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Christopher Daley Historian/Author/Lecturer
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The Notch: The History of Crawford Notch & Environs

This one-hour lecture chronicles a fascinating history of a wonderous and beautiful location in New Hampshire - Crawford Notch!

The talk begins with a tale of survival!  The story of how Abel Crawford and Eliezer Rosebrook moved into this vast wilderness with their families and carved out a living.  There were no roads, no markets, no police - the nearest town was 30 miles away.  They created rude dwellings cleared the land and survived for those first few years. 

Eventually, the two men would contract to build a turnpike through the Notch, and soon after teamster laden with goods for the western settlements would come through on the new road.  Rosebrook and Crawford took advantage of the situation and both set up inns to accommodate them.

And, then they came - people who wanted to ascend nearby Mount Washington.  It started in dribs and drabs but slowly increased. Ever the entrepreneurs, the Crawford's exploited this new phenomenon and cut a trail to the top of the great mountain and began to guide parties to the summit. This proved so profitable that another inn was built at the Gateway to the Notch - the Notch House.

As time went on the Crawford's lost most of their land and property due to financial difficulties and the eccentric Dr. Samuel Bemis came into possession of most of it. By this time, concerns with much more money than Bemis came into the area and began to build the "Grand Hotels."

The first "Grand Hotel" to be built in the area was the Crawford House which was constructed near the old Notch House.  The name only a homage to the Crawfords, by the time it was built they had faded away.  The second to be built was the giant Fabyan House, followed by the majestic Mount Pleasant House and then the ultimate - the glorious Mount Washington Hotel, built by Joseph Stickney.

With the advent of the construction of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad through the Notch the elite from all over the nation began to arrive and the era of the "Grand Hotel" was in full swing.  It was an age of wealth, opulence, and wonderment. Men in their beautifully cut suits, cravats, and bowler hats and women in their long flowing gowns featuring large muttonchop sleeves and bustles could be seen promenading on hotel piazzas, at grand balls, and boating on the placid Saco Lake.

At the turn of the century, the insidious logging industry took hold and many of the slopes of the local mountains were denuded of the beautiful trees. Due to this, frequent forest fires occurred and tourism began to drop off.  Later World War I and then World War II would stifle travel even more, and thus began the decline of the "Grand Hotels." The ever-increasing use of the automobile and the rise of the motel was the last nail in the coffin for these great hotels and one by one they would be lost to fire or razed with the exception of the crown jewel - the Mount Washington Hotel.

Eventually, there would be a renaissance.  The state and federal governments bought up much of the area and established a state and national forest. The Bretton Woods Ski Area was established and the Appalachian Mountain Club built its Highland Center on the site of the Old Crawford House. People began to return to the area to hike, ski, snowshoe, swim, and just enjoy the beauty of this wonderful place we call Crawford Notch. 

Today, thousands of people from all over come to see the sublime mountains and the gorgeous a lush forest - Crawford Notch is truly a very special place!

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