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Joyce Endee

Program to explore history of the Mount Washington Auto Road

Conway Historical Society presentation at Salyards Center for the Arts, June 9

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June 04, 2009
Join the Conway Historical Society and their guest speaker, Auto Road General Manager Howie Wemyss, on Tuesday, June 9, at Salyards Center for the Arts in Conway at 7 p.m., to learn about the fascinating story of the Mount Washington Auto Road as well as the various Glen House hotels located at the base.

Wemyss has worked for the Auto Road for 30 years and has been the general manager for the last 23 years. He will share his passion for the history of the Auto Road, along with some of the challenges of maintaining and operating the road. This free program includes a slide show of historic images that will take the audience back in time while they learn about the difficulties that were encountered while building the road and the momentous events that have become a piece of the Auto Roads' history over the past 148 years.

The Mt. Washington Carriage Road, now known as the Auto Road, was open for business in 1861. Irish immigrants began the work on the eight-mile carriage road under the direction of the president of the Mount Washington Road Company, General David C. Macomber in 1854. By July of 1861, Joseph M. Thompson, proprietor of the Glen House, drove the first horse and wagon up the newly completed road. The average grade of the winding road is 12 percent

With the invention of the automobile came needed improvements to the road in order to allow the public to drive their own automobiles on the road by 1908. The existence of the road has posed the challenge for many different kinds of first assents. Travel by carriage was followed by the automobile. In addition, motor sports, bicycles, running, and even wheel chairs have all been used as a means to travel to the summit and become a part of the road's history.

The Auto Road is open to the public daily from late May until late October. Dates vary depending on that year's snow and weather conditions. You can travel the eight mile road with your own vehicle or take a guided tour in a passenger van. Visiting the summit of Mount Washington is an experience that can be truly unforgettable.

While visiting the Auto Road, don't miss The Red Barn Museum, which is located at the base of the Auto Road. Of the many horse and hay barns that served the staging business on the Carriage Road at the turn of the century, this last surviving barn is now where you will find the past on display. In addition to objects and memorabilia from the Auto Road's history, you can see some of the vehicles that once made the eight-mile journey to the top of New England.

These vehicles include an original 1870s Abbot-Downing Concord Coach, a 12-passenger Mountain Wagon and other horse-drawn vehicles that have made the trip to the summit. Other historic Mount Washington Auto Road vehicles include a 1918 Pierce-Arrow from the fleet of the '20s, a 1938 Ford Woody Station Wagon and a 1963 International Travelall. These vehicles are all part of the 148 years of history on Mount Washington. Learn more about the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Red Barn Museum by visiting www.mount washingtonautoroad.com .

This event is a part of the Conway Historical Society's free monthly program series. This month's program includes a pot luck supper before the program that begins at 6 p.m. Programs are held at the Salyards Center for the Arts on Main Street in Conway Village, next door to the Brown Church. For more information about the Conway Historical Society, visit www.conwayhistory.org.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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