Sunday, June 30, 2019

Staying in Style

Summer is such a big topic that it takes several blogs and two displays at the Conway Public Library to cover it. While our previous blog here focused on summer attractions, this blog focuses on accommodations. The display can be found downstairs near the entrance to the Henney History Room.  

Historically vacation lodging developed into two extremes - from fancy Grand Hotels to rustic summer cottages. Interestingly, a pair of books by the same author, Dr. Bryant Tolles explore these topics in great depth. Please feel free to check these books out from the Conway Public Library's circulation desk. You may also want to visit Plymouth State University's current exhibit on the Grand Hotels which Dr. Tolles co-curated with Cynthia Robinson. See the link for that exhibit here.

A new trend combines these two extremes into the "glamping" style of roughing it in high style. Perhaps this will be the subject of Dr. Tolles next book?

Our first summer blog started with a remarkable poster listing "Places of Interest" on display at the Intervale Scenic Vista from over one hundred years ago. It lists a number of both tourist attractions (discussed in the previous blog) and places to stay including Potter's Farm, the Glen House, the Crawford House, the Fabyan House and the Profile House. I believe that the poster itself was originally made for the Intervale House.

The Conway Public Library has a wide range of resources to learn about these early lodging establishments. Unlike most of today's motels and hotels, which are largely just places to sleep while you explore the attractions around you, these earlier tourist resorts were considered attractions in themselves and a unique culture and traditions developed around them.

A few clues to these traditions can be glimpsed through souvenirs and mementos of the Grand Hotels, one of the earliest which was on the northwest corner of the intersection of Washington and Main, only a stone's throw from the Conway Public Library. All that remains of it now is a cellar hole and the fragments of history at the library and the Conway Historical Society. For more details see this previous blog on Conway Corner.

This small metal item advertises fine views, walks and drives, pure spring water, fine livery, long distance telephone and a post office (click on images to enlarge them). Can you guess what this tray was for? Hint: It played an important role in period etiquette.

See if you can find the Conway House in the bird's eye view of Conway from 1896 on a nearby wall. (Hint: it is listed as #19)

You can also find #20, the Pequawket House, now the site of Conway's Kennett Middle School.

Look around the library for this painting:

This was both a tourist attraction with a terrible story to tell and later a hotel. Look closely so see if you can find the building, the road and a pair of people walking through the valley (click on image to enlarge it).

For more information on this painting see our previous blog here.

The late, great David Emerson, longtime Curator of the Henney History Room, wrote two books on White Mountain hotels and left an extensive set of research files and additional photos on the subject. Using the work of Tolles and Emerson a pattern emerges that applies well to the summer lodging in Conway.

One can argue that basis of our tourism industry was, and remains, the natural landscape. The phrase which holds the most prominent place at the top of the photo on the metal item above is "Fine Views - Walks and Drives." The rest of the promotional tag lines focus on comfort and convenience.

Another souvenir links us to a nearby location in that landscape.   

This photograph covered with glass is labelled "McMillan House from Birchmont" as seen in the detail below.

Birchmont was located on Sunset Hill where the Red Jacket is today and the view from there was one of the most important in the history of White Mountain Art. See if you can find a print of that view here at the library.

For more information on this view see here. A number of years ago Dr. Tolles edited an important project that resulted in an exhibit, symposium and publication. Featured on the cover was a copy of the painting by John Frederick Kensett of Mount Washington from Conway.

Over the years this and related viewpoints were canonized into a set of sites that were mapped out and detailed in numerous guidebooks from small pocket size "red" books to large parlor sized books such as Picturesque America. See this previous blog on the red guide books here.

As always, for more details on the history of summer in the area, or any historical subject, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Views of Summer

What can you resort to … When the attraction is gone?

No, this is not advice for the lovelorn. But it is about loss and love, in this case the loss of well loved tourist attractions. Downstairs at the Intervale Scenic Vista in North Conway is a remarkable poster from over one hundred years ago entitled “Places of Interest.” (click on images to enlarge them).

The mileages on this poster match up pretty well with those listed in a pamphlet/brochure at the Conway Historical Society for The Intervale House.

While some of the tourist attractions are still familiar such as Echo Lake, Cathedral Ledge, Diana’s Baths, Crawford Notch and Mount Washington, others are more mysterious such as Washington Boulder, Ridge Ride, Potter’s Farm, Round Ledges, Profile House and Butter Milk Hollow. To find out more about these and other lost attractions see the list at the end of this blog.

Here is the cover and the title page for this little gem of history. 

The Intervale House can be seen near the top of this tourist "Rambler Map" from around 1900 in the collection of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

This map also shows a bowling alley, hotels, and mineral springs, that are not part of today's tourist itinerary.

Here is a close up showing the area around The Intervale House.

