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Ground broken on memorial to Old Man

Looking down one of the sample Profilers at Echo Lake, the outline of the Old Man of the Mountain is once again visible on the side of Cannon Mountain. Art McGrath. (click for larger version)
June 30, 2010
FRANCONIA–Just over seven years after the Old Man of the Mountain fell, work has begun on the first stage of a memorial to the former state symbol.

Last Thursday, by the shores of Profile Lake and under the shadow of the remnants of the Profile, state and local dignitaries marked the groundbreaking of the memorial. This first stage, when complete, will have set up seven steel "profilers," which when looked at the right way will show visitors what the Old Man still looked like when still on its precarious perch on Cannon Mountain. Also part of this first portion of the project will be site work and installing any pavers bought by people in honor of people.

The pavers are heavy pieces of granite that people can buy starting at $250, which can have names inscribed on them. Some of the larger ones cost even more, as do the large granite benches.

Wielding shovel and maul, the various dignitaries in the ceremony began the physical work to clear the area for the pavers and profilers. Included among those holding tools were designer Ron Magers, sculptor Shelly Bradbury, Dave Nielsen, whose father was noted for working every year on the stone face to preserve it, Frank Grima, president of the Franconia Area Chamber of Commerce, Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development George Bald and Dick Hamilton, Mr. White Mountains, who used to be head of White Mountain Attractions and who many associate with the stone face.

The profilers, ground work and pavers will cost around $200,000, Hamilton said. All the money for the memorial has been raised through private funds, he added.

After the seven profilers—which one has to look at at just the right angle in order to see the face line up on the cliff face—the main portion of the monument is expected to be built. This will consist of five giant granite blocks that when lined up will look like the famous Profile. The largest block will weigh more than 120 tons.

Only when viewed from a certain angle—southbound on I-93 and from a certain spot in the park—will the blocks line up to form the Old Man. Bradbury said the blocks will be 20 feet high, exactly half the height of the original blocks.

Bradbury said this was inspired by the original rock face, which was made up of five separate blocks of stone that when put together formed the Old Man of the Mountain. The profilers work on the same principle but on a much smaller scale. The granite blocks reflect the Old Man and the profilers work on the same principle as the proposed memorial.

The memorial was originally supposed to be built five years after the Old Man fell at a cost of around $5 million but only around $800,000 was ever raised for the project, Hamilton said. He said it is hoped that interest generated by the building of the first phase of the monument project will encourage other people to donate money to finish the monument.

That major portion of the project alone will cost over $3 million, Hamilton said.

The five blocks of granite are made of Conway granite from Rock of Ages quarry in Barre, Vt. No other quarry in the country can handle pieces so big. Hamilton said a change is being considered to switch to Concord granite from Swenson Granite. The pieces would be far smaller but would be connected together seamlessly.

Because of their smaller size it would be cheaper to transport, which will be the most expensive portion of getting rocks from Barre. Using New Hampshire granite might attract more donors, Hamilton said.

Even though the granite pieces will be quarried in Concord, they would still have to be transported to Barre to be worked on as no quarry in New Hampshire can handle even the smaller blocks, Hamilton said.

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