27. OLD GATEHOUSE AREA

 

 

OLD GRAVEL PIT. In 1915 this now long unused feature was in and at the edge of pasture. Near the northern edge of the pit where it cuts into the hill the woods began.

Gravel Pit on 1940 Map. The letter F
indicates a fuel wood yard was located there.

The 1940 map documents the presence of the Gravel Pit that year. It shows the accessway into the gravel pit leaving the main campground road at a northwest angle, just as it does today.

This short entry road crosses at a 90 degree angle the rough road on the Culhane Farm that headed southwest, behind today's Site 51 and on towards Site 53.

The Gravel Pit on the 1940 map held a fuelwood yard serving campers in the vicinity. It is a passive storage area today with no gravel removal activity within memory.

A mention in the administrative record from July of 1938; “I would like to have Ranger Waldo consider the desirability of installing a central wood supply for the camping area of Dolly Copp, possibly in the old gravel pit.”

We know from the 1940 map that the decision was to create one such fuelwood yard here, but also four others around Dolly Copp and two over in the Picnic Area.

Another from November 1939; “On July 31, the heaviest use day of the month, all camping areas on the west side of Pinkham B Road were opened with the exception of the Gravel Pit Loop.”

As there is no other reference in the literature or on maps to a “Gravel Pit Loop”, perhaps this is an archaic reference to adjacent Spruce Woods, or alternatively, to early camping off of “Crew Quarters Road” just north of the Gravel Pit.

CREW QUARTERS ROAD. The dirt road on the north side of the Gravel Pit is clearly depicted on the 1940 map. The name “Crew Quarters Road” is not official, and is used here only as a convenient descriptive identifier. A 1936 letter from a camper to the Forest Supervisor mentions activity here:

I pulled into the Log Cabin and received a permit and went out to look at my old camp on the hill behind the gravel pit. The spring was dry, so after going through the upper fields I came to a field at the top of the rise and found in that corner a spot I liked....

Guard Benedict.... told me I could not keep my car there.... some CCC boys placed a log across the opening to the spot.... The path that the car made was not more trampled. A sod that is thirty-five years old doesn't wear much.

Ranger Benedict by the way was a “one man show” who ran Dolly Copp with a firm hand. He managed everything himself without assistants.

As was the custom for rangers then he wore high leather boots and packed a .38 revolver (GB). His tenure included at least the years 1916-1936.

Like Barnes Field, areas adjacent to the crew quarters were used for overflow and group camping during the early fifties (CH). Bob Brown brings to our attention that some old style camp site fire grates remain in place upslope on the west side, evidently to serve this periodic overflow.

CREW QUARTERS. Not far up this road, on the left above the Gravel Pit, is a small nearly level area. A crew quarters cabin was constructed here in 1954.

"Caretakers Quarters" shown on early sixties map.

Betsy (Strong) Kent recalls that in 1956 she was the cook here for a crew of six then running the Campground. Parking for 2-3 cars at the cabin was provided adjacent to the road. Water supply was from an extension pipe run over from Spruce Woods.

Foundation remnants of 1954 crew cabin.

The cabin would have been built at a higher elevation except that the available water supply could not provide pressure above this point (CH).

Multiple bunks were available for the crew. A porch on the east side had a splendid view of Carter Notch, the staff cutting a few trees to make it even nicer (CH).

Mike Tipert, who worked at Dolly Copp for the AMC in the fifties, says this building was not particularly attractive, having outside walls of milled pine and no insulation.

The reason for building demolition has not been confirmed. But Brad Ray believes that “it was a USFS decision, in some administrators’ mind, to eliminate all unnecessary buildings.” Foundation stones for this structure are still visible.

Today's modern staff residence further down this road was constructed near 1990 (CH).

Photo of staff residence in 2010.


NATURE TRAIL. The Dolly Copp Nature Trail was constructed as a forest education feature in 1966 (CH). As its area was neither a field nor a pasture on the 1915 map, perhaps the Trail and its vicinity are old forest.

The summer 1968 activities schedule offered an escorted tour every Tuesday afternoon: “1:00 P.M.-2:30 P.M. Nature Walk. Participants should assemble at the beginning of the Nature Trail. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.”

Early brochure for Nature Trail.

The Nature Trail is about four tenths of a mile in length and has a loop configuration. It featured 21 informational stops, most related to forest education.

Due to budget constraints sometime after 1987, signage was no longer maintained and guide pamphlets were no longer provided. But USFS staff were able to restore it to full operation near 2000.

In the old brochure, Stop 16 had an interesting description of the Peabody River Valley; “Can you see the four distinct levels in the land? These show where the Peabody River once flowed, as it has shifted its bed through the ages, seeking each time to carve a lower shelf.”

These shelves, like a giant’s staircase cut into ancient bedrock, are visible in other locations near the Campground, some on the walk south of Rangers Pool.

For a time the guide pamphlet displayed a trail map on its cover, this drawing giving the name of “Marsh Brook” to the small stream crossing the Trail on its south side.

