Northern Presidentials

April 3rd, 2013 by Lindsay

Roads reached the mountains, and visitors arrived by coach, wagon or foot.  Concord coaches provided the most comfortable ride available:  leather suspension straps absorbed many jolts of the road.  Even so, the ride could be crowded and uncomfortable.  The ride could also be quite slow:  the driver had to change horses every 10 to 12 miles and the coach could only maintain a pace of five miles an hour.  In the mountains, the pace could be even slower.

The railroad first reached the White Mountains in 1851. The Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad Company built the White Mountain Station House, or Alpine House, at its stop in Gorham. While commercial interest to connect Portland, Maine with Montreal drove the desire for a rail line, the route was chosen in part because of tourist potential. Within a few years, additional railheads encircled the mountains.

Originally, the Northern Presidentials were depicted with dramatic Alp-like peaks. When artists arrived, they sketched the increasingly tamed and accessible mountains, attracting more tourists. The railroad also opened the timber-rich region to logging.

The railway’s instant popularity proved to be both a blessing and a curse. More than a hundred people a day could arrive in Gorham, easily overwhelming the town with people seeking rooms. The Glen House, south of Gorham, profited from the increased number of guests. Accommodations across the region expanded and gained amenities, ushering in the era of the Grand Hotels.