On March 27, 2018, the Herbert Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. History lives at The Herbert Hotel in Kingfield, Maine, hailed as “The Ritz of the Woods” when it opened in 1918. Visitors and guests of the period marveled at the classic columns and pillars of the exterior and the elegant interior, which offered most up-to-date technology for the time – electricity throughout the building, a Western Electric Company telephone systems with telephones in every room and three private telephone booths in the lobby. Soon after the grand opening, the Farmington Chamber of Commerce declared The Herbert to be a “hotel new and modern” and commended the property for providing “all the comforts of life: white bathrooms, bedrooms furnished in mahogany, polished floors, a table par excellence, a ladies’ rest room and the most comfortable lobby in New England.” The beauty of the hotel, with its beautifully carved and gleaming fumed oak columns and trim, original brass fixtures and many early furnishings, has been preserved and is enjoyed today by visitors who tour The Herbert.
The Herbert Hotel stands on a site that had been the home of two earlier hotels. In 1830, Samuel Usher built The Franklin House, a two-story building. The Franklin House was a stopping point for lumbermen driving their stock down the Carrabassett River. Kingfield residents recall stories of The Franklin House packed beyond capacity with river drivers, who often crowded five to a room and slept side-by-side in the hallways. The Franklin House was destroyed by fire in 1880.
Two years later, John Winter bought the site and built the Winter Hotel, three-story structure. According to newspaper promotions of the time, the hotel was “conveniently located near the railway site” and provided “respite in a natural setting to families of men who toiled in the cities of New York, Portland and Boston.” In 1896, Winter sold the hotel, including furnishings and livery, for $5,000 to J. Willis Jordan, who served as proprietor until 1908 when he, in turn, sold the hotel to William Page. A photograph of the Kingfield House is on display in the lobby phone booth.
Herbert S. Wing purchased The Kingfield House in 1917 from William Page, renamed it The Herbert House, and planned major renovations that took two years to complete, turning a nondescript stopping place into the dazzling centerpiece of Kingfield. Local accounts vary regarding why the enormously successful Mr. Wing chose to create The Herbert. Was it as a gift to his wife Alila (Batchelder) Wing? Or, did Mr. Wing – a lawyer, judge, and member of the Maine House of Representatives and state senator – build the hotel as an elegant setting in which to entertain the powerful and noteworthy and to further his political ambitions? No one really knows.
Whatever Mr. Wing’s motive, renovations were designed and carried out with scrupulous attention to detail and with the finest materials available. Harry Combs of Auburn, Maine, was retained to draw up the plans for the stunning colonnade and pillared veranda that the current owner has restored, and Lavella Norton, builder of several area structures now on the National Register, was hired to oversee renovations.
Materials were imported and selected to create a uniquely elegant structure. Mr. Wing ordered tiles and hand-chiseled marble chips from Italy and fine furniture and fixtures from the United States and abroad. The imported tiles can be seen surrounding the lobby fireplace and on its hearth. The marble chips were used in making the lovely terrazzo floors that are visible throughout the hotel.
To brighten the lobby and dining room, workmen replaced the standard small windows on the sides and front of the building with large plate glass windows. Passersby could see the richly colored fumed oak panels on the lobby walls and ceiling and the gleaming brass electrical fixtures, many of which remain in use today in the hotel. Mr. and Mrs. Wing resided on the premises once the hotel was completed.
The Herbert opened in 1918 with two top floors containing 40 guest rooms, many with baths, all containing new brass beds with box springs and mattresses and beautiful mahogany dressers and writing tables. All rooms contained individual telephones connected to the lobby switchboard. The ground floor featured a beautifully decorated public dining room, lavishly decorated lobby with comfortable leather chairs, and a “metropolitan” barber shop in which a man could enjoy a shave, hot towel, massage and a haircut. Mr. Wing had a barber’s chair set aside for his use alone. Additionally, next to the office, the ground floor contained a card room, where Mr. Wing could entertain small groups of powerful men, hidden from the glare of public scrutiny. Across from the card room, wives and daughters had a discreet and respectable room in “the ladies’ parlor” where they could socialize, apart from the men. The ground floor also contained a coat room and a dressing room. A writing room, standard in hotels of the time, was situated across from the hotel office and contained desks, stationery and writing implements to provide guests with a quiet place in which to write letters and postcards. Renovations in later years to install private baths in every room decreased the number of guest rooms to the present 26.
Herbert Wing closed the hotel in 1929 when his wife became ill, although they continued to live in The Herbert. Newspaper accounts over the years relate that Mr. Wing retained several maids whose sole tasks were to maintain the hotel guest rooms and public areas in top condition. Mrs. Wing died on January 23, 1944, but Herbert Wing continued until his death to reside in his third-floor room at The Herbert, and his housekeeper and maids continued the upkeep of the hotel.
As he neared, 90, Mr. Wing chose to sell the hotel to Alvin Westman of Weston, Massachusetts, completing the transaction on December 4, 1956. A few days later, he became ill and was bedridden until the day of the grand re-opening on December 19, 1956. He surprised the waiting crowd at the celebration by appearing in seemingly good health. Herbert Wing died five days later, on Christmas Eve.
Earl Wing, one of Herbert and Alila’s two sons, acquired ownership of The Herbert in the 1960s and remained proprietor until 1972, when he sold the hotel to two brothers, William and Barry Fries of New Jersey. The hotel has had several additional owners in the past three decades.
