July 17 – 23, 2020Vol. 22, No. 6

Belgrade Hotel Memories

by Rod Johnson and Sandra Lewis

An aerial view of the Belgrade Hotel, date unknown. With frontage on Long Pond, the hotel was situated at the southern end of Belgrade Lakes Village, just behind where the Sunset Grill is today.

During the first half of the last century, articles and ads featuring the Belgrade Hotel were prevalent. Maine publications and some from Boston and New York were often quoted. Here are several that were researched by Belgrade Historical Society member Sandra Lewis, and some memoirs of my own from the early and mid 1950s. These short articles speak to "The Belgrade" being planned, the spring opening in 1905, a visitor's memory in 1934, the proposed auction sale in 1942 and lastly an article announcing summer opening in 1956, only four months before it burned to the ground.

From Sandra's research:

(Author's note: Just four months after the above ad circulated on June 20, 1956, the grand old Belgrade Hotel burned to the ground. Fire departments from many surrounding towns were unable to even slow down the inferno that took the old wooden icon in just a couple of hours. The town's people gathered into a large group where the Sunset Grill is now. We all watched as the roaring fire, aided by a southwest wind, quickly transformed the glorious old building into a pile of blackened rubble. Many elders were clearly shaken with tears in their eyes. The loss of the Belgrade Hotel marked the end of an era, but it seems that a new move by summer visitors to build and own their own cottages was already in the works. A few new camp roads were being built along the shorelines to access some of the previously inaccessible areas.)

Next are a couple of memories from the Luckiest Boy:

After the Belgrade Hotel burned in October, winter came along quickly. We kids went off to school daily as usual, not caring about the old hotel's demise. We did mill around the charred wreckage after school and took over a small piece of the golf course to play baseball and other games. We also continued a right of passage that all boys in town were expected to do. The huge water tank sitting up on a hill behind the hotel had been emptied for the season not long before the fire. We all climbed up the long steel ladder and down into the inside of the tank. A few years later the tank was cut up with a torch and removed as scrap. Soon thereafter the property was sold to a developer named Tobey. The entire acreage was surveyed into building lots where many homes and cottages have been built over the last 65 years.

In the summer of 1956, the Belgrade Hotel hosted some large gathering, probably a conference of some sort. A large golf match was scheduled as part of the weekend fun. All the older boys in town were scheduled to be golf caddies. The golf pro apparently ran out of boys by late morning and sent a runner down into the village to gather up younger boys, not normally considered big enough to caddy. At age 9, myself and three or four others were scooped up while swimming at the dam.

Within an hour we had all reported for duty and got our first chance to be a caddy. I remember we were all about four feet tall and the golf bags dragged on the ground. We all went home later in the day with a few dollars in our pockets and some very sore shoulders.

We hope you all enjoyed these tidbits of history. Thanks to Sandra Lewis for making the old articles available for Summertime readers.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.

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