Thursday, October 31, 2019

Spirits of the Season

Happy Halloween 

This blog is a follow up from a recent, well attended, program on Haunted Hikes in New Hampshire and Maine at the Conway Public Library presented by author Marianne O’Connor. She gave a great program illustrated with spooky audio and visual effects. She also kindly donated a brand new copy of the 2nd edition of her book to the library.  

Inspired by her presentation, I went into the catacombs of the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room cellar and dug out some items to share with you this Halloween night on four of her many stories and hikes about Nancy, Willey, Devil's Den, and Chocorua.  

The Nancy Story 

Thomas Cole was one of the first people to illustrate the site of the Nancy tragedy in 1828. The original sketches can be found in the Detroit Institute of Arts at this link. He also wrote out the story in his journal. 

In 1848, William Oakes included the story in his book, Scenery of the White Mountains

Some of the prints were hand colored. 

The original drawing used to make the print is at the Currier Museum and can be seen here.

That story is certainly enough to give one the "willies." In fact some say that term comes from a historical event that happened in New Hampshire. See this link here.

The Willey Slide

This painting by Charles Codman on display at the Conway Public Library is a fairly accurate depiction of the site where the Willey Slide occured. This view has often been confused with another much more famous painting in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art. For more on this "landscape of terror" see one of our previous blogs here.  

Devil's Den

The large rocks at the bottom of this painting by Thomas Hill now at the New Hampshire Historical Society formed a cave like feature known as Devil's Den below the cathedral cave on Cathedral Ledge in Conway. For more information on the painting see this link. The Devil's Den was a popular tourist attraction in the 19th century and was promoted in guide books for the area.

Asher B. Durand did two paintings showing the Devil's Den. One can be found at the Albany Institute here and in a private collection here. It was also featured in stereo views when Cathedral Ledge was known as Hart's Ledge. See these links here and here.

The Curse of Chocorua

Our final story for tonight is the legend of Chocorua. This also fascinated Thomas Cole when he was a young romantic. He did a number of sketches to prepare for a now lost painting known only today from this print. The sketches can be seen at this link. Like the Nancy story he also wrote out the legend of Chocorua in his journal.

For the relationship of this painting with Conway see this blog here.

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.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Clues in the Clapboards

Just down Main Street from the Conway Public Library is the Eastman Lord House, part of the Conway Historical Society.

From archival records we know that the earliest section of the house was built in 1818 and then it was added to and expanded over the years. This is one of the buildings we focus on we we do free outreach walking and driving tours of Conway and the Mount Washington Valley.

Recently, two sections of it were scraped in preparation for repainting it. While the main purpose is to protect the building and present a pleasing appearance for potential visitors, the project also exposed some interesting physical evidence that helps us better understand the story of the Eastman Lord House.

The clues are in the clapboards. After the paint was scraped off, a close observation revealed that clapboards were joined together in two different ways.

The section on the right with the door and the bay window facing south towards Main Street is joined with butt joints where two flat surfaces meet together with no overlap.

The section on the left (with no door) facing east towards the Sweet Maple Cafe using the older style feathered joint where the boards are tapered and overlap to create a more weather tight joint.

According to James Garvin’s book A Building History of Northern New England, pp. 32-34, “It was an almost universal practice of carpenters until well into the nineteenth century to skive and lap the ends of clapboards in order to provide a weatherproof joint. By 1830 or so, this technique was abandoned in favor of simple butt joints at the ends of clapboards,”

You can see this reference online here. Or you can check this book out from the Conway Public Library here at this link.  

Here is the building with the primer on and drying for the next coat of paint hiding the history we could only see for a fleeting moment.

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.