The house shown here is only one of many buildings in North Conway associated with Harvey Dow Gibson. More than any other single person, he made his mark on the village of his birth, where community leaders had always wanted to promote tourism. Thanks largely to Harvey, they got their wish good and hard.
He grew up in the big Victorian house on Main Street, almost directly opposite the end of Kearsarge Street. His father sent him to Fryeburg Academy, and he graduated from Bowdoin in 1902, going to work for the American Express Company. He stayed there for a decade, and in 1913 was named a vice president at Liberty National Bank. In 1917, just before his 35th birthday, he was chosen president of that bank, but he soon took leave to serve as general manager of the American Red Cross in France during World War I. Coming home as “Colonel” Gibson, he became president of New York Trust in 1921, when that bank and Liberty National merged.
Soon after going to work for American Express, Harvey married Carrie Hastings Curtis of Newton, Mass. They never had children, but their big home just east of Central Park was always full of guests and servants. In 1920, an insurance broker’s entire family was living with them, as well as a Danish chambermaid, an Irish cook and a Japanese butler. Even after the crash of 1929, the house was worth a quarter of a million dollars.
In the summer of 1925, Harvey received a notice from Carrie, in Paris, that she had filed for divorce. Evidently this was no surprise, and he promptly gave his assent. A few months later, on his 44th birthday, he married Helen Whitney Bourne, the ex-wife of the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Soon thereafter he began making more regular visits to his native town, where his parents still lived. He and Helen (and her daughter) usually stayed in New York, but Harvey started buying up property in North Conway.
In the spring of 1929, he bought an old house on the corner of Grove Street and Main. Four years later, Helen moved her horses up from Long Island and pastured them in Kearsarge, and soon thereafter they became Mr. and Mrs. Gibson of North Conway and New York. As president of Manufacturers Trust, Harvey continued to work mostly in New York until he bought what is now Cranmore Mountain, early in 1937, and started developing it as a ski area.
It must have been about then that he tore down the house at the corner of Grove Street and started construction on what he called “Moat View.” The Skimobile cars were ready to run at Cranmore by the summer of 1939, and the following winter the local newspaper started mentioning Moat View as the site of the Gibsons’ dinner parties. It was his home only for the last decade of his life, but local residents of a certain age have been enjoying it for the past four decades as the Gibson Center.