Philosopher of the Pool, Franconia Notch

Covered Bridge in Franconia Notch State Park in Lincoln, New Hampshire during the spring months. This footbridge crosses over the Pemigewasset River just above The Pool.
The Pool – Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Philosopher of the Pool, Franconia Notch – New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch has an abundance of interesting attractions. Located along the Pemigewasset River just below the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge is a natural basin known as the Pool. Created by glaciers at the end of the last ice age, this basin is 40 feet deep and 150 feet wide; the cliff walls are 130 feet high.

Dating back to the 1800s, the Pool has been a tourist attraction. Guests of the Flume House (1846-1918) and Profile House (1853-1923) and early travelers passing through Franconia Notch were fascinated with this natural wonder. However, it’s known more for Professor John Merrill, better known as the “Philosopher of the Pool”. Merrill’s compelling outlook on life has earned him a place in White Mountains history.

Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge in Franconia Notch of Lincoln, New Hampshire during the winter months. The Sentinel bridge is a footbridge that crosses over the Pemigewasset River.
The Pool – Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Beginning in 1853, for over 30 summers, Professor John Merrill setup shop at the Pool. For a fee, Merrill rowed tourists around the Pool in a homemade boat and talked about how the earth was hollow (Hollow Earth Theory). Merrill even wrote a book about his theory – Cosmogony; Or, Thoughts On Philosophy (1860), which he sold to tourists at the Pool. Most tourists enjoyed his commentary, and he was even known to sing for them.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library.(1860-1900). The philosopher of the Pool, Franconia Notch, N.H.
The Philosopher of the Pool, Franconia Notch – From The New York Public Library

Born April 10, 1802, in Bristol, New Hampshire, Merrill and his wife, Rhoda Cilley, moved to Pardeeville, Wisconsin, in 1867, but he continued to come back to Franconia Notch every summer to entertain tourists at the Pool. He made enough money during the tourist season to live comfortably. He died on January 13, 1892, at the age of 89 in Wisconsin.

Icicles on the cliffs of the area known as “The Pool” in Franconia Notch State Park of New Hampshire.
The Pool – Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Visitors to the Flume Gorge, open from mid-May to the end of October, can visit the Pool. From the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, follow the Wildwood Path through the glacier boulders to the Pool. Or when at the upper end of the Flume Gorge, follow the Ridge Path, passing Liberty Gorge, to the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge. During the off-season, Flume Gorge is closed, and the boardwalk is removed, but the Pool can still be visited. However, the area can be very icy, and traction is needed.

Franconia Notch Book by Erin Paul Donovan.
Franconia Notch Book (May 2024) by Erin Paul Donovan

In celebration of my latest book, Franconia Notch, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in May 2024, I will be writing about New Hampshire's fascinating Franconia Notch for the next month or longer. With the use of archival photographs (black and white), Franconia Notch explores the fascinating history of Franconia Notch during the mid-19th to late 20th century. Broken into six chapters, chapter one focuses on the early taverns and hotels that were once in the notch, and Chapter 6 focuses on the Flume Gorge; the in-between chapters cover the Old Man of the Mountain, lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and more.

For more information and to purchase copy of Franconia Notch, see the book section of my website here.

Happy image making..


© Erin Paul Donovan. All rights reserved | Historic Information Disclaimer | Franconia Notch History
To license any of the color photographs above for usage in print publications, click on the photograph.

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