GILFORD — For Ames Farm Inn owners Peter Ames and his daughter, Peggy, the highest compliment they can hear from their guests is "nothing has changed".
''We hear that a lot and it's music to our ears,'' says Peggy, who along with her husband, Patrick Brown, recently sold their Massachusetts home and bought one in Gilford, where they will now be living year round.
Peter says that the inn, which this year celebrates its 125th anniversary as a Lake Winnipesaukee tourist attraction, was established in 1890 by James Noah Ames of Peabody, Mass., on land that had been partially owned by his grandfather, who was a pioneer settler of Gilford.
Peter and Peggy represent the 4th and 5th generations of the Ames family to operate the inn., making it one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the state. The 150-acre property includes a quarter mile of sandy beach, docks for fishing and boating, 17 lakeside cabins as well as rental units across the highway from the inn, trails leading up what is known to the family as Endicott Mountain as well as breathtaking views of Lake Winnipesaukee near Rattlesnake and Diamond islands from all locations on the property.
They agree that one of the biggest attractions of the inn, which has kept some families coming back for 90 years, is the low-key atmosphere which allows people to step back in time and feel totally relaxed.
"We have generations of families who keep coming back every summer,'' says Peggy, who stopped to talk with Lauren Taylor of Cheshire Connecticut, who said that her family had been coming back to the Ames Farm Inn for 50 years and that it was at the inn that she met her future husband.
''We had a home up.here but liked staying at the inn more. Some of my family is here for the holiday and we just had to take them to Ames Farm for breakfast.''
Peter says that food has always been one of the inn's attractions and that one of the first things James Noah Ames did when he bought the farm was to build a large dining room and lodge onto the rear of what had been a farmhouse for many years. The farmhouse had rooms which were rented and meals were served there.
Ames started to invite his friends from Boston area to build cottages at the farm, where cattle and sheep were raised, and built cottages of his own near the shore
The Lakeshore Railroad passed right through the Ames Farm, which had a station built where regular stops were made until the 1930s. The former station was taken across the highway where it now serves as a guest cottage according to Peter.
There was also a wharf where steamers like the Governor Endicott would make stops. A photo in the dining room shows that ship arriving at the Ames Farm dock in 1910.
According to Adair Mullgan's 1995 book History of the Gunstock Parish ''the family kept orchards, raised cattle, sheep and pigs and and vegetables and baked pastries, breads, pies, cookies and biscuits on site.''
A gas-powered generator supplied electrical power for the farm from 1915 until 1928, when it was linked to the grid and the farm had its own ice house for refrigeration until the 1940s.
Today the farm continues its tradition of providing food for guests, offering breakfasts featuring blueberry pancakes and omelets as well as lunches. Many island dwellers drop by the Inn's docks, especially on weekends, for their breakfasts.
Peggy says that many family members are still involved in operating the farm during the summer months and that she and her dad are intent on keeping the business as traditional as possible by maintaining the strong relationships the Ames family has always had with their guests.
Peter Ames, his daughter Peggy and her husband Patrick Brown and their daughter Shealagh stand next to, the lakefront gazebo at the Ames Farm in Gilford, which is marking is 125th year as a Lake Winnipesaukee tourist attraction. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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