One of twenty-one frames composing a panoramic scroll which records a trip to the White Mountains by eight young men and women from New York in 1875; drawn by an unidentified woman in the group. New Hampshire Historical Society.
These spaces and heights present an almost uniform massiveness, into which the element of picturesqueness—an element most dear to artists—enters but faintly. Here are elevation, immensity, grandeur—a country of vast and rugged proportions, peaks that seem to touch what our imagination believes to be a concrete sky, thick forests of oak and maple, fields that lie bare and arid in the sun, and stern hills crested with shadowy groves; these make up a picture which is at once uniform and sublime, a picture that neither delights nor charms yet one that is impressive in the finest sense.
New-York Times, 1880
North of the Notches
The tour continues across the top of the notches from west to east. Soaring elevations, panoramic views, and sparse population distinguish the region north of the notches. From many locations, the highest peaks in the White Mountains, known collectively as the Presidential Range, are visible. Extending well above the tree line and facing extreme climatic conditions, these peaks have a seemingly barren appearance. In actuality, their slopes support low spruce, fir scrub, and a variety of alpine plants.
These massive mountains lead northeasterly from Mount Washington in a single ridge twelve miles in length. In 1784, historian Jeremy Belknap named the highest peak to honor George Washington. The other principal peaks—Mounts Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—acquired their names in July 1820 when an expedition of state and local officials ascended Mount Washington and gave names to several nearby peaks.
Beginning in the 1860s, a number of artists experimented with capturing the striking appearance of the notches and of the Presidential Range from the northerly perspective of communities spanning the state from Littleton to Shelburne. They did so occasionally even in the wintertime, after the railroad facilitated transportation to the region.