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This Grand and Magnificent Place
The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains
Christopher Johnson

Revisiting New England

New Hampshire
2006 • 332 pp. 80 illus. 6 x 9"

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-461-2

“This book tells the story of the changing relationship between humans and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, beginning with the Abenaki people in the 1600s, who regarded it as... [continued in Reviews below]”—Northeastern Naturalist

A sweeping environmental history of a quintessential American wilderness.

This is the complex story of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, from the range’s days as the majestic homeland of the Abenaki, first seen by English colonists four centuries ago, to its unassailable standing today as one of America’s most beloved national forests, comprising 112,000 acres of protected wilderness.

Christopher Johnson, an avid hiker intimately familiar with the White Mountains, achieves two important objectives in This Grand and Magnificent Place. He lovingly explores their rich ecological, political, economic, and cultural history and, more broadly, opens a panoramic window on the evolution of American attitudes and policies toward wilderness over time.

Two competing visions of wilderness historically have coexisted in America: the instrumental, in which the wilderness is seen as a conglomeration of resources to be exploited for the benefit of entrepreneurs and consumers, and the aesthetic, in which the wilderness is appreciated for its natural beauty, the personal growth that it stimulates, the national pride it engenders, and the spiritual truth it offers. Johnson never loses sight of this fundamental dichotomy as he shares marvelous true tales of the first intrepid European settlers who “tamed” the Whites. He discusses Ethan Allen Crawford, the area’s first innkeeper, the emergence of tourism, and America’s love affair with the “wilderness experience”; and he explores tales of Thomas Cole, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other renowned artists who immortalized these mountains in their works. He considers the coming of grand resort hotels—and the contemporaneous wilderness revival—in the late nineteenth century and the passing of the landmark 1911 Weeks Act, which was instrumental in preserving American wilderness in the face of development and threats of irreparable environmental damage. Johnson traces the perilous course of the twentieth-century movement toward wilderness preservation, which has successfully conserved the Whites, an extraordinary American treasure, for future generations. Finally, he poses thoughtful and essential questions regarding the destiny of this American wilderness, exploring the balance between maintaining its usefulness while conserving its glorious heritage.

This skillful and accessible history will rivet general readers, students, and professionals interested in the history, culture, and politics of the White Mountains, as well as those fascinated by environmental history and wilderness protection everywhere.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“This book tells the story of the changing relationship between humans and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, beginning with the Abenaki people in the 1600s, who regarded it as their homeland... Filled with intriguing historical detail and vivid characters, this book is an informative and fascinating read.”—Northeastern Naturalist

“Delightful reading.”Milford (NH) Cabinet

“Johnson’s chronology covers much familiar territory, but he also brings actors to the stage who are often neglected in conservation history, particularly hikers. His discussion of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century female hikers is a fascinating and overlooked part of our history. Johnson enlivens his story by weaving personal biographies into the narrative.”—New England Quarterly

“Brilliantly insightful and a painstakingly researched book.”—Appalachia

“The White Mountains of New Hampshire have provided the setting for the development of the American wilderness experience, in all its dimensions. In This Grand and Magnificent Place Christopher Johnson ably chronicles an array of lively, fascinating personalities—Native Americans, pioneers, hikers, artists, writers, conservationists, and others—who have shaped and protected the region’s wild terrain. His wide-ranging, imaginatively researched, and crisply written book will appeal to any reader interested in the history of this much-beloved mountain landscape.”Larry Anderson, author of BentonMacKaye: Conservationist, Planner, and Creator of the Appalachian Trail

“Christopher Johnson's well researched book makes an important contribution to White Mountain history. He vividly portrays four centuries of events that helped shape a philosophy for Wilderness preservation that is unique from other parts of the country. He articulates the challenges of passing legislation a century ago in Congress to acquire lands for the White Mountain National Forest and later to designate them as Wilderness. The role of artists, grand hotel owners, timber barons, conservation organizations and ordinary citizens is clearly outlined in this book. Anyone with an interest in White Mountain or environmental history should read this book.”David Govatski, White Mountain Naturalist and Historian and retired Forester from the White Mountain National Forest

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON has worked in the textbook-publishing industry for many years, specializing in language arts and social studies. He holds an M.A. in English from Northwestern University and is the author of numerous articles on education and on the environment.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:54:42 -0500