When stage coach travel became possible, about 1828 or 1829, the coaches went from Vermont to Portland. When the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad was built through the Notch, Portland was one terminus. The road's importance continued into the 20th century. When the first Transcontinental automobile road, the Teddy Roosevelt Highway was planned, it started in Portland and went through Crawford Notch on its way west. Today the road is US Route 302, part of the White Mountain Trail, a designated Scenic and Cultural Byway.
During the 1820s, tourist traffic began to increase. In 1819, Ethan Allen Crawford, and his father, Abel Crawford, built the Crawford Path so they could more easily guide visitors to the summit of Mount Washington. Their path is still in use. The Willey family tragedy, in 1826, dramatically increased the number of visitors, who wanted to see the place where that family died. The Crawford family, already were accommodating visitors and teamsters at both ends of the Notch. In 1828 they decided to build a third hotel, the Notch House, just west of Elephant's Head at the Gate of the Notch. This hotel was run by Ethan Allen's brother, Thomas.
The increased number of visitors and commercial travelers encouraged the Crawfords to expand their hotel and others also invested in hotels. By the first years of the 20th century, there would be four Grand Hotels in Crawford Notch: The Crawford House, The Mt. Pleasant House, The Mt. Washington Hotel, and the Fabyan House. There were several other hotels as well: The White Mountain House, The Willey House, The Summit House on Mt. Washington, and a few miles west was the Twin Mountain House. Samuel Bemis built his stone mansion, Notchland near the site of Abel Crawford's Mt. Crawford Tavern.
Tourism was not the only industry. The area was the site of large scale logging for about fifty years, starting in 1875. There were four logging railroads: the Sawyer River Railroad, the Saco Valley Railroad, the Zealand Valley Railroad and the Little River Railroad. These four lumber railroads served sawmills that were part of three company owned towns: Livermore, Carrigain and Zealand. There are significant remains of two of these towns: Livermore and Zealand. And the logging railroad grades are in use today as hiking trails. In addition, the tracks of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad are still in use today.
Crawford Notch had its share of colorful characters: three generations of the Crawford family, English Jack-also known as the Hermit of Crawford Notch, Dr. Samuel Bemis, Sylvester Marsh, Horace Fabyan, J.E. Henry, Joseph Stickney, Princess Caroline, Florence Morey, and undoubtedly the list is incomplete.
In one form or another, traces of what existed over the last 200 years still remains. Sometimes there are intact survivors such as the Mt. Washington Hotel and Notchland. Sometimes, as in Livermore and Zealand, there are remains of a town, sometimes just cellar holes and mill foundations. The railroad remains, the Cog Railway still operates, and the Jefferson Turnpike is today known as the Cherry Mountain Road. You can still drive on it. And where there are few physical reminders of the past, we are fortunate to have hundreds of vintage photographs and prints that show us what Crawford Notch really looked like over the last 150 years or so.
Click here for Photos of Crawford Notch
Suggested Reading List
Lucy Crawford's History of the White Mountains
Fredrick Kilbourne's Chronicle of the White Mountains
C. Francis Belcher's Logging Railroads of the White