Franconia Notch & Grafton County
Historical Images from around 1900
Click on the links below to see a
A Brief History of Franconia Notch & the Profile House
Thirty-five 35 years after the discovery of the White Mountain Notch (now Crawford Notch), the road
survey crew of Luke Brooks and Francis Whitcomb found the Great Stone Face (Old Man of the Mountain) on the side of Frank Mountain in Franconia Notch in 1805. (In 1917 Frank Mountain was officially renamed Profile Mountain, and in 1972 it was renamed Cannon Mountain.)
This 1833 map of the region shows a road through the Notch, but it was not a stage route. (The lines that look like railroads are really roads with stage routes: railroads were not built in 1833.) One can only imagine how difficult the road from Plymouth to Franconia must have been at this time! Map making in 1883 wasn't as precise as today, and some of the features are clearly misplaced, but one can see Profile Lake (next to the legend Frank Mt) as the source of the Pemigewasset River. There's an east-west stage route from Carroll to Littleton, and another north-south route from Littleton to Lisbon and south. (Click on the map below to enlarge it.)
The first visitors to Franconia Notch came from the south, via steamers on Lake Winnipesaukee and by rail to
Plymouth and later North Woodstock. The trip took more than one day and substantial hotels appeared at the
railroad junctions. This lovely 1860 engraving image shows the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth on the Boston,
Concord and Montreal Railraod.
Early tourists ventured north, first to Campton, and then on to Woodstock. Lincoln and North Woodstock were
'dirty' logging towns and there was little tourist interest. The vista of Franconia Notch from Campton became
known as the "Artist's View" and many paintings and photographs were produced from here. This 1883 painting
by George Albert Frost gives the classic view of the Notch from the south.
Construction began on the Profile House in 1852 by Richard Taft and Charles Greenleaf, owners of the Flume
and Franconia Hotel Company. It was a simple three and a half story building at the start. That same year,
the White Mountains Railroad reached Lisbon and Littleton (from Woodsville).
In 1868, cottages were added, growing to 20 in number. The cottages were large, some with as many as 20
rooms. They were connected to the main building by covered walkways to provide safe passage to dinner during
inclement weather. Most were privately owned by families who came for the summer and wanted more privacy than
the hotel could offer.
The last leg of the journey to the Profile House was long and hard on stagecoaches from either Littleton or
North Woodstock. When the Gale River Lumber Company ceased operations in 1878, Taft and Greenleaf saw an
opportunity to build the Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad (narrow gauge) from Pierce Bridge in
Bethlehem to the Profile House and Flume House. Passengers could then connect to the Boston, Concord and
Montreal line and avoid the stagecoach trip. The 9.46-mile railroad followed the route of the Gale River
Logging Railroad for several miles and then continued into the Notch. (The section to the Flume House was
never built.) The P&FN Railroad opened with an elegant little station at the Profile House in June of
1879. There was a passenger shelter at the Profile Golf Links and a wye track at both ends of the line for
With the age of the automobile arriving in the mid-teens (c. 1915), a motor entrance and 200-car garage were
added. In 1921 the railroad ceased operations because of the success of the automobile, and in August, 1923 a
devastating fire destroyed the Profile House and Cottages. Because all the cottages were connected by covered
walkways, they, too were destroyed. The garage contained some 800 gallons of gasoline and made a spectacular
explosion. The owners originally planned to rebuild, but never did. The land they owned became the Franconia
Notch State Park.