History of Mizpah Spring Hut
Built in 1964, Mizpah Spring Hut is the youngest hut in the system. It was added to the chain of huts running from Lonesome Lake to Carter Notch in response to the steep increase in demand in the 1960s (partly due to the National Geographic article written about the huts by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas). The location of Mizpah shortened the hike from Zealand Falls to Lakes of the Clouds for hikers seeking the same comfortable accommodations in the woods. A log shelter had been located on the spot since 1915 because it had the only reliable source of water on the trail between the Saco River and Mount Pierce.
The construction of Mizpah in 1964 was part of a larger stage of growth for AMC’s facilities. Pinkham Notch Camp was thoroughly renovated starting that year, and plans were in the works for yet another hut at Sphinx Col between Mounts Clay and Jefferson (this project never materialized). The energy and excitement of adding a whole new hut is reflected in Mizpah’s entirely original design.
Architect Benjamin Stein (1922-2010) of Burlington, Vt. designed a hut to stand the test of weather and time. The building was made to withstand 200 mph winds, and bear the weight of heavy snowstorms. It was designed to fit in with the natural surroundings. Inside, the dining room is perched on one end of the building with cathedral ceilings and south-facing windows. The bunkrooms were laid out to accommodate 48 people, with the capability to expand to 60 bunks, which it later did. This is five times the original number that Madison Spring Hut could accommodate.
One dramatic change in construction was “the departure of the burros and the arrival of the whirlybird.” Helicopters were used to fly in loads of construction materials for the first time. On July 16 alone, the helicopter hauled 17.5 tons of materials, averaging six and a half minutes for the trip from Crawford Notch to the construction site. The helicopters were used liberally that season, including the delivery of refrigerators to Mizpah as well as Madison Spring and Lonesome Lake Huts.
Construction of the hut took many hands, and under the capable administration of Huts Manager George Hamilton and Assistant Huts Manager Bruce Sloat, a team was assembled from around the region. A surveyor from Concord, masons and an explosives expert from Berlin, and carpenters from Littleton converged on the site in June, and the building was up and enclosed by mid-September. Work continued with just a few team members through Columbus Day, leaving about two months additional work to be finished the following spring.
On July 10, 1965, a dedication ceremony kicked off Mizpah’s first season. About a hundred guests hiked to the hut for a day of music, food, speeches and celebration. Club leadership was well represented, and a delegation from the U.S. Forest Service attended. An entry in the hut’s first guest logbook notes: “Hard to believe that what’s here now was only the beginnings of a foundation a year ago.”
One result of the new hut was that the old Mizpah Spring Shelter, demolished after the hut’s construction, was reborn as Nauman Shelters, named for George V. Nauman, a member of the club since 1941 whose generous gift funded the project. A site was chosen just below the summit of Mount Jackson. Two three-sided log shelters were built, but they were only maintained for a few years. In 1972 tent platforms were constructed close to Mizpah Hut, and the shelters were removed. This was the first and only time that AMC camp sites and a hut would be set up in the same location, consolidating overnight use along that section of the Appalachian Trail.
Read more about Mizpah Spring Hut's history in Passport to AMC's High Huts in the White Mountains >>
Photos: AMC Archives