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A Century and a Second Chance at The Rocks

By Amanda Nickerson Freitas
Photos courtesy of Nigel Manley, The Rocks

Set on a hillside in Bethlehem, enjoying the majestic panoramic view of the White Mountains, sits the Forest Society’s 1,400-acre North Country Conservation and Education Center and certified Christmas tree farm, The Rocks. Each holiday season thousands of visitors to The Rocks enjoy horse drawn wagon rides through the farm while docents narrate stories from a century past. Not too long after their journey begins, the wagon passes a very unique but lonely building known as the Sawmill / Pigpen.

Designed in 1906 by Hermann von Holst, the Sawmill/Pigpen is one of 22 surviving buildings at The Rocks listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings—others include the Tool Building (1903) and the Bridge Barn (1914). The landscape also includes striking stone walls and gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead's company in the early 1900's.

The Sawmill / Pigpen after construction in 1906.

Purchased by Chicago businessman John Jacob Glessner on September 17, 1882 from Oren Streeter with twenty-three one hundred dollar bills, The Rocks became the first farm to have state-of-the-art Midwestern farm machinery working in the upland hills of Northern New Hampshire. J.J. Glessner would go on to be one of the first members of the Forest Society, joining in 1903. By donating The Rocks to the Forests Society in 1978, Glessner descendants Martha Batchelder and John Lee hoped to continue their grandfather's legacy of caring for the environment forever.

After twenty years of searching for a modern use for the Sawmill / Pigpen, the Forest Society now seeks to revive the building with a new purpose – as a sugar house. Adjacent to a stand of sugar maples, with easy access for demonstrating the maple tree tapping and sap collecting process, the Forest Society hopes to give the Sawmill / Pigpen a second chance as The Rocks’ Sugar House and Interpretive Center.

The Forest Society’s annual maple programs at The Rocks have grown each March, drawing hundreds of visitors to Bethlehem to learn the history, science and art of making maple syrup. Each class of children and adults enjoys tapping their own trees and tasting the final result of boiling sap into syrup. With the Forest Society’s maple program in need of a better facility for serving these larger groups, the re-use of the Sawmill / Pigpen as The Rocks Sugar House and Interpretive Center, seems like the perfect fit.

Today, the Sawmill / Pigpen is ready for restoration.

“I have no doubt in my mind that J.J. Glessner would be overjoyed to see the Sawmill / Pigpen be re-used as our Sugar House and Interpretive Center,” Said Rocks Manager Nigel Manley. “It’s a way to highlight wise forest resource management, while bringing part of The Rocks back to life.”

The Forest Society needs your help to restore, adapt and re-use the historic Sawmill / Pigpen as the new Sugar House and Interpretive Center. With $15,000 raised so far, they must raise $59,500 by September 1, 2008 in order to have the building in ready for sugaring in the spring of 2009. If you would like to help please visit our special projects page.

For more information about the Sawmill / Pigpen or The Rocks, please visit,or call 603-444-6228.


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