It was nineteen eighty something, in the world that I grew up in at Sheraton Portsmouth Hotel. The Sheraton was new, and we didn’t yet realize the impact we would have on the future of travel and hospitality in Portsmouth as a destination for young and old.
Hotels in the downtown were a new experience. At the time, the only hotels in Portsmouth were located on the traffic circle. Guests coming to Portsmouth were traveling through for the first time and learning how much this small city had to offer.
The end of the eighties brought styles of peach and sea foam green, beige and fake flower arrangements. It was the age of hard keys for guest rooms, folio paper with perforated edges—and certainly no Internet. There were only four floors at the time, and the Sheraton warm welcome was in full swing with bellstaff in British-style outfits, looking like the royal guard. The front desk staff had no fancy titles like “guest service agent,” and staffing levels were at all-time highs. The front doors were opened by hand, the lobby music was classical and guests arriving still looked up in awe when they saw the grand staircase, embodying elegance and style.
The indoor pool and gym (no fancy fitness center yet) were in the lower level. Our dining room, Harbor’s Edge, was hidden off the lobby with banquette seating in the back and views of the working harbor that still remain today. Mornings meant a rasher of bacon with the Star Island breakfast of silver dollar pancakes. Dinner cocktails still included muddled drinks like rusty nails, martinis and classic manhattans. Seville shell pattern plates were the style of the day, accenting our location near the water. The Riverwatch Lounge was mainly for internal customers and guests, looking for a drink after meetings or a night cap before heading upstairs for the night. At Enticements Night Club, you could find happy hour specials, pink rhinestone belts on the waitstaff, Milli Vanilli music videos, karaoke nights and a mix of hotel guests and weekend locals looking to meet their love of their life.
Meetings and events were flourishing. Destination Portsmouth was supplying services for wedding receptions big and small, and each weekend brought four to six events, many back-to-back. Corporate and Association business was keeping the hotel booming during the week. Props and themes were not uncommon—the term “simple elegance” didn’t exist. We even hosted poolside events that were complete with floating candles—what were we thinking?
Clearly, a lot has changed since then. But the one common trend that still remains today is the Sheraton staff. We were family back then and still remain a family today. Fashions and names may change, but the warm connections between the staff and the warm welcome we give our guests never goes out of style.