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Set amid the stunning scenery of the White Mountains, Franconia, New Hampshire is a quintessential New England town. Franconia covers 66 square miles, including Franconia Notch State Park, parts of the White Mountain National Forest, and the Appalachian Trail. Some of the tallest mountains in the region, including Mount Lafayette, Mount Lincoln, Cannon Mountain, and Mount Garfield all lie within the borders of Franconia.
Though large in area, the population of Franconia is only around 1,100 people. This small town boasts some notable residents throughout its history, including the poet Robert Frost and Olympic gold medalist in skiing Bode Miller.
Franconia Notch is a pass between Cannon Mountain and Mount Lafayette. It is crossed by I-93 and US Route 3, travelling only one lane in each direction. There are many popular natural features located within Franconia Notch, including Echo Lake, Profile Lake, and the Old Man of the Mountain, Flume Gorge, and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Franconia, New Hampshire was granted as a town in 1764, and named Franconia due to its resemblance to the area of the same name in Germany. Early settlers were farmers, growing flax and food, but needing to travel to bigger cities for access to mills to grind their grains. With the abundance of iron in the region, mining soon became a major industry. Franconia was once known for its production of pig iron and bar iron, used in the creation of farm tools and cookware. It wasn’t until the first iron works building burned down in 1827 that a grist mill was built in town.
With such stunning natural features, tourism became popular in Franconia beginning in the 1830s, and flourishing in the 1850s, with farmers taking visitors into their homes and around the local landmarks. The Aerial Tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain was built in 1937, bringing skiers to the top of the mountain easier than ever before.
Today, Franconia still enjoys a large tourist industry, with visitors coming in all seasons to see the stunning fall foliage, world-class winter sports, and hiking and other recreational activities.
The Old Man of the Mountain
One of the most recognizable symbols of New Hampshire was found in Franconia – the Old Man of the Mountain profile. This cliff ledge creating the illusion of a man’s face was located on Cannon Mountain, 1,200 feet above Profile Lake.
The first mention of the Old Man profile was in 1805 by a surveying team. Its fame quickly spread first by the writings of Daniel Webster and then in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 work “The Great Stone Face.” It became the state emblem of NH in 1945, and is on the state’s license plates, signage, and state quarter.
Sadly, the Old Man of the Mountain began to show cracks in the 1920s, due to natural freezing and thawing. The state undertook preservation efforts and weatherproofing, but the Old Man’s profile collapsed on May 3, 2003. Despite no longer being visible, visitors still come to view the site, and a memorial is being built to this famed rock formation.
Franconia, New Hampshire is located in the heart of the White Mountains, with many of the famed mountains and natural wonders within the town’s borders. Residents and visitors alike come to Franconia to enjoy the beauty of nature and all the town has to offer.