The Charles N. Vilas estate (90 Vilas Rd.) in Alstead, New Hampshire is currently for sale–as of August 4, 2017–for $1.349 million.
However, it is actually only part of the estate because according to Zillow in 2013 it was listed for $2.995 million and consisted of 15 bedrooms, 19 baths, and 17,668 sq. ft. The listing description at the time stated:
Considered one of the most important properties in Northern New England. Some consider it the Breakers of the west. “The Manor on the Hill” was built by Charles N. Vilas hotelier and philanthropist in the 1900’s. The property consists of an 18-room yellow brick residence, a 12-room Victorian mansion,a 7-room caretaker’s home,a recreation hall, a swimming pool, tennis court, Carriage house and pole barn. Framed by 80 acres of open pastures, panoramic views and direct river frontage, “The Manor on the Hill” is a diamond and it’s Alstead’s jewel in the crown. The present owners have painstakingly restored the estate to its original grandeur and have been enjoying every aspect of this exalted hide-away since they purchased the property. The possibilities for future use are many. It could become a religious retreat,a health spa,a health care facility, a camp,a corporate headquarters, charter school or elegant bed and breakfast Inn. Less then 4 hours from NYC and only 2 hours from Boston.
The difference now is that the 12-room Victorian mansion has apparently been subdivided, along with about 19 acres, and presumably sold (since we cannot find a separate listing). Now the property consists of 8 bedrooms, 9 baths, and 8,738 sq. ft. Here is the new listing description:
This one of a kind historic property built in 1909 by notable hotelier and philanthropist, Charles N. Vilas, has over 8000 sq. ft. of living space. The estate boasts beautifully proportioned rooms, rich in architectural detail, with a great flow for entertaining. There are 8 bedrooms, including a spacious master en suite with separate dressing room and a staff or AuPair quarters . Beautiful marble can be seen throughout the home. The estate includes a separate 3 bedroom caretakers residence-guest house along with a large 4 bay barn with 3 box stall stable with 5 straight stalls, pole barn and 2 other outbuildings. Gorgeous fields with direct water frontage on the Cold River as well as a salt water inground pool. This impressive home is approx. 30 minutes from Keene, NH, 45 minutes to Dartmouth College – DHMC and approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes to Manchester Regional Airport.
Both mansions are stunning and both are shown in the video below. But for the purposes of this post all the pictures are from the latest listing.
So who was Charles N. Vilas (shown above)? Surprisingly, it was not easy to find much online about his life. After a bit of searching we were able to locate this historical biography of Charles N. Vilas that is excerpted from a 1959 Alstead, New Hampshire Town report (pdf) of all places:
On this site stood the house built and occupied by Noah Vilas (1733 – 1799) and his son Nathaniel Vilas (1766 – 1852) whose children born here numbered twenty. It was also the home of his son Cyrus Kingsbury Vilas (1815 – 1887) and the birthplace of his children Mary Vilas Packard (1850 – 1908) and Charles Nathaniel Vilas (1852 – 1931).
The above words appear on a tablet mounted on the original doorstep of the old Vilas home, by C. N. Vilas in 1925.
Noah Vilas came to Alstead in 1779, from Grafton, Mass., located on a height of land in the South-west part of town near Alstead Center. About 1788, his son Nathaniel took over the farm and they built the large home where he reared a family of twenty children. Across the road he had a shoe shop, employing twelve men and he was also involved in road construction through heavy forests and n the moving of buildings, the largest being the Baptist Church at Alstead Center, to Paper Mill Village.
Cyrus K. Vilas, son of Nathaniel, stayed on this 180 acre farm until after his father’s death in 1852. This was one month after the birth of Cyrus’ son and Alstead’s great benefactor, Charles N. Vilas. He sold the farm in 1853 and in 1860 settled in Paper Mill Village on River Street in the house now known as the parsonage, succeeding John Dickinson in the drug business. He served the town in many capacities and died in 1887.
