Judging by the size of the trees along North Conway’s Main Street, Nathan Pease took the photograph at left around 1870 — notwithstanding the 1911 copyright on the postcard on which he published it. By the early 1900s, those scrawny elms were towering over the street, forming a canopy that provided shade for summer travelers all day long.
Samuel Thompson’s Kearsarge House, the tower of which rises in the center of the older image, was then the largest and most popular of several hotels catering to summer folk at that time. Thompson had gotten into the game early and ardently, siphoning trade away from Conway Village. From late June through October, the Kearsarge House and other village hostelries would fill with refugees from more urban or mundane environs, streaming into town by stagecoach for a few weeks at a time or for the entire season. By early November, the last of them were usually gone, and the town turned somnolent. Once winter came, even the farmers stayed indoors, if they enjoyed the advantage of connected barns. The roads filled with snow. Silence prevailed.
Thompson seemed to be a magnet for prosperity, at least as it was measured in the midst of the 19th century, and his family lingered nearby to partake in it. The house at left belonged to his brother’s widow and her son, Amos, who would be something of a local character in his final years. The two-story house closer to the hotel belonged to Samuel’s son, William. Standing beyond that is the North Conway Academy, its belfry hidden by a cluster of trees. The perspective makes the farms of Robert and Hezekiah Seavey look like one continuous building, and Charles Whitaker’s farmhouse appears by itself at the end of Main Street, directly below the peak of Mount Washington. The only buildings visible on the right side of the road are the farmhouses of James C. Willey and Andrew Dinsmore — whose house blocks the view of Lucy’s Saloon, which sat about where Seavey Street now turns off Main.
Eventually, Samuel Thompson demolished the North Conway Academy and leveled the site for lawn space. The Kearsarge House burned down in 1917, and the North Conway Community Center was later built right where the academy had been. When that building ceased to satisfy, a new community center went up beside it, and the old one became a ski museum. Construction across the road has been extensive enough to occlude the same view Pease captured, but all the signs and traffic makes it clear that winter no longer sends the town into hibernation.