Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza, Franconia

#5 of 16 in Things to do in Franconia
Geologic Formation · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
Also known as "The Great Stone Face" or "The Profile," The Old Man of the Mountain was a rock formation consisting of five granite cliff faces which, when viewed from the proper angle, seemed to form the shape of a human profile.

It was located on Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Old Man was perched 1,200' above Profile Lake. Viewing areas, still open and in use, are available along I-93 through the State Park.

The completely natural structure is thought to have formed around 8,000 years BCE, and was first seen by European settlers in 1805 CE during a surveying expedition, centuries after having heard about the formation from Native Americans in the area. The striking resemblance of the formation to a human profile has been a source of awe and inspiration for countless people over the centuries, and has come to be of particular importance to the people of New Hampshire.

The Old Man of the Mountain was a major tourist attraction in the state, and was perhaps the most recognizable symbol of New Hampshire. The Old Man's profile appears on New Hampshire road signs, license plates, and in 2000 the state's commemorative quarter, among other places.

Signs of deterioration were first noticed in the formation in the early 1900s, and soon afterwards came the first efforts to preserve the structure. By the time the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed on May 3, 2003, many cables and spikes had been installed to keep him in place.

While there was some vandalism over the years and while some blame construction on I-93, the primary cause for the Old Man's collapse is thought to have simply been the elements. For milennia the formation was exposed to yearly cycles of wind, snow, and rain, freezing and thawing, and while the preservation efforts perhaps allowed him to persist a bit longer, his collapse was likely inevitable.

There was--and continues to be--a great deal of sadness among New Hampshirites surrounding the Old Man's collapse, he having been a state symbol and an important part of the childhood memories of many people. A committee was formed to determine what actions, if any, should be taken to memorialize the fallen structure. Suggestions for a plastic replica in its place were quickly turned down by the committee, but in 2004 coin-operated viewfinders were installed which superimpose the image of the structure prior to its collapse.

In 2007 plans were announced for a memorial consisting of five stone pillars, replicating the five granite cliffs of the original structure, to be constructed at one of the viewing platforms. Once built, when viewed from the proper angle, they will evoke the visage of the Old Man of the Mountain, albeit on a smaller scale. Construction of the memorial site began in the summer of 2010 and finished in the spring of 2012.

Author Nathanial Hawthorne, who in 1850 wrote a short story inspired by the formation, described the Old Man as "a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness."

Statesman Daniel Webster once made the famous remark, "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

This Facebook page was formed as a tribute to this great symbol of New Hampshire, wherein the history and future of the symbol may be discussed, and personal memories of the Old Man of the Mountain may be shared, both with those who also bore witness to its majesty and those who were not able to see him before his unfortunate collapse.

All are welcome, but please keep conversation civil and relevant, and have consideration for the respect and fondness many people had for this wonder of nature.

Thank you.
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Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
246 reviews
  • We stopped here on a windy, chilly mid-Oct 2019 afternoon. It had been many, many years since we've been to the Franconia Notch area - we remember when the Old Man was still on the mountain...  more »
  • Still a very beautiful spot. They did a nice job recreating what the Old Man of the Mountains looked like with sculpture. The only thing that gives it one less star is that the old man is no longer there. But there's not much you can do about that.
  • We had a very nice time visiting this little piece of history that is gone but not forgotten. Love the way they constructed the monument enabling you to see what ones once there. The old man of the mountain.

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