Bedford home to star-studded hotel in 1940s
It’s hard to imagine that in Bedford, there once was a hotel that attracted people from all around, including Hollywood. Back when Bedford was nothing but fields and hills, the Beau Reve – perhaps Bedford’s only famous hotel – sat on a hill on Wallace Road.
Mr. and Mrs. Adelard, along with Yvonne Lefebvre, operated the beautiful property. Lefebvre, also known as Madame Yvonne, was a successful beauty salon owner in Boston. Her beautiful estate in Bedford inspired her to consider a beautiful hotel on the grounds. Madame Yvonne thought that a hotel in the foothills of New Hampshire would be the perfect getaway for tired and overworked women. Her goal was to rejuvenate and revitalize these women who so desperately needed a vacation.
Her dream became a reality in the early 1940s, when she opened her “French villa” in Bedford. She turned her house into a grand mansion, built a hotel and salon next to it, and charged $8 a day or $50 a week. Women liked the idea, and soon, many women from the area stayed at the property. News of the facility spread by word of mouth, and more and more women came. As Madame Yvonne’s reputation grew, women from all parts of the country came to her beautiful property to de-stress. Eventually, men were added to her clientele, and Madame Yvonne built a swimming pool and tennis courts. Not only did the success of her hotel grow, but so did the property itself. The hotel started with about 100 acres, but by the late 1940s, it had grown to 300 acres.
The Beau Reve became known as the “Hollywood Inn,” and got its name when famous people such as Bette Davis, the Andrews Sisters, Ethel Merman and others stayed at the hotel. It would be normal to see stars such as these and others walking down Wallace Road and even going to the store in Bedford center. Loretta Young was seen on advertisements for the hotel, and Peter Lorre loved the lifestyle at the hotel.
The hotel grew its own food, and each person had a diet based on his or her personal preference. Exercise was an important part of the rejuvenation process, so the facilities not only included a tennis court and pool, but also horse stables. The property also included a solarium. As the Beau Reve’s business grew, it was common to see stars of the 1930s and 1940s on the grounds swimming and having a great time. Madame Yvonne had transformed an old farm into a beautiful estate and then into a famous hotel. A popular thing to do at the hotel was to dance, and guests did a lot of dancing.
Slowly, the hotel’s business died off. Other, more celebrity-visited hotels popped up. The health farm held weddings until the late 1950s, when it still operated, even though the hotel closed. It seemed that Bedford’s 15 years of fame were over. Today, it is hard for us to imagine a hotel like that sitting in our backyard. Bedford has truly changed in the last 50 years, but among all the changes, the mansion of the Beau Reve still stands on Wallace Road.
Antonio Pastor is a seventh-grade student at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School in Bedford. His column, which examines the history of well-known New Hampshire destinations, runs the fourth week of the month. Information for this article was provided by the Bedford Historical Society and Doris Peck Spurway.