Birth of the Lodge

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As it happens, the idea that the Lodge was built from hurricane-felled wood is a myth. Those trees were felled by Ross McKenney and crew in the winter of 1938. Lodge construction was well underway in the fall of 1938 and by September 21, the date of that infamous storm, the Lodge had been completed up to the level of the first floor. That storm tracked right up the Connecticut River as far as about White River Jct, then veered north-northwest toward Montreal. That put Moosilauke squarely in the northeast quadrant of the storm. In contrast to Irene, with a forward speed of only 10-15 mph (which led to the extended drenching rains) the 1938 storm had powerful counterclockwise winds, coupled with an almost unprecedented forward speed of close to 60 MPH when it hit Long Island, and slowed only slightly on its track north. This combination led to south-southeast winds of 100 MPH+ on Moosilauke that were further exacerbated by the upslope funneling in the Baker valley. This combined event knocked down something like 90% of the trees on the south slopes of the mountain. It took three years to clear all the trails. On the summit, the created such a vacuum around the Summit House that it blew out the windows on the east side and sucked out a major part of the wall on the west side. It is truly a testament to the ruggedness of that building - and its 3' thick stone walls up to the top of the first floor, and (almost certainly) timber frame construction above that - that it was not completely destroyed. It took fire (likely from a lightning strike) to do that, 4 years later.

So the Lodge was born in storm, but its timing was fortunate. Had the Lodge been completed a year earlier, there's a fair chance it would have seen damage from the the storm. But had the trees not already been felled and brought to the site, there is no way it could have been built as it was. Trees that fell in that storm were in a completely inaccessible tangle, and many of them broke or were sheared off such as to make them valueless for structural work.

For the whole story of the Lodge's construction, including Will Brown '37's recounting in his own words, consult "An Unlikely Cathedral," the video that Dartmouth Media Services and I made in 1999 for the Lodge's 60th.

-David Hooke