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Wentworth by the Sea shoulders its age with the dignity of a delegate.

The subject of traffic or, more accurately, the lack thereof, is one that comes up a lot among visitors to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In fact, easy access is among the Top Ten reasons to visit. For additional reasons, ask Stephanie Seacord, consultant for New Hampshire Destinations of Heritage Travel, Inc., and spokeswoman for the seaport town. Its walkability, historic value, burgeoning culinary scene, and community spirit are also among its many charms, says Seacord.

Portsmouth is small, warm, and wel – coming. “You can really get your arms around it,” says Seacord. That description also applies to the lobby of its most notable inn, Wentworth by the Sea, the Victorian-style hotel that has characterized the New Castle peninsula since 1874. Despite its remarkable history and distinction as one of the fe w remaining “wedding cake” hotels in the country, Wentworth by the Sea manages a mildtempered grandeur.

Constructed by the Campbell family in 1874 and later purchased by local ale tycoon Frank Jones in 1888, the central  portion of today’s 161-room hotel, capped by three mansard-roofed towers, is what remains of the original hotel, includingthe main entrance and lobby fireplace.

In 1982, having fallen into disrepair, the hotel closed its doors and stood vacant for 20 years. “It’s amazing it didn’t burn down,” says Seacord, noting the old, drytimbers of its structure and the activity on its premises during the closure—especially during Halloween season when revelers climbed inside and wandered the halls with candles in search of spirits.

Saved from demolition by the Friends of the Wentworth, the hotel was eventually purchased by Ocean Properties, Ltd. To the delight of many, the Wentworth reopened in 2003. And, by 2005, it was well poised to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the negotiations that ended the Russo- Japanese War; the hotel’s history includes hosting the delegates of the Treaty of Portsmouth conference. Seacord takes pride in the fact that Portsmouth was chosen by the delegates for its peaceful neutrality.

With Ocean Properties, Ltd., at its helm, the Wentworth underwent a six-year, $30 million reconstruction. An 8,500-square-foot expansion included a spa wing with atrium-inspired indoor pool and Jacuzzi, fireplaces in 18 of the guest suites, and the Little Harbor Marina Suites.

Salt Kitchen & Bar, the latest investment, serves upscale cuisine and craft cocktails in a haute setting that incorporates many architectural details of the original dining room, including the 1874 rotunda mural. What was once a buffet bar is now a polished private dining room that seats 12 and houses the wine cellar.

Amenities include a 170-slip marina, three turret suites, resort spa facilities and treatments (the Wentworth Signature Restorative Facial is a slice of heaven), and guest access to Sea Country Club’s private golf course, just a stone’s throw away.

Future improvement plans includerenovating the lobby, function and ballrooms,some guest rooms, and possibly introducing a honey-production program.