From Hotels to Hiking Trails

Franconia Notch State Park has been a destination for people looking to explore the White Mountains for a very long time.  People are instantly captivated by the natural attractions such as the mountain views, the Flume Gorge and the Basin. These landmarks are really something special, however, I have discovered that one of the most amazing parts of the park is something that not every visitor is aware of- the rich history of the area!

The Flume Gorge on a busy day in 1929
The Flume Gorge on a busy day in 1929

Franconia Notch first became a state park in 1928, but it was a destination for travelers long before that. In the 1800’s, the White Mountains were in the midst of what they call the “Hotel Era”.  I was amazed when I found out that elaborate hotels used to be scattered throughout the region. These were places for wealthy individuals from New York and New England to vacation.

Profile House, Franconia Notch, White Mountains c1900

The Lafayette House may have been the first hotel of this kind in the area, but the Profile House seems to be the one that is the most well-known. Placed where the Aerial Tramway parking lot currently sits, the Profile House was built in the 1850’s. Before long, the Profile House was a huge success, and many expansions were added to it. It became more than a hotel, it was its own luxurious community, including tennis courts, stables, a bowling alley, and multiple cabins in the surrounding area for guests to rent or purchase.

Hotel guests often spent their time boating and fishing at Profile Lake and admiring the Flume Gorge, just as many visitors to Franconia Notch State Park still do today! In 1906, the hotel was rebuilt to keep up with popularity and modern looks, but the entire hotel and surrounding buildings burned in 1923. The Profile House fire was a tragic event, but it ended up leading to the formation of the park. When the land that the hotel sat on became available, many logging companies were eager to buy up the area. At this time, local people began an outcry for protection, not wanting the the natural beauty of the area to be something of the past. So, they began to raise money. $200,000 was raised, and in September of 1928, the park dedication was held.

Old photograph of the Second Profile House
Old photograph of the Second Profile House

I love that the passion of the local residents is what made this place a park. Things like that are what makes Franconia Notch so amazing. It is loved by the people who live in the nearby towns just as it is for those who travel from afar to spend time in the here.

When looking down into the valley from places such as the top of the Tram, or the popular Artist’s Bluff, one cannot help but think how different the view is now from when the Hotel Era was in full bloom. However, even though the view may be different, somethings have remained the same: this place is still a place of intrigue and beauty, and one that people from near and far admire everyday.

View of the valley that once hosted The Profile House.   Photo courtesy of Monica Casey
View of the valley that once hosted The Profile House. Photo courtesy of Monica Casey

The story of the Profile House is only a tiny fraction of the interesting tidbits of history that I have learned about in the past couple of months, and there is still so much for me to discover. So, next time you visit Franconia Notch State Park, remember that it’s not just the mountains and lakes that make this place beautiful. The beauty of this place is also within the history of the park and the people who helped to save it. To me, it is comforting to know that people have loved this park long before I have, and hopefully people will continue to love it long into the future.

By: Becki Linhart, Interpretive Ranger in Franconia Notch State Park


Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

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