughes.com