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Balsams auction draws big crowd

Well worn wicker chairs were among the items auctioned-off at the Balsams last weekend. Photo by Jeff Woodburn. (click for larger version)
May 20, 2012
DIXVILLE – The weekend's warm temperatures couldn't penetrate the cold of the long-closed up grand hotel, but that didn't stop the curious and penny-conscious buyers from scouring the place for memories and good deals. The much publicized auction of much of the contents of the 150-year-old Balsams grand hotel seemed to go off without a hitch.

All told 2,500 people registered to bid on 2,400 items that were housed in the place long known for casting the nation's first presidential vote. It wasn't quite democracy in action; but it was a good way to clean out the property and make way for the $12-20 million renovation, said Dan Dagesse, who was perched at the entry of the hotel's dining room looking more like a Maitre'd than the owner of this teetering giant of the Gilded Age.

The sight of Dagesse, who worked as a young man in this hotel, before amassing his fortune as a car-sales titan, seemed to have had a calming effect. Last week, when the Colebrook planning board asked for more time to consider a subdivision plan on a parcel that long been a dump, Dagesse and his partner Dan Hebert's spokesperson said the act jeopardized the renovation plan. In an editorial the Union Leader entitled "Balsams' Blunder" criticized the pair for mishandling their relations with the region. In a brief exchange, Dagesse didn't mention the planning board issue at all and seemed more focused on moving forward.

Nearby was Kevin O'Brien, of Easton, the Board Chair of the Littleton area Boys and Girls Club. He was "checking out the kitchen equipment" and hoped to "take advantage of the some of the opportunities there." His organization received a substantial grant to build a commercial kitchen. Contacted later, O'Brien said, he ended up not going to the auction. "It was all so overwhelming that we couldn't handle the thought of spending a day there battling the crowds," he said. The kitchen equipment, O'Brien said, "was going to take so much cleaning, hauling and time spent at the auction that we felt it was not worth it."

Auction officials told the Associated Press that they expected the auction's total sales to be between $200,000 and $250,000.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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