NewEnglandTravelPlanner.com Logo   Old Man of the Mountain, NH
The craggy natural "portrait" of an old man high on a sheer rock wall in Franconia Notch State Park fell to earth in 2003, but "he" is not forgotten.

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For decades, the Old Man was the official symbol of the state of New Hampshire.

After thousands of years in the making, the rock formation was "discovered" by white settlers at the beginning of the 19th century.

The profile was formed by several ledges of granite, and in a cubist sort of way the representation is quite striking.

The face was only about 40 feet high, and it was set on a cliff 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

Its grandeur came not from its size, but rather from its fidelity (it really did look like a human face in profile) and its impressive perch high in the sky, gazing out over the mountains.

In the years before its fall, the state of New Hampshire had spent a good deal of money preserving the face from the ravages of nature, for even granite formations crumble given enough wind, rain, and ice.

Millions of visitors used to steer their cars off the highway in Franconia Notch State Park to the Old Man Viewing Area. They'd get out and admire the view across Mirror Lake to the natural "portrait" high up on the western rock wall of the notch (defile).

They'd comment on how it was much smaller than they had imagined.

The Old Man's craggy silhouette appeared so often in New Hampshire—on every highway marker, tourist brochure and official document, among hundreds of other places—that it loomed large in their imagination.

Well, it was big, but it was high up and far away, and thus looked smaller.

No doubt it looked like a face (its nickname was "The Great Stone Face"), even though it was just a random rock outcrop. Once recognized, and famous, the Old Man was preserved and supported (as best a giant natural rock formation can be) by state work crews.

But on May 3, 2003 the Old Man, victim of too many bitter winters with water penetrating his crevices, freezing, expanding and loosening his purchase on the rockface, tumbled to earth.

Now the Old Man viewing area has plaques detailing the Old Man's history. But the Great Stone Face is gone forever.

South of the Old Man along US Route 3 and to the east lies the undulant crest of Mount Liberty, which to some people resembles George Washington lying in state.

Fooey! To me, it looks like Mount Liberty. What looks like George Washington is the statue of him in Boston's Public Garden.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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Old Man of the Mountain, Franconia Notch NH

Above, the Old Man in his prime.
Below, he loses face (simulation).

Old Man of the Mountain Falls, Franconia Notch NH

   
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