April 4, 2011

Old Man still speaks to NH author, lecturer

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- As a child growing up in New Hampshire, Maggie Stier traveled with her family on ski trips to Cannon Mountain, driving through Franconia Notch and coming face to face with one of the region’s most iconic symbols: the Old Man of the Mountain.
In May 2003, the legendary stone profile crumbled into oblivion, but a growing number of citizens, including Stier, are working hard to keep its memory alive.
“This loss was felt quite acutely by many of us,” said Stier, who still skis at Cannon Mountain each winter.
The New London resident, who is active in the state Humanities Council, the Old Man of the
 Mountain Legacy Fund and the New Hampshire State Parks Advisory Council, will visit Leach Library on April 14 to present “The Old Man of the Mountain: Substance and Symbol.”
“Like many families in New Hampshire, it was a ‘don’t miss’ kind of thing you’d look at when you went through the Notch,”
 Stier said last week. “I’ve always been very interested in the art, history and legacy of the Old Man, so when I learned the Legacy Fund was looking for assistance, I jumped right on board.” 

The co-author of “Into the Mountains: Stories of New England’s Most Celebrated Peaks,” Stier has taught at Colby-Sawyer College and Plymouth State University, and holds degrees from Vassar College, Boston University and Antioch New England. 
She’s been affiliated with the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund since 2006 and was appointed by Gov. John Lynch to the State Parks Advisory Council in 2008. 
During her visit to the library later this month, Stier will share the Old Man of the Mountain’s story and its importance to the story of New Hampshire itself. 
“Most people alive today don’t know the full history of the Old Man,” she said. “But it influenced many themes in New Hampshire history: geology, highway building, land conservation, the tourism industry and the grand hotels of the White Mountains. My presentation will touch on all those themes.” 
Stier said she plans to show how the symbol is reflected in the state’s history, arts, literature, geography, philosophy and even public policy. Over the course of the evening, the audience will be challenged to think about the different and evolving ways that this image has touched the public imagination over its 200-year history. 
Utilizing images of paintings, literary passages, souvenirs and film clips of interviews with those closest to the Old Man, Stier will begin her tale in 1805, the date of the first recorded mention of the Old Man. 
The first artistic rendering of the site happened in 1827. 
“It’s a very interesting and human-like image,” Stier said. “Many writers and artists came to Franconia Notch.” 
She’ll share images of the long-forgotten Profile House, which was at one time the region’s largest hotel, set at the base of the Old Man of the Mountain. In 1923, a fire destroyed the hotel, but the turn of events raised a great awareness of the need to conserve the state’s forestlands, Stier said, noting that the surrounding area was dedicated as a national park in 1928 in honor of the state’s war veterans. 
“A lot of people don’t know that,” she emphasized. 
Stier’s stop in Londonderry will be one of many to take place in New Hampshire over the coming months. Her goal, she said, is to raise awareness of the Old Man’s legacy and enhance support for the statesanctioned Old Man of the Mountain Memorial project. 
“The Old Man of the Mountain: Substance and Symbol,” will be presented at Leach Library on April 14 at 7 p.m. The free public program will be held in the library’s lower-level meeting room. Light refreshments will be served. 

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