Charles Nathaniel Vilas, hotel proprietor and philanthropist, was born in Alstead, November 12, 1852, a great-great grandson of Peter and Mary (Gay) Vilas of English descent. Following a public school education, he obtained employment at the Bay State House, Worcester, Mass.
In 1872 he became associated with his uncle, Hiram Hitchcock, one of the proprietors of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York, one of the most famous hostelries, in the United States. Beginning as a clerk, he held various positions of importance and upon retirement of Hiram Hitchcock, he purchased a half interest, his associate being Elmer A. Darling (for more information see our post on Elmer A. Darling’s estate, Burklyn Hall), a nephew of his uncle’s partner. The two nephews of the original owners continued successfully until the building was razed in 1908. The success of Fifth Avenue Hotel was in no small measure due to Vilas’ able management.
For a number of years, Mr. Vilas maintained his summer home next door to the River Street home, formerly the home of Dr. Winslow Porter and purchased by George E. Lewis in 1898. Meanwhile, purchasing a 300 acre farm in Alstead, he built a handsome home and on part of the estate created and developed “Vilas Pool”, a free recreation park opened to the public in 1926. It includes a large swimming pool, boating facilities with swan boats, a dancing pavilion, picnic area, playground equipment, and stone tower with a carillon of 12 bells, said to be the second largest in New England.
Personally, he was a man of calm, placid, and even tempered disposition, modest in his philanthropies, creative and original in his ideas, and noted for his hospitality. Politically, he was a Republican and in religion a Presbyterian. He was twice married; first, on December 16, 1879 to Elizabeth Harrington of New York, who died in 1889, leaving three children, all of who pre-deceased him and second, on January 24 1918 to Jessie (Ford) Vilas of Pasadena, California. He died at Alstead September 8, 1931 and she died at Pasadena on February 14, 1959.
Vilas Pool enjoyed by hundreds annually became town property along with a sustaining fund o $75,000 in his will following Mr. Vilas’ death. Under his will also, he gave the town Vilas High School, a $175,000 building, plus a trust fund of $125,000 to help support it, dedicated in January 1935; in 1926 the town clock in the steeple of the Universalist Church which stands in the center of town; the entrance gates to Maple Side Cemetary; a $1,000 trust fund for care of Vilas lots Maple Side and Alstead Center cemeteries; the field known as Millot Green; and he purchased the ruins following the fire in 1925 which destroyed the New England Telephone office, two stores and a garage, to enlarge parking space and erect a flag pole.
Also, a $10,000 trust fund to each of the town’s four churches, three Congregational and the Universalist; a $20,000 trust for bed at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, Hanover, for Alstead people; and two trust funds, the income therefrom to be used for general purposes for which taxes are used, amounting in total to a half million dollars.
His philanthropies extended beyond Alstead. He gave $120,000 to Mary Hitchcock Hospital, he being one of the incorporators of the now famous medicalcenter, which is named for his aunt, Mary Hitchcock of Drewsville. He also gave $70,000 for an interstate bridge between North Walpole and Bellows Falls, which after his death was named the Vilas Memorial Bridge.
The above information pertaining to Mr. Vilas, and the cover pictures used, were furnished by Miss Maybelle Still.
As mentioned above, you can learn more about Vilas Pool at their website. Here is how they describe it:
Charles N. Vilas began construction on Vilas Pool in 1920. Vilas Pool opened to the public in 1926 and was complete with Swan boats much like those in the pond near Boston Gardens, a dance pavilion, large picnic area, horseshoe pits and playground. A beautiful stone Carillon is one of a kind and is the 2nd largest bell Carillon in New England. Charles N. Vilas gave VIlas Pool to the town of Alstead NH in 1931, along with a trust fund for it’s upkeep. Today Vilas Pool Park offers a “touch of magic”, a great location for Weddings, Anniversaries, birthday parties or whatever the event a family may be celebrating. It’s rustic, exceptional natural beauty and historic features is what sets us aside from other locations in our area. Vilas Pool Park is such a unique spot, revisited by families for generations.
See more pictures/video of the Charles N. Vilas estate: