c. 30,000 b.c. - May 3, 2003
It was uncertain when the outcropping actually fell because clouds had obscured the area Thursday and Friday. A state park trails crew reported Saturday morning, May 3, 2003 that the Old Man of the Mountain was gone.
The Old Man of the Mountain, also known as "The Profile" or "The Great Stone Face," was a series of five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that, when viewed from the correct angle, appeared to form the profile of a face. This face, measuring 40 feet tall from chin to forehead, was discovered in 1805 by road surveyors Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks.
Word of the extraordinary natural profile spread quickly and it became a major tourist attraction. The face seemed to gaze persistively eastward, and Nathaniel Hawthorne immortalized it in his short story "The Great Stone Face". He wrote about a prophecy that a child born under the shadow of the Old Man of the Mountain would someday become a great and noble person.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Old Man of the Mountain was used extensively in state and local tourism campaigns. It was chosen to appear on the state's commemorative quarter issued by the U.S. Mint in 2000, and also appears on the state's road signs.
The formation was precarious, and efforts to preserve it began in the early 20th century when it was noted that freezing weather and thawing were causing the Old Man to slowly crumble. The first attempt to stabilize the Old Man was made by a group of local residents who formed the Old Man of the Mountain Preservation Fund in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the state took over the efforts and began annual repairs to prevent the face from succumbing to the elements.
Despite all preservation efforts, on the early morning of May 3, 2003, the Old Man of the Mountain fell. The people of New Hampshire were devastated. It was like a part of their identity was lost. An official memorial was dedicated in June 2011, with a "profilers plaza" constructed to show visitors how the formation once appeared.
Today, the legacy of the Old Man of the Mountain lives on in the hearts of the people of New Hampshire. It serves as a poignant reminder of the impermanence of even the seemingly most steadfast things, and the power and unpredictability of nature.
Profile Plaza is a part of the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund's Memorial, located in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire. It was officially dedicated in June 2011 as a tribute to the Old Man of the Mountain, an iconic natural rock formation that crumbled in 2003.
The Plaza is situated near the base of Cannon Mountain, on the shores of Profile Lake. The memorial features a walkway lined with engraved pavers and granite monoliths that lead up to a central viewing area.
The unique feature of the Plaza is the "Profilers," a set of steel rods that have been arranged in such a way that when you look through them, they align perfectly to show how the Old Man of the Mountain once appeared on the cliff overlooking the lake. There are several "profilers" at different heights, allowing children and adults to witness the Old Man as he was. The view through the profilers brings back the image of the Old Man of the Mountain, giving a visual representation of the lost natural formation.
In addition, there is a series of kiosks at the Plaza which provide information about the history of the Old Man, the geology of the area, and the effort that went into preserving the formation while it was still standing.
The Profile Plaza thus serves not only as a memorial to an iconic natural landmark, but also as an educational site where visitors can learn about the natural and cultural history of the area. It's a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to reflect, remember, and celebrate the legacy of the Old Man of the Mountain.
Anniversary Activities to commemorate twenty years since his iconic fall are Happening All Summer. View details here....