The Old Man & the Forest Society

20th Anniversary of The Old Man of the Mountain's Retirement

Dave Anderson, Anna Berry | May 3, 2023
A black and white view of the forested White Mountains overlooking Echo Lake.

A photo of Franconia Notch from the Forest Society archives.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of The Old Man of the Mountain. Did you know that since its founding in 1901, the Forest Society has helped protect Franconia Notch, including the Old Man of the Mountain, and the surrounding forests several times from significant development?

In 1923, the Forest Society led a campaign to purchase 6,000 acres in Franconia Notch, including the Old Man of the Mountain, the Flume, the Basin, and two mountain lakes. The Abbott Company owned the recently burned Profile House in Franconia Notch and 7 miles along both sides of the Daniel Webster Highway (Route 3) and offered to sell the 6000 acres for $400,000. The Forest Society’s first President/Forester, Philip Ayres, persuaded then-Governor Winant to ask the legislature for half the money and it unanimously approved the $200,000. The Forest Society committed to raise the rest.

Responding to the subsequent campaign, donors from across the nation and the world made contributions as small as a nickel. The land was purchased by the June 1, 1928 deadline and dedicated on September 15, 1928.
A black and white photo of climbers atop the Old Man.
Climbers atop the Old Man. (Forest Society archives)
The Forest Society planned to turn the entire tract over to the State Forestry Department but the State refused the Flume so the Forest Society operated the Flume for two decades until the creation of a State Parks Department in March 1948.
Then, after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, the Forest Society successfully opposed a super highway through Franconia Notch in 1959. Today, it’s said that the Franconia Notch Parkway is the only two-lane section of Interstate Highway in the nation, and the Forest Society continues to be engaged with NHDOT when improvements are suggested.

“Gravity being the force it is, we should not have been shocked when ‘The Old Man of the Mountain’ fell 20 years ago," said Forest Society President Jack Savage. "But we were, reminding us that even stubborn old men meet their eventual end. In commemorating that day we allow that symbol of the Granite State to endure regardless."

The Forest Society is one of the public and organizational partners of the Old Man of The Mountain Legacy Fund.

The text reads "Your Dollar Will Stop This" on an illustration of a man chopping a tree down near the Old Man in the Mountain.
This poster was typical of the Society in the early 20th century.