Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Willey House, Hart's Location in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

Here I am in front of one of most written about locations, the Willey house.  Well, it's not there anymore, but I'm sitting in front of the boulder where the house used to be.  What you see in back of me are the bathrooms that Susan and Rob stop off at on their way through Crawford Notch.  But enough of that. Back to the point.

I couldn't discuss the Willey house without giving you some background information.

Hart's Location was named after Colonel John Hart of Portsmouth, NH.  The land was granted to a Thomas Chadbourne, also of Portsmouth.  A trail that went through Crawford Notch was used by Native Americans but the trail was unknown until 1771 when Timothy Nash found out about it while hunting some of my relatives.

You may ask what does this have to with the Willey House?  Well, we're coming to that.

After Mr. Nash told Governor John Wentoworth about it, the old Indian Pass became Coos Road and a public house was built there in 1793.  It was abandoned until 1825 when Samuel Willey Jr. moved in with his wife, five children and two hired hands.  On the night of August 28, 1826 during a rather violent storm, a landslide occurred, known in the area as Willey's Slide.  Hearing the slide, the occupants ran  from the house to find shelter, but were overcome and buried by the slide, but the house remained untouched.  It seems that a few boulders above the house split the slide so that it surrounded the house.  Had they remained inside, they would have lived.  The next day, while searching for bodies, the townspeople found the door of the house wide open with a bible left open on the table.  This tragedy inspired the Nathaniel Hawthorne story "The Ambitious Guest" which is located in his Twice Told Tales collection.  This story scared Susan so much that she refused to go into Crawford Notch for a long time before Rob convinced her to go.

Later on the house became part of a larger inn, but burned down in 1898.  Here is an image of what the house looked like .

As a side note, you can travel by train through Crawford Notch via the Conway Scenic Railroad which leaves from the historic station house located in nearby North Conway.  The line was completed in 1875 by the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad and crosses the dangerous Frankenstein trestle.

Across from the Willey House site is a general store that sells tee shirts, sweatshirts, stuffed animals, food, fudge, ice cream, soda and a variety of White Mountain souvenirs.  Incidentally, that's where I was born and raised.  Susan and Rob adopted me and brought me to Long Island where I'm currently living.

update 3/9/11

I did forget to mention that there is a new exhibit just above where I'm sitting. It features some of the boulders that split the slide and kept it from hitting the house the night of the tragedy. There is also a small lookout point.  You can get more information from the small Ranger station near the bathrooms.  It's always open and there are lots of pamphlets to take and exhibits that explain the tragedy further.

For more information, I've included a link to a Wikipedia article:,_New_Hampshire

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Polly's Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

Our Memorial Day trip up to the White Mountains can never be complete without a trip to one of our favorite breakfast places, Polly's Pancake Parlor.  Sit back and enjoy the morning view of the White Mountains as you sip your coffee and drink your tea, which is served in the one of the biggest pewter teapots I've ever seen.  I can say with all honesty that this is the BEST place in the entire Northeast for pancakes and waffles.  Everything is homemade, right down to the maple sugar and butter that you can sprinkle or spread on your pancakes, waffles or french toast.  I also recommend the tasty maple toast. 

Here I am at Polly's enjoying a cup of hot decaf coffee right before my serving of a wonderful buckwheat walnut waffle which I shared with my friend Rob.  Susan was served a delicious tuna salad with fresh lettuce and homemade dark rye.

The history of the Parlor is just as interesting. The restaurant is housed in what was a carriage shed built around 1830. Wanting to show the different things that can be done with maple products and to stimulate sales, Polly and Wilfred Dexter converted this into a small tea room during the Depression. The original menu, which can be seen in a large display case along with other early artifacts of the restaurant, was shaped like a maple leaf, their trademark to this day. Polly's offered pancakes, waffles and french toast, all you can eat for 50 cents.

In 1949, Nancy Dexter (Polly and Wilfred's daughter) married Roger Aldrich and took over the management of Polly's that same year.

Since the death of Nancy's parent's, Wilfred in 1960 and Polly in 1964, the size of the Parlor has been expanded three times.  The months of operation also changed from its original 3 months to 6 months.Here is a picture of what Polly's looks like now at 7 in the morning before the crowd on Memorial Day.

Our friends, Dennis and Kathy Cote (Nancy's and Roger's daughter) have recently assumed management of the operation and are doing a great job. If you come really early in the morning, you can catch Roger and Nancy enjoying their morning breakfast.  Everyone at Polly's is friendly, helpful and easy to talk to. 

While there, you can check out their souvenirs at the counter in the lobby which include tee shirts, caps, sweatshirts, pancake mixes and some of the best maple products you've ever tasted, all homemade (except the syrup which is hand selected) .  Also check out the lovely artwork hand painted by Nancy Aldrich and Debbie Aldrich (Kathy's sister).

This is me sitting on Trot Trot.  This is the third horse on this spot. The first was built by Roger in 1988 and was replaced by Trot Trot II in 1991.  The head of the original Trot Trot is on display in the dining room.

