Like many other visitors, Bette Davis came to New Hampshire seeking rest and relaxation. And like many others not expecting to stay, Bette Davis fell in love with the state and decided to make it her home.
At the age of 31, completely exhausted from having made two major motion pictures in one year, Bette took her mother’s advice and vacationed in the community of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.
Just north of Franconia, Sugar Hill has a town hall, historical museum, library, meetinghouse, fire department, and several inns that offer a slower pace. If you were to "Google" the town of Sugar Hill, you would find places like Harmon’s Cheese Store, The Sugar Hill Sampler, and Polly’s Pancake Parlor. While some things have changed in the town since the 1940’s, most businesses remain the same, having changed only name or ownership.
Once during an interview with the Littleton Courier, Bette stated, "The favorite time of all the year to me is October, November and December, when the summer bustle has quieted down and the White Mountains prepare for winter. I'm planning to spend these three months here next year. It must be wonderful here in the wintertime."
Bette Davis bought a farm called ‘Butternut’ in Sugar Hill. She had a barn dismantled in Vermont and moved to create a beautiful home away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Although Davis had purchased other homes, this was the first one she actually built. Bette moved her mother Ruthie into the Butternut cottage and built another house in the converted barn. Later, a small barn was added to the original cottage and converted into Bette's memorabilia room and two guest bedrooms. The towns of Sugar Hill, Franconia, and Littleton feature sites where Bette skied, stayed, and played.
According to the Littleton Courier, Miss Davis “…. was completely in love with the mountains of New Hampshire.” She loved the beauty, the openness and the snow. As Bette put it,” A New Englander never forgets New England, the change of seasons and these mountains really make you feel like you belong here. You don’t get that personal attachment to the gigantic, barren mountain ridges out West. I guess I’ve just got the New England blood in my veins.”
Not only did she love the area but at one time she found love in the White Mountains. The story goes she was hiking along the Bridal Veil Falls path, when she became lost in the woods. Arthur Farnsworth, then assistant manager and ski instructor at the Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill resort, guided her back to the trail, and befriended Miss Davis. According to the local lore, Davis was immediately smitten and even got herself lost in the woods of Franconia, knowing that Farnsworth would be the one to come searching for her.
They married on New Year’s Eve in 1940, but their union was brief, ending with his death in 1943. Tragically Arthur Farnsworth died after a fall at Butternut resulting in a fractured skull. Farnsworth collapsed on a Hollywood sidewalk and died a few days later. After that, Davis` visits to Sugar Hill were less frequent. Butternut was sold about 20 years after Bette first came to Sugar Hill and it`s said that after that, a plaque appeared on a large boulder in Coppermine Brook, near the site of their first meeting, that reads; “To Arthur Farnsworth: the keeper of stray ladies.”