History of Greenleaf Hut
Just as Lonesome Lake was opening its doors to guests of AMC for the first time in 1929, the Committee on Huts, under the encouragement of Huts Manager Joe Dodge, initiated an ambitions construction campaign. As it stood, Lonesome Lake was off entirely on its own, far from Lakes of the Clouds Hut, its nearest neighbor. The vast Pemigewassett Wilderness, devoid of structures other than simple three-sided shelters, lay between Franconia Notch and the Presidential Range. Dodge calculated that AMC could form a chain of huts, allowing hikers to travel for an extended period, with comfortable accommodations awaiting them at day’s end.
By June 1928, the Committee on Huts had scoped out a location for the next hut in the chain at Eagle Lake on Mount Lafayette. Even the name of the hut became clear early on. Colonel Charles Henry Greenleaf, late proprietor of the Profile House in Franconia Notch, had bequeathed $10,000 to the club. The resulting hut would have been an inspiration to Greenleaf who left home as a young man to build a career in the grand hotels of the White Mountains.
For fifty-seven years Greenleaf piloted the Profile House through triumph and change. In 1869 President Ulysses S. Grant was a guest. In 1878 a railroad line came through, opening the notch to greater numbers of visitors. With business booming the hotel was entirely rebuilt and opened anew for the 1906 season. Only in his final years did Greenleaf relinquish the reigns of his beloved Profile House. Under new ownership the hotel burned in August 1923. By no small coincidence Greenleaf himself died the following April.
Building a hut to honor the old man was no simple matter. First the Old Bridle Path to Eagle Lake had to be recovered from obscurity. Cut in 1852 in order to shuttle hotel guests to the summit of Mount Lafayette, the path had been sparsely maintained over the previous seventy-five years. At the peak of its use tourists on horseback could ascend and rest at a small but short-lived Summit House. Greenleaf Hut necessitated a similar trail, and four-legged beasts walked on it once more. This was the White Mountain Jackass Company; a herd of 41 donkeys shipped from Roswell, New Mexico by AMC for the purpose of moving building supplies up the trails.
Inside the quickly rising walls of Greenleaf Hut innovations and new comforts abounded. The hut was constructed mainly of wood, a departure from stone walls like those at Madison Spring, Lakes of the Clouds and Carter Notch Huts. A nod to traditional masonry was included in a single stone façade, facing east. The interior layout incorporated a new design with the kitchen and dining room in the center and bunkrooms on either side. This became the model for Galehead and Zealand Falls Huts. Greenleaf was the first hut with inside toilets, and “by dint of considerable ingenuity,” the first to have running water inside. The hut opened on July 5, 1930, and quickly grew in popularity as the most modern, comfortable lodgings of the club. Although Greenleaf faced the same lag in business during World War II as the other huts, it was setting records for occupancy by 1947.
Greenleaf Hut remained a popular spot through the decades, and went through numerous stages of maintenance and renovation over the years, including an expansion in 1989. One key improvement came out of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1980. Both Greenleaf and Zealand Falls received the benefits of AMC’s early interest in alternative energy. A wind turbine went up on Greenleaf and a hydroelectric system provided power to Zealand Falls. This reduced the number of propane tanks flown in by helicopter. The hut was using passive solar power to heat water as early as 1978, but a photovoltaic system was eventually added.
Read more about Greenleaf Hut's history in Passport to AMC's High Huts in the White Mountains >>
Photos: AMC Archives