The First Crawford House, undated letterhead.
Douglas Philbrook Collection
Compare with the cut below noting the roof.
Crawford House History
(At the bottom of this page are links to photo albums and more)
Although three members of the Crawford family operated inns in Crawford Notch, they did not operate the Crawford House. Tom Crawford, operator of the Notch House, just to the west of Elephant's Head, started to build a hotel then known as the Crawford House, in 1850. He apparently over extended himself financially and was forced to sell the property before it was completed. The Notch House was included in that sale.
Ebenezer Eastman, of Littleton, bought the property, completed the hotel and expanded it just two years later. It was operated by Joseph Gibbs for three years and it burned in 1859. The hotel was immediately rebuilt and opened for the 1859 season. In 1870, the hotel was sold to Asa Barron. Barron's company operated the hotel until 1908. His company also operated the Fabyan House, the Twin Mountain House, the Mt. Pleasant House and the Summitt House on Mt. Washington.
The completion of the Portland and Ogdensburgh Railroad in 1875 greatly increased business. The Barron family were excellent businessmen and invested annually in upgrading facilities and improving the experience for their guests.
The hotel closed in 1975. The contents were sold at a four day auction in 1976 and the real estate was sold in 1978.
On Nov.20, 1977 the hotel burned, bringing an end to a grand tradition.
Today, on the site of the Crawford House, is the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center. It's headquarters for the many outdoor activities in the area.
This cut is taken from the 1852 Leavitt map and shows a
slightly different building. Note the addition of dormer
windows which do not appear in the cut above.
Crawford House Photos
Crawford House Fire
On Sunday, Nov. 20, 1977, the vacant Crawford House was totally destroyed by a fire that is believed to have been deliberately set.
Dick Hamilton was an eyewitness to the fire and took many photographs. Read his account of the fire.
Dick has allowed us to scan his collection of the photos he took the day of the fire. Most have never been published. They are presented without captions. They speak for themselves. Click here for a selection of those photos. It was the end of an era.
Between the time of the auction in 1976 and the fire in November of 1977, the hotel was unoccupied and left to deteriorate. It was vandalized and used by squatters for shelter. Windows were gone, floors ripped up, grass uncut. Dick also visited the hotel in July of 1977. Click here for his pictures, again without captions.
"The Grand Resort Hotels of the White Mountains" by Bryant Tolles, Jr.
George McAvoy was the last owner/operator of the Crawford House. His book, "And Then There Was One" includes much information on the Crawford House.
"Among The Clouds" and "The White Mountain Echo" summer newspapers published for visitors to the WHite Mountains, frequently report on changes and additions to the hotels.
Barron Hotel Corporation records are at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Near The Crawford House
There are several sites of historical interest on the
original grounds of the hotel.
There was a Carriage Road to the top of Mt. Willard. Today it's a NH Division of Parks trail and still provides a spectacular view of Crawford Notch. The Devil's Den is a cave several feet below the summit of Mt. Willard.
Elephant Head and the site of Tom Crawford's Notch House are within walking distance.
Frank Shapleigh, one of the major White Mountain Artists, had a studio adjacent to the hotel. It still stands.
The Pet Cemetery is just on the other side of Saco Lake. Gravestones remind us of the animals buried here.
Idelwild, a scenic and romantic rest spot, is also on the far side of the Saco Lake.
The nine hole golf course was directly across the road from the hotel. It's currently a wildlife opening, maintained by the Forest Service.
The Crawford Path, the oldest continually used hiking trail in the country, starts opposite the Crawford House.
Burros, used by guests to climb Mt. Willard, were pastured nearby.
Three benches, known as the Red Bench, the Blue Bench and the White Bench, were placed on the walking paths for guests.