Face of Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch fell 15 years ago

  • Crews work on the symbolic Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia in the 1990s. New Hampshire awoke Saturday, May 3, 2003, to find its stern granite symbol of independence and stubbornness, the Old Man of the Mountain, had collapsed into indistinguishable rubble. The fall ended nearly a century of efforts to protect the 40-foot-tall landmark from the same natural forces that created it. Only stabilizing cables and epoxy remained where the famous ledges had clung. AP

  • Restoration work on the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch, led by the Nielsen family, in this 1999 file photo. Andrea Bruce Woodall / Monitor file photo—

  • David and Deborah Nielsen of Gilmanton repel down the face of Old Man of the Mountain to take measurements and perform annual maintenance. —  Photo: Ben Garvin

Monitor staff
Published: 4/30/2018 2:44:46 PM

After a stormy night in Franconia Notch 15 years ago, daybreak on May 3 – still rainy and dreary from the night before – revealed that New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain was gone.

News of the rocky profile’s fall spread quickly, and people flocked to the area to see what was left of the face. It took years, but eventually a memorial to the Old Man called Profiler Plaza was built on the shore of Profile Lake in the notch, near the old viewing area off Exit 34B.

“I’ve come here on May 3rd each year since the Old Man fell,” said Dick Hamilton, board member of the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund. “Like many other people, I dearly miss the Old Man. But this place is still one of the most beautiful places anywhere, and the Profiler Plaza helps people remember the Old Man and his importance to the region and to the people of New Hampshire.”

Profiler Plaza was dedicated in June 2011 with the unveiling of seven steel pillars that allow visitors to see how the Old Man appeared for eons on the side of Cannon Mountain, some 1,200 feet above the floor of Franconia Notch.

The pathway leading to the plaza features several interpretive signs on the nature and history of Franconia Notch, including a panel explaining the reasons for the Old Man’s collapse, as well as one of the giant steel turnbuckles that helped secure the Old Man for decades.

Department of Transportation engineer Neils Nielsen and his children helped maintain the stone face for years, removing gravel from places, cementing pieces back together in others, and using turnbuckles where necessary.

In the end, gravity had its way, but the symbol of New Hampshire remains on license plates, coins and commemorative items.

Here’s a look at some of the old Man’s Faces over the years.

A postcard 

Old man at night

Historic interpretation


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