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‘Old Man’ memorial won’t expand

Dick Hamilton said donations used to build the memorial in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire have dried up in the difficult economy.

Jim Cole/Associated Press

Dick Hamilton said donations used to build the memorial in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire have dried up in the difficult economy.

CONCORD, N.H. — Nearly 10 years after New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain crumbled, so, too, have plans to add to the memorial plaza dedicated to its memory.

The famed rock outcropping that has long served as the state symbol hung 1,200 feet above Profile Lake in Franconia Notch State Park before falling on May 3, 2003. The Old Man Legacy Fund, a nonprofit volunteer group, has been trying to raise money for a $5 million, multiphase memorial, but board member Dick Hamilton said Wednesday that no further work will be done.

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“Fund-raising has basically come nearly to a halt because of the economy, so there will be no phase two,” he said. “Basically, what we have there now, we’re going to finish up, polish up, add some benches and some signage, and then go away.”

The group had raised about $500,000 for the first phase, which was unveiled in 2011 and includes a series of steel rods pointing at Cannon Mountain that, when viewed from a certain angle, show an outline of the profile against the cliff. The plaza also features hundreds of stone pavers, purchased by members of the public and engraved with their names and memories of the Old Man.

The now-abandoned plan also called for five granite monoliths to be placed so that when they are viewed in sequence from a raised platform, they appear to merge into one form evoking the outline of the rock profile. The stones were to represent the five major slabs of granite that formed the Old Man, and the largest one — about 20 feet in height — would have been the largest ever cut in a North American quarry.

But in addition to the cost, the only place to get granite that large is in Vermont, Hamilton said, and the fund-raising committee took criticism given New Hampshire’s Granite State nickname. The plan was revised to substitute steel for the granite, but that would have cost $900,000, he said.

“Many people think what we have is enough,” he said. “Perhaps the next phase we planned was a little too elaborate for some.”

Though no one knows how old the Old Man of Mountain was before it fell, several groups of surveyors working in the Franconia Notch area took credit for discovering it in 1805. It quickly became a popular tourist attraction and inspired many works of art and literature, including Nathaniel ­Hawthorne’s “The Great Stone Face.” The Legislature adopted it as the state emblem in 1945, and it appears on the state quarter, highway signs, and license plates.

The fund will be disbanded at the end of 2014, Hamilton said, and then it will be the state’s responsibility to maintain the site, which Hamilton said attracted 25,000 to 30,000 visitors last summer.

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