(Post-Glacial Period - 2003)
He was a very old man, born an estimated 2,000 to 10,000 years ago during the post-glacial period, but still, his passing was deeply mourned by New Englanders and, in particular, New Hampshire residents. I am talking, of course, about The Old Man of the Mountain, whose stony countenance vanished overnight and was discovered missing on May 3, 2003. (Continued Below)
The Old Man of the Mountain, also known as The Great Stone Face, The Profile or simply The Old Man, is the New Hampshire state symbol, and even if you've never visited New Hampshire, you may recognize the old guy from the New Hampshire State Quarter. At 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide, the granite face protruding from Profile Mountain and gazing protectively over Franconia Notch was something of a miracle--a work of nature that seemingly defied gravity. Thousands stopped each year as they traveled along I-93 through Franconia Notch State Park to view and photograph this natural wonder.
The Old Man had survived countless environmental assaults during his long life, and although Botox was never employed in the maintenance of his chiseled good looks, epoxy certainly was. Still, the White Mountains are known for harsh weather, and it appears that high winds, heavy rain and freezing temperatures likely contributed to The Old Man's demise.
As with any beloved friend who mysteriously perishes in the night, forensics experts were called in to ascertain the exact cause of The Old Man of the Mountain's death. More importantly, though, New Hampshire leaders were faced with the question of what to do next. After all, the Old Man of the Mountain was a gift from the glaciers, and he's not exactly replaceable. An Old Man of the Mountain Revitalization Task Force was formed to explore options for restoring, honoring and memorializing this New Hampshire icon.
In November of 2003, a plan to honor the legacy of New Hampshire's icon was finalized by the Task Force. The first phase of the plan was completed in May 2004 with the installation at Franconia Notch Parkway viewing areas of high-tech viewers that show what the Old Man of the Mountain looked like before it fell. An award to honor individuals and organizations for their work in preserving the Old Man's legacy was also established in 2004: The Profile Awards were discontinued after 2011.
Phase 2 saw the creation of a sculpture-lined walking path around Profile Lake. The Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, in cooperation with the State of New Hampshire, selected a winning design, which was announced in February 2007. The design, by sculptor Shelly Bradbury and designer Ron Magers, incorporates five massive granite stones which, when viewed from a platform, recreate the Old Man's profile.
In June of 2010, ground was broken for construction of the Old Man memorial. On June 12, 2011, the Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza in Franconia Notch was dedicated (watch video). This new attraction features seven hand-crafted steel rods of various heights, mounted on granite bases and aimed at the cliff where the Old Man once appeared. Visitors can find a rod their height, align its uneven surface with the cliff, and "see" the Old Man's profile. The lakeside plaza surrounding these "Profilers" features granite benches and paving blocks engraved with supporters' names. Funds are still being raised to sustain the Old Man of the Mountain Memorial. You can contribute to The Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund online or by sending a donation to: Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, P.O. Box 6, Franconia, NH 03580.
Old Man fans from around the world shared their condolences with New Hampshire and contributed memories to be included in an online scrapbook created by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The Old Man of the Mountain Facebook page is a popular place for Old Man fans to share memories. You can also share your comments on this site's New England Forum. For children, I've created an Old Man of the Mountain Coloring Page.
Rest in peace, Old Man.
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Photographs by Kim Knox Beckius, © 2001, licensed to About.com, Inc.