And here are some images from the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room collection showing The Intervale House and grounds.

aerial view

Today is the first day of Summer, and today we look forward to vacations, grilling out, swimming kayaking and other things. Our views of summer have changed over time, both visually and conceptually. One's view of summer also changes depending on one's occupation. Summer means different things to farmers and flatlanders and artists. The truth is that these three groups are involved in an interconnected relationship. Just outside of the scenic vista building mentioned above, is a historic marker memorializing the White Mountain School of Art.

This painting by Benjamin Champney shows the view from the scenic vista towards Mount Washington as it was during the early days.

Ironically, you can not see this view today as the trees have grown in. If you click on this image to enlarge it and look just left of center you can see the reason - in the hay wagon. It was the farmer's haying these fields that kept the fields open for the tourists to enjoy and the artists who promoted the views in this dynamic interrelationship.

Speaking of art, let’s go back to that poster at the Intervale scenic vista. It is a great example of period calligraphy and design with brilliant colors. It is in fact an example of local folk art. It is signed at the bottom J.F. Robinson, Painter, Center Bartlett, NH. This was Joel Robinson (1845-1924) and information about him can be found through the Henney History Room's internet connections to the digitized Reporter newspaper and Ancestry software.

Not far from the scenic vista was another lost tourist attraction, the Abenaki camp of the Stephen Laurant family where they would do educational programs for locals and tourists alike.

The archival papers from this site are preserved in the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room and many of the artifacts from the site are preserved in the collection of the Conway Historical Society. For more on this site see this entry on "The Clio" guide here.

A map from the 1960s shows some of the changes in attractions. Compare this map with the earlier Rambler map above. See how the attraction landscape has changed. What is new, what old remains, what has become lost?


For more details on any historical subject in the White Mountains, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Now to find out more about some of our lost attractions.

Abenaki Indian Shop and Camp. You can map it here. For more info see the Wikipedia article here

Washington Boulder. See if you can find a photograph of the Washington Boulder in the library. Hint: We can let you know when you are getting warm. For the answer see this link

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Crucible

Can you guess what chemical process is being demonstrated here at a "living history" event we presented a number of years ago? Hint: It is very common and can be found all around us at any time. It has been used since ancient times as a weapon of war, in bread, root canals, the theatrical stage, grits, making paper and to give pickles an extra crunch. Oh yeah and sewage treatment too.

It was in fact, recently referred to in an article about hiking by Ed Parsons in this past Saturday’s Conway Daily Sun giving evidence that it was produced in New Hampshire.

While the production process to make this chemical compound is technically known as "thermal decomposition and re-hydrating" I call it burning rocks and then getting them wet.

In the picture above, the rock closest to the edge of the board is a little smaller and lighter in color and weighs a little bit less that the one next to it. Originally they were both about the same, but the lighter colored one was burned in a fire.

There was a third rock here, but we added some drops of water on top of it. At that point, that rock expanded its volume two or three times and reacted violently with hissing and steam. Then the water started to boil and the rock crumbled into a fine powder. It really is magical stuff to watch.

Maybe this diagram of the chemical process will make it easier to figure out.

Did you get it yet? It should be crystal clear now right? 

Let's try it another way... back to the Conway Daily Sun.

Ed's article talked about a hike that started on a dirt road named Lime Kiln Road. Opps, I just gave it away.

Yes, the chemical compound is lime. Near this trail are two stone lime kilns built in 1838 and 1842 where limestone was mined, heated in this kilns, powdered into lime, packed into barrels and shipped throughout New England. One of the kilns was featured on the cover of the 1956 Haverhill Town Report.

And here is a more recent photograph and below that a diagram that helps explain what went on inside (click on images to enlarge them).

After being quarried nearby, the limestone was loaded in the kiln from a wooden ramp (now missing) through a hole in the top (like the top of a chimney) and mixed with wood or charcoal. A fire was started at the bottom and stoked as needed through those brick holes on the left side (click on image to enlarge it). As the limestone crumbled it released the burnt lime which was collected through the opening at the base of the kiln (the opening looks like a large fireplace). It was then packed into casks to keep it from clumping or catching fire.

According to James Garvin's A Building History of Northern New England (available at a number of local libraries including Conway through our new Northern New Hampshire Library Cooperative) until the early 1700s, when limestone quarries and large masonry kilns, such as those seen above, began to be developed "lime as frequently obtained by calcining (heating) oyster shells."

Here is an example of one of these simpler, open air, lime ricks for burning oyster shells recreated at George Washington's Ferry Farm.

So what is actually going on here on a chemical level? Well it starts with burning calcium carbonate - both limestone and seashells are the same chemical compound - calcium carbonate.

When heat is applied the carbon dioxide is driven off into the air leaving calcium oxide also known at quick lime.

The quick lime was packaged, shipped and stored until needed. When water is added a chemical reaction occurs, heat is generated and the resulting material is calcium hydroxide also known as slaked lime.