The Nature Trail linked the Campground with forest education. This is an old USFS goal. An archival memo from 1927 states that forest;

Improvement work has been started on both sides of the Great Gulf Trail and other borders of the Campground in order that we may have a demonstration forest where it will be visited by thousands of people.... This demonstration will be enlarged each year.

Twelve years later a 1939 Forest Service memo informs us that;

The public has manifested considerable interest in the various natural phenomena to be seen in the forest. In recognition of this we have had in mind for several years the construction of nature trails along which botanical, geological, and other phases of nature lore would be labeled....

We now have labels prepared for such trails on three forest camps, one of which is Dolly Copp. We hope in spite of reduced personnel to complete the installation of the labels this spring....

A 1939 memo indicates that the labels were somehow lost. Evidently this ended the effort to proceed with development of a nature trail at that time, for there is no memory of one having been constructed until the present one in 1966 (GB).

DOLLY COPP WORKSHOP. As for the Dolly Copp Workshop building, some of the driveway area here was part of the Culhane pasture. To the rear of the workshop was the 1915 map designation “Spruce Woods.” Casey Hodgdon says that the parking lot and building here date from 1966.

This construction was part of a group of Forest Service projects that year. Included were the new gate house and the relocation of the Androscoggin Ranger Station from Downtown Gorham to a Route 16 location just south of the edge of downtown (CH).

In the winter months this parking lot serves users of the nearby Hayes Copp Ski Trail. In the mid-nineties a sign was placed on the building identifying it as the “Dolly Copp Workshop and Crew Quarters.” A wooden first aid cache is located adjacent.

FIFTIES GATEHOUSE. The location at the two telephones once hosted the gatehouse for the Campground. Remnants are the step and field stone curbing in front of the phones.

The Dolly Copp Gatehouse of the early fifties
(above) is the site of the telephones (below) today.

There have been a variety of check in locations in the history of Dolly Copp. Photos show tents used in early years, prior to small buildings.

Check in was at the Administration Building after its construction in 1934, remaining there until access to Route 16 was relocated north in 1951.

The location at today's telephones was the next gatehouse site, from 1951 until the current gatehouse further north was made operational in 1966.

Between 1951 and 1966 the gatehouse here was close to the road, the porch only about five feet from the wooden step seen here now. Casey Hodgdon remembers that in the early fifties there was a muddy spot at the edge of the pavement, just before the steps leading up to the porch of the gatehouse. The maintenance staff wanted to dress this area up a little as well as solve the mud problem, this being the first point of contact for new arrivals.

So, the staff took a truck down to the Dolly Copp Memorial and pried out of the ground the north facing side door stone step to the back ell of the Copp home. They brought it here.

For about 45 years it was a "piece of dislocated history." Then in 1998 at Casey's urging it was returned by the USFS to the north side of the Copp home foundation. The wooden curb beside the road here now is its replacement.

Charlie and Gail (Craig) Gordon with friend Sonny
Thomas at the Old Gatehouse in 1963. At bottom is
the "piece of dislocated history" described above.

At the gatehouse in the early fifties a barrier was placed on the main campground road to close Dolly Copp off from entering vehicles after 10 P.M. Parties arriving after that time would leave their vehicles for the night in a small parking area to the northeast, behind the row of boulders here now.

The gate itself was about 25 feet north of today's telephones, built to swivel on an iron pin set in a timber on the east side (CH). On Thursday nights it was kept open until 11 P.M. to accommodate the late evening returnees from the Gorham drive-in theater (CH).

A staff member was assigned to sleep overnight here and unlock the gate in case of emergency exits. A few late arrivals might also be allowed in (CH). An alarm clock would be set for an early wake up.

As for the reasons for this arrangement, we must remember that before 1951 the Campground was on a thru road with all the disturbances that entailed. Once it became a dead end road a procedure of locking up for the night was for the first time physically possible.

We can speculate that the night gating policy was a reaction to the disturbances of earlier years. Casey Hodgdon says fifties campers accepted the inconvenience of this system and never complained.

But by 1957 such nightly shut off had been dropped (BB). As for the reason, Brad Ray states that “perhaps when the Forest Service took over there were complaints from campers that they could not get out in an emergency.”

A similar procedure, closing and locking for the night the entrance off of today's Dolly Copp Road, was attempted for a season or so in the late seventies or early eighties but abandoned shortly thereafter, perhaps for the same reason.

Given the lack of storage space for vehicles at the phones, this location for check in would not have adequately supported today's greater traffic volumes and large motor homes. Casey Hodgdon says it was acceptable in the fifties because there were fewer trailers and fewer campers.

In 1966 the gatehouse building was not dismantled but instead relocated. It remains in public use today at the South Pond Recreation Area, north of Berlin (CH). As of 2002 it is still painted brown, has a nice USFS logo on it, and is used as an office and for light storage.

Former Dolly Copp Gatehouse, moved
and reused at South Pond Recreation Area.