The current owner, Shawn Donovan, is enthusiastic about preserving the heritage of The Herbert Hotel and sharing its history and her plans for its future with others who appreciate this fine monument to a very special time of elegance.
Original Items to View
Built in 1918 at the gateway to Sugarloaf and Saddleback mountains, the Herbert Grand Hotel was once a gathering spot for Prohibition-era Maine politicians to indulge in bathtub gin and unsavory women. Some of these guests never left and are rumored to haunt the hotel to this day. Nearly 100 years later, the Herbert Grand Hotel continues a tradition of providing lodging and drink to snowmobilers, Sugarloaf skiers and snowboarders, hikers, mountain bikers, hunters and visitors to the western mountains of Maine.
1830: A boarding house is constructed on the site that will become the Herbert Hotel.
1851: Prohibition begins in Maine.
1871: The boarding house burns to the ground.
1873: The Kingfield House hotel is built on the ashes of the former boarding house.
1917: Construction on the Herbert Hotel begins. The owner, Herbert S. Wing, is a local lawyer and state representative who owns the local bank, mill, and electric company. In short, Herbert is a power-hungry tyrant who aspires to become governor of Maine. The hotel is designed to entertain (read seduce and/or blackmail) politicians from Augusta, Maine with illegal booze and unsavory women.
1918: The Herbert Hotel opens its doors. Construction costs approximately $200,000 and the new hotel features electricity and indoor plumbing (both amenities remain to this day). The Herbert Hotel is the first hotel north of Boston to feature in-room and table side telephone service. Also present is a speakeasy in the basement with easy rear access in case of a raid from the police.
1925: Herbert Wing loses the Republican primary for governor. Later that year, Wing gets upset with the local townsfolk and shuts down the town's electricity for several days to teach the people a lesson.
1933: Fearing that a New Deal Democrat might "soil" his hotel, Herbert Wing sets a policy of renting rooms only to those persons who can establish their credentials as members of the Republican party.
1934: Fed-up with the lodging industry, Wing stops renting rooms to the public. The hotel becomes his private residence for Wing, his ailing wife, and his "housekeeper." Rumors abound regarding the interpersonal dynamic in such a dysfunctional household.
1956: Wing sells the hotel to Mr. and Mrs. Alvin P. Westman. The grand re-opening occurs on December 20th. Herbert dies four days later on Christmas Eve.
1958: Herbert's son, Earl Wing, gets the hotel back. Having inherited the local bank (and a penchant for tyranny) from his father, Earl proceeds to sell the property to Sugarloafers with his bank financing the transaction on bank-friendly terms. Wing waits for the slightest of defaults, forecloses and takes back the hotel. Earl pulls this stunt multiple times.
1973: Two brothers from Northern Jersey buy the hotel.
1977 (or thereabouts): Don and Siouxsi Klein purchase the property. Don and Siouxsi are the picture of the 1970s disco-era. Complete with big fuzzy boots and a serious cocaine problem, the Kleins re-name the hotel the "Paradise in the Wilderness" and host bizarre parties in what was formerly a speakeasy in the hotel's basement.
January 1980: The Kleins are faced with a moral/professional dilemma. Somehow they accidentally double scheduled a tour bus full of Sugarloaf skiers and an airplane full of cocaine. After much deliberation, the cocaine wins and the hotel doors are locked. The Kleins never returned. After several days, the furnace runs out of fuel, the pipes burst and the hotel is ruined.
1981: Now in foreclosure, the hotel is purchased by a group of "investors" from Chicago (legend has it that the Chicago mob was behind the deal). A man named Bud Dick (you can't make this stuff up) is assigned to bring the hotel back to life. Bud inherits the mess of all messes and performs nothing short of a miracle. Bud brings back the skiers, re-opens the dining room and the Herbert Hotel thrives yet again.
1998: Bud falls ill. The hotel is leased to a middle-aged couple known only as the Uzmecks.
2000: Although they do not actually own the hotel, the Uzmecks proceed to "sell" the hotel. Their fraud is uncovered. Legend has it that, when law enforcement came to arrest these tricksters, they were found throwing documents and other evidence of their chicanery into the fireplace.
2001: The Herbert is purchased by Lynn and Marcie Herrick.
May 2009: The Herricks sell to Rob Gregor and his wife, attorneys from New York.
December 31, 2009: Rob leaves the hotel and hires a manager for the Herbert.
January 1, 2010: Rob's manager "no-shows" for work on her second day. Luckily, Rob's mom, Dawn, was onsite and agrees to stand-in until a new manager can be hired.
2012: Maine Ghosthunters performs a paranormal inspection and the Herbert Hotel is certified "haunted"
The Herbert Hotel remains the only certified haunted hotel near Sugarloaf Mountain (click http://nationalparanormalassociation.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-haunted-herbert-grand-hotel-of.html here for the National Paranormal Association post).
July 2015: Plans for the Herbert's second century of operation are unveiled and include renovations to all 26 rooms and bathrooms and a new pub that will feature only wines, beers, and spirits made in Maine.
October 2016: The Herbert team embarks on its quest to complete renovations of the remaining rooms.
December 2016: Renovations to all twenty-six guest rooms and bathrooms are completed. The rooms retain many of the original antique furnishings and fixtures and cool and quirky reproduction vintage artwork and advertisements are added to the walls.
December 2017: McGregor's Pub at the Herbert Grand Hotel opens for business.
March 2018: The Herbert Grand Hotel is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
January 2020: New owner Shawn Donovan takes over the hotel.