In 1677 Joseph Moxon wrote poetically and mysteriously of the process.

Now to the uses. According to Garvin plastering ceilings and walls consumed most of the lime produced in New England. While extolling the gifts of the ox, Thomas Randall also known as the Eaton Poet, explained how the plaster was made.

(Note: I never said it was good poetry). For more on the Eaton Poet, see our previous blog.

Lime has many other uses in architecture including mortar for bricks, paints, whitewash, glass and the putty to set the glass panes into the window frames.

See this previous blog for information on burning mud to make bricks. 

Finally (and I literally mean finally) as Moxon writes lime was used in burials as it "consumes dead Bodies."

For more details on this or any other historical subject in the White Mountains, contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

New England Flavor

A dried apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese for breakfast is a great traditional New England way to celebrate National Dairy Month. 

In his 1956 Country Flavor Cookbook at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room, Haydn Sanborn Pearson explains "that cheese, melted, does something to an apple pie that is wonderfully salubrious." You can see more about this book in a previous blog at this link

There are many opinions, but few facts about this New England's tradition. There is a saying up here that “an apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” I grew up in the south where we would not consider putting cheese on apple pie, but we would put cheese on grits (more on grits in a future blog).

While this pairing of apples and cheese can not bring geographical regions together, it does bring together the sweet and the savory. It also brings together different seasons of the year, bridging the past with the present. 

In his 1966 book, The New England Year, (also in the collection of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room), Pearson explains how the apples were dried in the Autumn.

Strings of sliced apples can be seen hanging above the fireplace in a Winslow Homer print from Harper's Weekly magazine depicting an Apple-Bee. See this link.

I have always been fascinated with food preservation before refrigeration and the many ways the harvest of the past is preserved for the future. A dried apple pie with cheese is a masterpiece of food preservation.

Cheese is made from milk. There is a quite a bit of science to preserving milk through making cheese. In the process, the milk in cheese becomes something completely unlike milk, but cheese has its own interesting and delicious properties. Cheese-making is a long and involved process that makes use of bacteria, enzymes and naturally formed acids to solidify milk proteins and fat and preserve them. Once turned into cheese, milk can be stored for months or years.

The main preservatives that give cheese its longevity are salt and acids. The basic steps in cheese making go something like this (for most common cheeses like cheddar): First, milk is inoculated with lactic acid bacteria and rennet. The lactic acid bacteria convert the sugar in milk (lactose) to lactic acid. The rennet contains enzymes that modify proteins in milk. Specifically, rennet contains rennin, an enzyme that converts a common protein in milk called caseinogen into casein, which does not dissolve in water. The casein precipitates out as a gel-like substance that we see it as curd. The casein gel also captures most of the fat and calcium from the milk. So the lactic acid and the rennet cause the milk to curdle, separating into curds (the milk solids, fats, proteins, etc.) and whey (mostly water). A gallon of milk (about 8 pounds) yields only about 1.25 pounds of cheese -- the weight that is lost is all the water in milk.

The curds and whey are allowed to soak until the lactic acid bacteria create a lactic acid concentration that is just right. At that point, the whey is drained off and salt is added.

Now the curds are pressed in a cheese press -- lightly at first to allow the escape of the remaining whey, then severely (up to a ton of pressure) to solidify the cheese.

Finally, the cheese is allowed to age (ripen) for several months in a cool place to improve its taste and consistency. A sharp cheddar cheese has been aged a year or more. During this time, enzymes and bacteria continue to modify proteins, fats and sugars in the cheese.

There is also a lot of math to milk. Farmers had to be acquainted with the phases of a cow's life and calculate seasonal strategies. Before cows could give milk, she had to give birth. This is called "freshening." Cows can then be milked for 305 days or about 10 months. Then the cow's body needs to rest and store nutrients before she can be bred again and nine months before she has her next calf.

She's generally allowed to "dry" about seven months into her pregnancy. By that time, her milk production is lower, so drying usually consists of cutting back on milking and the amount of grain fed. When she stops producing milk, dairy farmers continue feeding her large quantities of hay or keep her on pasture. Allowing a two-month dry period before her next calving lets her mammary glands rest and prepare for the new baby and subsequent freshening… and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

With the Fall harvest preserved and summer's best cheese aged anywhere from two to twenty years.

Pearson goes on to explain...

"nothing complicated?" I have never read such a detailed yet poetic receipe that implies the need for a ruler to get the proper depth of the pie. The re-hydrated apples have a certain texture and chew to them, that makes each bite burst like gummy bears. 

Pearson's books are full of country wisdom. The book jacket of The New England Year shows activities of each season and includes biographical information on the author (click on images to enlarge them).

In future blogs we will explore other aspects of National Dairy Month and learn how to date a cow. I will end this blog Here is the parting shot for this blog The parting shot for this blog can be followed at this link.. but that is a whole another can of worms.