Forest Society Plans New Conservation Center at The Rocks

PRESS RELEASE: Trustees Approve Expanded Vision for the North Country

Anna Berry | February 13, 2020
Carriage House at The Rocks

In 1978, John and Frances Glessner's grandchildren donated the 1,400-acre Rocks, including 22 buildings (the Carriage Barn is pictured above), to the Forest Society, with the requirement that there always be a crop in the field. For more than three decades, that crop has been Christmas trees.

BETHLEHEM, N.H. (February 13, 2020) — The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests plans to renovate the existing historic Carriage Barn at the Rocks as its new “Forest Society North” Conservation Center.

Featuring a multi-purpose classroom, offices, and an open lobby, an energy-efficient renovated Carriage Barn will welcome visitors from around New England to the 1,400-acre The Rocks Forest Reservation. The Forest Society plans to house staff working on land conservation, forest stewardship, and education initiatives to advance the organization’s mission to “perpetuate the forests of New Hampshire.”

The charred remnants are pictured after the fire at The Rocks was put out.
The charred remnants of the Tool Building are pictured after the fire at The Rocks was put out.


A year ago, on Feb. 13, 2019, a dramatic fire consumed the four-and-a-half-story barn known as the Tool Building that housed Forest Society operations at The Rocks at the time. Also lost to fire was a second smaller building that housed a gift shop. Last week the Forest Society Board of Trustees approved preliminary plans to expand the Forest Society’s presence and work at The Rocks, one of the largest and most iconic of the Forest Society’s 190 forest reservations statewide, by renovating the 1884 Carriage Barn.

“Our vision is for the Rocks to be a place from which we can coordinate all our work north of the notches,” said Jack Savage, president of the Forest Society. “The renovation of the Carriage Barn will give us a home base to expand our work on behalf of New Hampshire forests,” Savage said. “It will also allow us to enhance The Rocks as a popular recreational destination, as a successful Christmas Tree Farm under the guidance of long-time manager Nigel Manley, and a popular place to learn about maple sugaring at the New Hampshire Maple Museum.”

“We are working with architects and a landscape designer to finalize plans,” said Will Abbott, vice president of policy and reservation stewardship at the Forest Society, who has been spearheading the planning for the renovation. “The conceptual plan is to restore and renovate. We will restore the landscape so people can experience the incredible views of the mountains from the property. We will renovate the stone and shingle 1884 Carriage Barn to serve as a public gathering place for a variety of education and recreation programs focused on forest stewardship, conservation, natural history, maple sugaring and outdoor enjoyment. The renovated Carriage Barn will include a welcome center, classrooms, public restrooms, a new gift shop, and staff offices.”

The area where the buildings lost to the fire were located will be restored as open green space, welcoming visitors to enjoy those views, have picnics, access hiking trails, and host special events. The Rocks has been a popular wedding venue, which will continue, Abbott said.

The residential building known as the Batchelder Cottage, vacant since the Forest Society acquired it several years ago, will be razed as part of the restoration of the natural landscape.

The Rocks was donated to the Forest Society in 1978 by two grandchildren of John and Frances Glessner, who purchased the property and developed The Rocks as a working farm in the late 1800s.The 1978 gift stipulated that an agricultural crop be grown in the property’s 40 acres of fields. For the past three decades that crop has been Christmas trees, drawing thousands of visitors in November and December each year.

“Despite the fire, we were able to continue our Christmas tree operations and maple sugar programming this past year,” said Nigel Manley, director of operations at The Rocks. “Our cut-your-own Christmas tree program has become an annual holiday tradition for many New England families. The new vision for The Rocks will continue to support these traditions and highlight the new breathtaking panoramic views from The Rocks to the White Mountains.”

Once plans and costs are refined and finalized, the Forest Society anticipates launching a $7-8 million capital campaign later this year.

In the meantime, to help support this renewal of The Rocks, interested donors can support the campaign here, or contact Anne Truslow, vice president for development, by calling 224-9945 or by email at

An archival photo of the Tool Building some years ago.









The Forest Society is a private, non-profit land trust and forestry organization established in 1901. It currently holds more than 750 conservation easements statewide permanently protecting more than 130,000 acres of New Hampshire’s landscapes. The Forest Society also owns 190 forest reservations constituting more than 57,000 acres in more than 100 New Hampshire communities.


For more information:
Kelly Cioe: 603-224-9945 or