New Hampshire: When Frankenstein Roamed the White Mountains

Yes, Frankenstein really did roam the White Mountains of New Hampshire…there is a train trestle, and a cliff, named in his honor.

Frankenstein Trestle and Train, P. & O.R.R., Crawford Notch, White Mts., Kilburn, B. W. (Benjamin West), 1827-1909 — Publisher & Photographer; Created 1877-1895

Godfrey Nicolas Frankenstein, that is.

Johann Adam Tracht, a teacher, and his wife Anna, fled Darmstadt, Germany in 1831 with his family. They settled in Ohio, first in Cincinnati and later Springfield, adopting the surname Frankenstein.  Three of his sons, John Peter (c1816-1881), Godfrey N. (1820-1873) and George Gustavus (d 1902) were gifted artists, in addition to daughters Marie and Eliza.

Godfrey Frankenstein reportedly started his own business at age 13, beginning as a sign painter. By 19 he was a portrait painter. In 1841 he became the first president of the Cincinnati Academy of Arts. Soon becoming interested in landscape painting, he began painting landscapes that interested him, starting with Niagara Falls in 1844. He probably painted these Falls hundreds of times. Godfrey Frankenstein painted outdoors in all kinds of weather throughout the seasons.

Godfrey Frankenstein enjoyed the romantic setting of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, painting dramatic scenes of the rugged landscape. He first painted the White frankensteincliff2Mountains in New Hampshire in 1847. He had painted the Cliff and the Dry River below which was used by the railroad to advertise the wonderful Crawford Notch scenery.

Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch was named after Godfrey Frankenstein by Dr. Samuel Bemis, a Boston dentist who owned much of Crawford Notch at that time.  Dr. Bemis was considered an eccentric recluse, very much into naming places.  He named a lake, mountain, brook, ridge and other spots in the White Mountains for himself.

Frankenstein Cliff has waterfall ice routes ranging from low angle and easy to very steep

Frankenstein Trestle, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. circa 1912 old postcard

Frankenstein Trestle, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. circa 1912 old postcard

and difficult. Classic steep ice climbs at Frankenstein include Standard Route, Pegasus, Dracula, Chia and too many others to mention. The short flat approach along a railroad track and numerous fat ice climbs make this one of the best and most user-friendly places to go ice climbing in the East.

Frankenstein Trestle is a 500-foot long iron structure that spans one of the deepest gorges or crevasses (80 feet) in the White Mountains. The trestle was built in 1871 by the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad, with General Samuel J. Anderson of Portland Maine as its president.

The trestle was replaced by a new steel one in 1895. John Farwell Anderson, of South Windham, Maine, was the engineer. Maintaining that the gorges of the Crawford Notch could be bridged, he accomplished the feat after it had been repeatedly declared impossible by other engineers.

The company was chartered in February 1867, and in four and a half years the line reach North Conway. It was opened to Fabyan in August 1875. Some idea of the difficulties and expense of the operation may be gained from the facts that of the total ascent of 1890 feet from Portland to Crawford’s, 1369 feet are included in the thirty miles between North Conway and the latter place, and that between Bemis and Crawford’s the rise is 116 feet to the mile for nine consecutive miles.  Such structures on the right of way as the Frankenstein Trestle and the Willey Brook Bridge are striking evidences of the skill and genius of the engineer.

Conway Scenic Railroad, a restored Victorian train which starts its journey in North Conway, New Hampshire, takes a 5-hour round trip which includes traveling over the 500-foot-long Frankenstein Trestle.

Godfrey Nicolas Frankenstein died in 1873.

The “Chronicles of the White Mountains” state that the sixteenth lithographic plate and a part of the fourteenth in “Scenery of the White Mountains” with drawings by Isaac Sprague were from paintings by Godfrey Frankenstein.


P.S. Just a bit of Mary Shelley trivia here.  In the book “Frankenstein,” the monster remained nameless.  Frankenstein was the surname of the “daemon’s” creator. Victor.


Photographs of Frankenstein Cliff

When Dracula Met Frankenstein

[Editor’s Note: updated January 2014]

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