Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Old Man Gone Five Years Now




On May 3, 2003, I awoke happily looking forward to my 53rd birthday. My mood changed to disbelief then sadness when I turned to my local news to discover that the Old Man of the Mountain no longer gazed over New Hampshire. Sometime during the early morning hours he fell leaving a huge void on the side of the mountain as well as a huge sense of loss in the hearts of my fellow Granite Staters and me.

The Old Man beckoned people from all over the world to visit him from the time he was first spotted by workers constructing the carriage road from Woodstock to Franconia in 1805. He rested majestically on the western side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Improvements in the roads and the building of railroads into the White Mountains brought tourists to the area. By the 1840's the word of the Old Man had spread. He brought thousands of tourists into the state.

His granite profile symbolized New Hampshire -- the Granite State. The Old Man's story began about two hundred million years ago when an ice sheet fractured the granite with its heaving, freezing and thawing actions. Huge blocks of the granite broke away falling off the sheer precipice approximately 1200 feet above Profile Lake. According to experts this process finally revealed the Old Man's face about 2,000 to 10,000 years ago. His face was 25 feet wide and 40 feet long. Five granite ledges combine to form his face, which accounted for the fact that his profile was visible only from particular vantage points along the highway and at Profile Lake.

During the 1880s the Appalachian Mountain Club reported that his forehead was slipping. According to experts of the day, repairing the forehead to prevent it from slipping further was impossible. Measurements and photographs taken in 1906 by Reverend Guy Roberts, who climbed the face, provided the first record of the Old Man. Roberts returned in 1915 with a Quincy, MA quarryman EH Geddes to find that the stone had moved 1 1/4 inches. Geddes made the trek again in September of 1916 carrying a fifty pound pack containing tools and supplies needed to secure the ledge. He accomplished his task in 8 days. In 1927 and 1937 other supports were installed. Periodic inspections and repairs were a regular part of the Old Man's upkeep.

Sadly, despite the best efforts of man down through the years to preserve the Old Man, nature's fury that created him ultimately destroyed him. Fundraisers to construct a memorial began almost immediately. Five huge stone monoliths, each with a different part of the profile, will be arranged so that a replica of the Old Man man will appear once the visitor reaches a certain point in the path along the way, reproducing his sudden appearance to countless people driving through Franconia Notch.

I know that losing the Old Man to nature doesn't begin to compare to the human loss and suffering of so many people in this country due to hurricanes and tornadoes. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Still, there is an ache that is especially keen on my birthday - the day we lost the Old Man of the Mountain.

My source for the history of the repair work:
Back Porch Tales by Karl M Frost & Evelyn M Ellingson, 1974, in the USA.

Photos of repair work on the Old Man, climbers, memorabilia, and EH Geddes

Image of the Old Man is licensed to me by Damselsoft and may not be reproduced.

16 comments:

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Tina,

Oh, that's really sad about the Old Man of the Mountain! It was interesting to read how he was formed over the eons of time though. But, hey, it's a good day today anyway.

HAPPY BIRTRHDAY, dear Tina!!!!

I hope your special day is filled with many blessings! May all your birthday dreams come true, my friend.

Birthday Hugs,

Renie

Mary said...

Tina,

I remember you writing about the Old Man when we were at the Suite. I'm saddened to know that he took a tumble off the mountain where he had rested for so many years.

Happy Birthday, my friend. Please drop over to my blog and pick up a little something at the top of my sidebar. I wish you a wonderful day with many more to come.

Love, hugs and birthday blessings,
Mary

storyteller said...

Remembering losses and ‘marking’ anniversaries of the ‘passing of things’ can be helpful. Being a native California gal, I’m not familiar with this landmark, but I enjoyed learning about it from your post … and I can relate when thinking of local landmarks familiar to me.

Thanks for your recent visit to Small Reflections and all the comments you left as you caught up on my recent posts there. You’re one of a kind my dear and I’m delighted we’ve met in this virtual world!

Hugs and blessings,

Michele said...

Fascinating (and sad) story, Tina. I agree with Renie that today is a good day anyway and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I didn't know until I traveled the cyber highway and discovered this new post.

Birthday blessings....

*smiles*
Michele

Latest Post on Writing the Cyber Highway:
Healthful Food to Feed Writers' Minds

Mike Golch said...

Tina,Happy 53 rd Birthday to you!
I do not know where the old man was I did get ti visit New Hampshire when I was in the Air force.I was on a tempory duty assignment to Pease AFB,1973.
this being said I have to inform you that TAG you are It,come on over and see what I tagged you for.

Tina Coruth said...

Hi Renie,

Thank you for these beautiful birthday wishes and hugs! You sure brought a smile to my face. :-)

I hope you are having a great weekend.

Hugs,
Tina

Tina Coruth said...

Mary,

That sure was a long time ago when I wrote about the Old Man for the Suite. I never would have guessed that in a few short years he would be gone.

Thank you for your lovely birthday greetings and wishes! I will be over to pickup the surprise at the top of your side bar soon. :-)

Hugs,
Tina

Tina Coruth said...

Hi Storyteller,

I think you are right about the helpfulness of marking anniversaries of the passing of things. It helps to think that this landmark that was so much of New Hampshire won't be forgotten.

I enjoy visiting "Small Reflections". I am very glad we've met in this virtual world, too!! Thank you for your lovely compliment. :-)

Hugs,
Tina

Tina Coruth said...

Michele,

I was so glad to see you posting again earlier today when I visited the "Writing the Cyber Highway."

Thank you for your wonderful birthday wishes! :-)

Hugs,
Tina

Tina Coruth said...

Mike,

I didn't know that you had been to NH. Pease is mostly private now.

I will be over soon to see my "tag"!

Thank you for your "Happy Birthday" wishes!

Hugs,
Tina

Tina Coruth said...

Thank you, Mary! The card is beautiful and I love it. :-)
Hugs,
Tina

Michele said...

You're welcome, Tina. And... I'm glad to be speeding down the cyber highway again. :-)

*smiles*
Michele

deborah wilson said...

Tina,

Just now read your post, it is a great post! I always knew Appalachia was enchanted! Too bad about the Old Man, but man will preserve...Maybe one day I will get a chance to see the area.

And Happy Birthday - with many more to come..:)

Grandy said...

Then I guess I need to say...Happy Belated Birthday, Beautiful!!

Tina Coruth said...

Thank you, Deborah and Grandy! :-)
Tina

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I remember seeing this on t.v. when it happened. It would have been cool to see in real life.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.