Chatham Bars Inn celebrates 100 years of luxury
When the Chatham Bars Inn opened for business in June of 1914, the new resort was the picture of luxury. Situated high on a bluff overlooking Aunt Lydia’s Cove—and the Atlantic beyond—the inn offered farm-fresh ingredients in the dining room, and soundproofed plastered walls and running water in the guestrooms—luxuries of the time. The grounds also featured two pools—one freshwater, one saltwater—as well as tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, and plenty more for patrons to do. Activities included fishing, sailing, hunting, and sunbathing, and affluent travelers from the Bay State and beyond flocked to the resort, which was easily accessible by automobile, train, and boat.
Today, a century after its grand opening, the Chatham Bars Inn still features many of the amenities it provided back in 1914, while delivering many more for today’s sophisticated visitor. Further, the stately and stunning resort on Chatham’s Shore Road has become a Cape Cod landmark beloved by its guests, many of whom return year after year to enjoy the inn’s grandeur and beauty.
“The Chatham Bars Inn has been, and still is, Chatham’s most significant hotel,” says Spencer Grey, a town resident and a past president of the Chatham Historical Society. “People always made a point of getting there because it was the place to be and had the facilities. It has always been a top-notch luxury hotel.”
Known to many today by its acronym, CBI, The Chatham Bars Inn was opened at an auspicious time for both Chatham and Cape Cod. With the advent of automobiles at the start of the 20th century, residents of Boston and New York looked to the sandy shores of the Cape as an escape. This group included the rich and famous, and throughout its history the inn has played host to movie stars, politicians, and even royalty. In 1944, for example, the inn served as the summer home of two future queens: Princess Juliana, who was crowned Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1948, spent several weeks at the resort with her three daughters, the eldest of which—Beatrix—reigned as the Dutch queen from 1980 to 2013.
The inn was the brainchild of Charles Ashley Hardy, an investor and a mining engineer who grew up in Concord, Massachusetts. Hardy was no stranger to the Cape; three generations of his family had enjoyed the untouched beauty of Cape Cod, and as a young man he often visited the peninsula to engage in his favorite pastime: hunting. Together with a few associates, Hardy began buying up real estate plots in Chatham during the first decade of the 1900s. In 1912, he unveiled his plan for the hotel, which would be built on land that had previously served as a farm. Construction on the project got underway the following year, and on June 9, 1914, the Chatham Bars Inn opened for business—and hosted its first overnight guests.
Since that day, the Chatham Bars Inn has offered 100 years of luxurious lodging, dining, and vacationing experiences for guests and visitors, and despite years of war and recession, harsh winters, and changing times, the resort has always found a way to endure—and to flourish. “I don’t think people realize how precarious a venture the inn was in those early days,” says the founder’s grandson, Charles Ashley Hardy, III. A history professor from Philadelphia, Hardy says the Cape was just beginning to grow into a tourist destination during the early 1900s and investing in a resort of such scope was a risky endeavor.