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


  1. Another great adventure, Clyde! How I envy you visiting all those wonderful places...the Wiley house and area sounds fascinating!! Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Clyde, Thanks for the history. I have always loved Crawford Notch and just two weeks ago finished a snowshoe trip that ended at the Willey House site; at the terminus of the Kendron Flume trail. As we sat across the road waiting for our ride I surveyed the side of Mt Willey looking for signs of the slide above the site. There was a huge slide further up the notch from the site but no sign of anything just above. Is the actual house site at the location of your picture or was it a little further up the notch?