By Kyle Stucker
Hampton Union, August 22, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — When Tracey Dewhurst decided it was time to return to the hospitality industry, she originally swore off bed-and-breakfasts as a possibility because she wasn't a "morning person."
That was the product of staying up until 3 a.m. every night while running La Bec Rouge at Hampton Beach for 15 years. Dewhurst had a change of heart, though, when she discovered a small piece of artwork "lost" among the exterior features of the Victoria Inn.
Dewhurst "got chills" when, during a property visit with a realtor, she recognized the painting that adorned the wall. It was one her late mother Sylvia, an avid artist, painted in 1971, and Dewhurst took it as a sign because her mother never sold any of her work.
"I still get chills when I think about it," said Dewhurst. "No one knew how it got there. Everything at that point fell together. It was meant to be. It was like she wanted me to be here."
Dewhurst purchased the Victoria Inn in January 2013, and in the months since she has made a number of improvements and changes while trying to usher in a new era at the 18th century Victorian home.
The changes have included a roof replacement, a complete overhaul of the bathrooms in each of the inn's seven rooms, new gourmet chefs and cooking staff, a service bar, a new paint job, the first-ever heating system on the inn's third floor, and a number of other upgrades designed to make the Victoria Inn more akin to a "modern hotel" without losing its quaint and historic charm, according to Dewhurst.
A number of pieces of antique furniture have remained, and they and Dewhurst's mother's artwork are among the key decorations in the inn's rooms.
"It's a great old Victorian house from the 1800s," she said. "We're trying to keep that. It seems like Hampton doesn't have a lot of homes (like that) in the area."
Dewhurst is also trying to make the 430 High St. property more than just a hotel.
She's allowed a number of charity and nonprofit groups to hold events there at no cost, a partnership with Ron Boucher Cooking School has resulted in cooking classes and competition-style lessons at the inn, and she's working with the town's Parks and Recreation Department to host some of their events and activities.
Those various efforts as well as weddings and company outings are a part of Dewhurst's efforts to remake the inn and its covered pavilion into a community-friendly hub.
"The space just lends itself to so much," said Dewhurst, who got a master's degree in creative writing at the University of New Hampshire just before purchasing the Victoria Inn in 2013. "I want it to be a go-to place for the community when they need something."
Dewhurst said Hampton doesn't have a "lot of function space," so she believes this could have a big impact, particularly because the inn is located between the downtown area and Hampton Beach.
Those activities could also help bring other big changes to the Victoria Inn, as Dewhurst she said she can one day see the hotel hosting Christmas parties and other offseason activities in the pavilion — which she eventually hopes to fully enclose and make a year-round function hall — or in an built-up version of the inn.
"That would be wonderful," she said. "That could be neat and pretty beautiful."