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History of The Rocks Estate

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The Rocks Estate
4 Christmas Lane
Bethlehem, NH 03574
603-444-6228
info@TheRocks.org

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History of The Rocks Estate

John & Francis
John & Francis

The Big House
The Big House

The Bee House
The Bee House

The Big Rock Summer House
The Big Rock Summer House

The first tractors on Upland Farms
The first tractors
on Upland Farms

The Tool Building
The Tool Building

The Formal Gardens
The Formal Gardens

Stone walls at The Rocks Estate
Stone walls at
The Rocks Estate

The heritage of The Rocks Estate reaches from the pastoral beauty of the 1800s through the property's modern day role as a conservation and education center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

The rambling stone walls and carefully restored historic buildings at The Rocks Estate evoke the pastoral beauty of the turn of the 20th Century in New Hampshire. Now home to the 1,400-acre North Country Conservation & Education Center for the Forest Society, The Rocks was for many years the summer home of Chicago businessman and International Harvester cofounder John Jacob Glessner and his family.

Glessner, his wife Frances, and their children George and Fanny began visiting New Hampshire's North Country in 1878, seeking refuge in the clean mountain air for George's hay fever during the summer months. In 1882 Glessner purchased a 100-acre farm from Oren Streeter for $2,300. He had the Big House, the family's summer residence, constructed in the Queen Anne Style of architecture in 1883. Designed by Isaac Elwood Scott, the 19-room mansion was situated high on a hill, with spectacular views of the White Mountains. Over the years, the Glessners constructed various buildings, built elaborate gardens (including a formal garden designed by Frederick Law Olmsted's company), and added land to their Rocks Estate.

The Carriage Barn
The Carriage Barn

The family would travel each summer via train from Chicago, with several servants preceding them to prepare the property for the Glessners' arrival. The Rocks Estate boasted a windmill, green house, bee house, observatory, and many other structures. Although the Big House and other residences at The Rocks were removed in the late 1940s, many of the property's original buildings have been restored and are in use today. The Rocks is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1978, John and Frances Glessner's grandchildren donated the 1,400-acre Rocks Estate, including 22 buildings, to the Forest Society, with the requirement that there always be a crop in the field. For more than three decades, that crop has been Christmas trees, and people come to The Rocks from near and far each year to find their perfect tree.

The Forest Society offers a host of other activities at The Rocks throughout the year, from the popular springtime Maple Tours and school programs to various natural history talks and customized experiential tours for small groups. The trail system at The Rocks is open daily to visitors and includes the Heritage Trail (Map: 426 KB pdf), which passes and interprets many of the historic buildings on this beautiful property.

Current Entrance to The Rocks Estate
Current Entrance to The Rocks Estate