Here is another link to find the history of this little horse:

There are two links I'm including here, one is the online catalog.  The other is the Polly's Pancake Parlor site.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Camp Hero State Park, Montauk, LI, NY

Here I am at Camp Hero on Long Island, NY, a military base surrounded in mystery. Supposedly there was a secret underground facility where things like the Montauk Project and the Philadelphia Experiment were held here. To this day, there exists no concrete evidence to prove these conspiracy theories.

Fort Hero was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr. who died that same year which was 1942. It was established on the point just south of the Montauk Lighthouse as a lookout for invading German U-boats. At that time, Fort Hero was upgraded and its name was changed to Camp Hero. Docks were built along with airplane hangers, barracks, and a torpedo testing facility. The camp was also used as a training facility complete with a target range. Soldiers practiced firing at offshore targets. It was used by the Army, Navy and Coast Guard and was officially known as a US Military Reservation, but it was known as Camp Hero to the locals.

Camp Hero was disguised as a small New England fishing village to protect the camp and fool the Nazis. The bunkers were painted to look like houses and the gym was built as a New England style white church with a steeple which is still up today. It was a self contained town with its own power plant. You can't go into any of the buildings; they are closed off to the public.

When the war ended, the Army used the camp as a training facility. Many of the naval facilities were abandoned and the guns dismantled in 1949.

The radar tower that you can see in the background was installed in 1958. Called the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) it was the most up to date radar system of its kind. At this time the Air Force had taken control of Camp Hero and the radar was used to track Soviet planes.

Camp Hero went through many other changes until September, 2002 when it became Camp Hero State Park and was opened to the public. The park offers fishing, hiking, beaches and cross-country skiing. The tower was not torn down as it is a preferred landmark for local boats in the area. We have been there many times and sometimes my cousins, the white tailed deer, come for a visit.

I am including a link to a Wikipedia article which explains in detail about Camp Hero State Park:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Coppermine Brook Trail, Franconia, NH

This plaque has been attributed to movie star Bette Davis, the "Grateful One".

Details first: Handsome Arthur Farnsworth (who is the Keeper of the Stray Ladies) worked at Pecketts on Sugar Hill, once a popular resort in Sugar Hill, NH in the 30's and 40's. They also created the first ski school in the US, but there will more on that later.

Back to the plaque: Mr. Farnsworth was also in charge of finding any "stray ladies" who had managed to get themselves lost on the many nature trails around the resort area.

Legend has it that Bette Davis (who was smitten with Arthur Farnsworth) intentionally wandered off the trail so she could be rescued by the tall and handsome trail guide (it is also mentioned that he was the innkeeper as well). The two became friends and eventually became Bette's second husband. The story goes that he fell down the stairs in Butternut (Bette Davis' Sugar Hill estate which will be shown later) and died tragically two weeks later walking on a street in Hollywood. The marriage only lasted three years and the death hit her hard. After he died, the trips to Butternut became less and less frequent, but she never forgot him. She kept the house in Sugar Hill until she sold it sometime in the 60's. Shortly after that, the above plaque appeared mysteriously on the middle of a boulder in Coppermine Brook. It has also been suggested that this was the very boulder that she was rescued from.

Peckett's on Sugar Hill

There are no signs pointing to it and it's not obvious to the passerby. The original trail runs straight through to Bridal Veil Falls (more on that later as well). The trail is far above where the plaque is and you have to travel down toward the brook to see it. My friends found it twice before but this time was a little difficult because a fallen tree blocked their view.

To get to it take the Coppermine Brook Trail path to a clearing in the woods until you come to a small arrow which points up the path. It reads "Bridal Veil Falls." Look to your right and you'll see a flat area leading down to the brook. Follow that straight down and you should be able to see the boulder with the plaque.

Update: 1/1/11

Well, I promised to show you later and I'm sorry it took so long, but here are some updates to this page:

Link to pamphlet on the history of Butternut Farm, Bette Davis' home in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Pics of Bette, Arthur Farnsworth and the interior of the farm are pictured.

article in Union Leader regarding the sale of the Butternut Estate, 10/26/08 article.aspx?headline=Bette+Davis%27+beloved+Sugar+Hill+home+for+sale&articleId=02d3c1f7-ea18-4f95-83cc-1304b94050ad

Sugar Hill NH Treasures Uncovered:  picture of Bridal Veil Falls and a brief history of Butternut and the area.
Renting out Butternut Farm.  Bette Davis had two built.

 Here is the first Butternut Cottage, also for rent.

Another article about Sugar Hill and Bette Davis, Arthur Farnsworth history

I should also include that the picture of Peckett's is a postcard I found on the web.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Clyde here! That's me in front of Thompson's Falls located at Wildcat Mountain smack in the middle of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My friends Rob and Susan Friedman have visited almost every Memorial Day and sometimes Labor Day holidays.

While vacationing, a friend of ours suggested that we start writing a journal based on my travels around the country, well, the East Coast really and so here it is. It's called Clyde's Guides and I will be sharing some pics, info and stories on some of our journeys. I hope you'll come along and join us at these interesting places. Our trip has just begun.