Friday, May 3, 2013

10th Anniversary of the Fall of "The Old Man of the Mountain" May 3, 2003

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New Hampshire's iconic Old Man of the Mountain fell to the ground 10 years ago on May 3, 2003.

The Old Man of the Mountain, was a series of granite ledges on Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch.

The Old Man was first observed, in modern times, in 1805. Referring to the sighting, Daniel Webster wrote, "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

In 1832, Nathaniel Hawthorne visited the formation and dubbed it, "The Great Stone Face."

The Old Man became a symbol of New Hampshire, as depicted on a 1955 stamp.

The Old Man was also featured on the New Hampshire State quarter in 2000, three years before its collapse.

At least two presidents have visited the Old Man: President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955, the 150th "anniversary" of the Old Man's discovery.

Throughout the 1900's, efforts were made to keep the Old Man intact.

Freezing and thawing opened fissures in the Old Man's forehead. By the 1920s, the crack was wide enough to be mended with chains, and in 1957 the state legislature passed a $25,000 appropriation for a more elaborate weatherproofing, using 20 tons of fast-drying cement, plastic covering, and steel rods and turnbuckles, plus a concrete gutter to divert runoff from above.  In 1958, the Old Man underwent it's major repair work as part of the $25,000 appropriation from the state for improved weatherproofing.  A team from the state highway and park divisions maintained the patchwork each summer.

Nevertheless, the formation collapsed to the ground between midnight and 2 a.m., May 3, 2003. Dismay over the collapse was so great that people left flowers at the base of the cliffs in tribute. In 2004, the state legislature considered a proposal to change New Hampshire's state flag to include the profile, an idea that was eventually shelved.

The Profile Plaza was later built. The plaza includes seven profilers, which allow visitors to view the image of the Old Man back on the side of Cannon Mountain.


17th millennium BC–6th millennium BC — An ice sheet recedes from North America, substantially reshaping the mountains, rerouting the rivers, and creating lakes and ponds found on the northern part of the continent.

8th millennium BC — New England undergoes the Wisconsin glaciation, the most recent ice age. Glaciers cover New England and post-glacial erosion creates the cliff which would subsequently erode into the Old Man of the Mountain at Franconia Notch.

1805 — Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks, part of a Franconia surveying crew, are the first white settlers to record observing the Old Man, according to the official New Hampshire history.

1832 — Author Nathaniel Hawthorne visits the area and later publishes a story called "The Great Stone Face".

1866 The "Old Man of the Mountain,"-- A Daring and Ingenious Deaf Mute. - View Article -

1869 — President Ulysses S. Grant visits the formation.

1906 — The Reverend Guy Roberts of Massachusetts is the first to publicize signs of deterioration of the formation.

1916 — New Hampshire Governor Rolland H. Spaulding begins a concerted state effort to preserve the formation.

1945 — The Old Man is made the New Hampshire State Emblem.

1955 — President Dwight D. Eisenhower visits the profile as part of the Old Man's 150th "birthday" celebration.

1958 — Major repair work to the Old Man's forehead as a result of a legislative appropriation the previous year.

1965 — Niels Nielsen, a state highway worker, becomes unofficial guardian of the profile, in an effort to protect the formation from vandalism and the ravages of the weather.[10]

1973 — U.S. Senator Norris Cotton (R-NH) proposes a "parkway" instead of an interstate highway through Franconia Notch. Fear that blasting for the interstate would bring down the Old Man was one of the main reasons for the proposal.

1986 — Vandalizing the Old Man is classified as a crime under the state criminal mischief law. Under the law (RSA 634:2 VI) it is a misdemeanor for any person to vandalize, deface or destroy any part of the Old Man, with a penalty of a fine of between $1,000 and $3,000 and restitution to the state for any damage caused.[11]

1987 — Nielsen is named the official caretaker of the Old Man by the state of New Hampshire.

1988 — A 12-mile (19 km) stretch of Interstate 93 (which also runs jointly with U.S. Route 3 through the notch) opens below Cannon Mountain. The $56 million project, which took 30 years to build, was a compromise between the government's desire for a four-lane interstate and environmentalists who sought to limit impact on the notch.

1991 — David Nielsen, son of Niels Nielsen, becomes the official caretaker of the Old Man.

2000 — The Old Man is featured on the state quarter of New Hampshire.

2003 — The Old Man collapses.

2004 — Coin-operated viewfinders are installed to show how the Old Man looked before its collapse.

2007 — Design of an Old Man of the Mountain memorial announced.

2010 — First phase of the state-sanctioned "Old Man of the Mountain Memorial" is unveiled.