Crawford House, Gibbs Brook Dam

Crawford House c. 1906 in the New Hampshire White Mountains by the Detroit Publishing Company. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection,[LC-DIG-det-4a13669].
c. 1906 Crawford House – Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-det-4a13669
 

Crawford House, Gibbs Brook Dam If you are familiar with New Hampshire’s forgotten grand resorts, then you know the historic Crawford House in Carroll. In 1828 Abel Crawford and his son, Ethan Allen built the Notch House near Elephant’s Head. It was destroyed by fire in 1854. The first Crawford House was built in the 1850s and destroyed by fire in 1859. And the second Crawford House, seen above in 1906, was built in 1859. It burned to the ground in November 1977. The history of the Crawford House property is a little confusing because some historians refer to the Notch House as the “first Crawford House” while others do not.

Numerous improvements were made to the Crawford House over the years. And at one point Saco Lake was enlarged and deepened (M.F. Sweetser’s 1876 White Mountains: a handbook for travellers guide). The resort was known worldwide, and notable guests include Daniel Webster, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Starr King, and a few presidents.

Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center from Elephant Head.
Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center, New Hampshire
 

Today, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center occupies the site of the Crawford House. The above two photos of the Crawford House site were taken 105 years apart. Not much remains of the historic resort, but some remnants of it are in plain view.

An old dam on Gibbs Brook near Crawford Path in the New Hampshire White Mountains during the spring months. This dam and piping system (out of sight) supplied water to the old Crawford House.
Gibbs Brook Dam – Crawford Path, New Hampshire
 

Gibbs Brook, named for J.L Gibbs, an earlier proprietor of the Crawford House, supplied water to the Crawford House. And just above where the Crawford Connector crosses Gibbs Brook, at its junction with Crawford Path, the abandoned dam (above) can still be seen in the brook.

An old dam on Gibbs Brook near Crawford Path in the New Hampshire White Mountains during the spring months. This dam and piping system (out of sight) supplied water to the old Crawford House. The Crawford House was located where the AMC Highland Center is today. When the Crawford House rebuilt this dam in the 1960s, they reinforced the dam with old iron cots that were in the basement of the Crawford House. These iron cots can be seen in the dam today.
Iron Cots – Gibbs Brook Dam, New Hampshire
 

When Crawford House management rebuilt the dam in the 1960s (could have been late 1950s, the date is not clear), they reinforced the dam with old iron cots that were in the basement of the Crawford House. The iron cots can be seen in the dam today. What a great use of bed frames!

Piping along the Crawford Path, near Gibbs Brook, in the New Hampshire White Mountains. This piping system and dam (out of sight) supplied water to the old Crawford House. The Crawford House was located where the AMC Highland Center is today. The Crawford Path is the oldest continuously used mountain trail in America, passes by this dam.
Crawford House Piping – Crawford Path, New Hampshire
 

Along the lower section of Crawford Path is the old piping system that ran from the dam down to the Crawford House. Hikers hiking the Crawford Path, the oldest continuously used mountain trail in America, get to see firsthand remnants of the grand resort days. The pipe (above) is anchored down in places.

In 1911-1912, the United States Geological Survey built a number of stream gauging stations in the White Mountains to determine the effects of deforestation on stream flow. Courtesy National Archives & Records Administration.
Gibbs Brook Gauging Station, October 1911 – Courtesy National Archives & Records Administration
 

In 1911-1912, the United States Geological Survey built a number of stream gauging stations in the White Mountains. These stations where used to determine the effects of deforestation on streamflow. The results from these studies showed that cutting trees from the forest affected streamflow, and ultimately helped in the creation of the White Mountain National Forest. The Gibbs Brook dam site is likely the location of the gauging station that was on Gibbs Brook. Above is the gauging station in October 1911.

An old dam on Gibbs Brook in the New Hampshire White Mountains during the spring months. This dam, rebuilt in the 1960s, and piping system (out of sight) supplied water to the old Crawford House. The Crawford House was located where the AMC Highland Center is today. Crawford Path, the oldest continuously used mountain trail in America, passes by this dam.
Gibbs Brook Dam – Crawford Path, New Hampshire
 

After heavy rains and during the spring snowmelt the Gibbs Brook dam becomes a picturesque waterfall. It is a unique scene that showcases man’s interaction with nature during the grand resort days. If you are visiting the scenic Gibbs Falls, it is worth visiting this forgotten piece of White Mountains history.

To license any of the color photos in this blog article for publications, click on the photo. And you can view more scenes from Gibbs Brook here.

Happy image making..


 

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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4 Responses to “Crawford House, Gibbs Brook Dam”

  1. Naomi Esmon

    Back in the first half of the 60's, my family went to the Crawford House annually, around Labor day, often bring other relatives with us. Just loved it. Climbed Mt Willard at least once/visit to stand atop Elephant Head (tjanks for reminding me of its name) to observe the actual "notch" (as pictured in the Encyclopedia Britannica back then). We also visited the top of Mt. Washington and the weather station …. the first year my parents went, they met the meteorologist there (my lawyer dad was a meteorologist in WWII, which worked as an introduction). The following year he was on duty and was married. The year after that, he was there and had a kid!

    Sometime in 90's (?) drove there from a conference we attended elsewhere in NH — the first I'd seen the place since the 60's. I cried. The hiking building was the workers quarters in our day (previously the barn) — attended a good party there one year!

    Just wondering if in your study of the history of the area you ever came across the name of Rev. David Atwater? He had a 'permanent' little room in the unused wing of the hotel, with inches of dust in it. He blazed some trails on some of the smaller mountains "back in the day" — '20's I think. One year my brother, cousins and I 'packed' him into the Lake of the Clouds Hut from the top. That was the last time we met up with him :o( .

    "Thanks for the memories" :o)

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Naomi,

      Thank you for sharing your family history. Its great! The Crawford House area is a wonderful place to explore.

      Rev. David Atwater does not ring a bell, but if I recall anything or come across his name in my work, I will let you know.

      Have a great day.

      Reply
  2. Michael Webber

    Great blog post, my family was hiking Crawford's path the other day and came across the old dam and was looking for more information and history, thanks. 

    Reply

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