Description - The Mt. Prospect estate was built at the direction of John Wingate Weeks, leading conservationist, U.S. congressman, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of War under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Set at the very top of Mt. Prospect, in Lancaster, New Hampshire, the house and grounds provide a 360 degree panorama of mountain splendor, including the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Kilkenny Range, the Percy Peaks and the upper Connecticut River Valley. The estate is open mid-June to September, 10 am to 6 p.m. (closed Monday & Tuesday ) Fees: $2.50, children under 18 are free
- Built as a summer retreat and as a testament to Weeks' affection for the locale of his ancestry and birth, the Mt. Prospect estate typifies a spirit of private land conservation often seen in New Hampshire at the turn of the century. At that time, many of the state's less profitable farms were being abandoned. These were often purchased by private investors who preserved and maintained the land; the Weeks estate was part of this conservation movement. In 1910 Weeks bought several farms on Mt. Prospect, including the land at the summit. The Weeks estate is one of the best preserved of many grand summer homes built in New Hampshire during this period.
In horse and carriage days a mountaintop retreat in New Hampshire would not have been practical for most Washington politicians. Senator Weeks took advantage of the new freedom offered by the age of the automobile. Before constructing the house, Weeks first built a new auto road to the summit of Mt. Prospect, replacing an earlier carriage way.
Because of Secretary Weeks' prominent role on the national scene, his house became the setting for many distinguished gatherings after it was completed in 1913. Among the more prominent guests was President Warren Harding, who visited for several days in 1921.
The main house, called the "lodge," is built of fieldstone and stucco; its gable roof is covered with red terra cotta tiles. The lodge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The plan and form of the house are mostly original and its architectural style is not easily defined.
The most outstanding feature of the house is the thirty by seventy foot (9.1 by 21.3 meters) living room which makes up the entire second floor. Its many large picture windows are most unusual for the era. Balconies take full advantage of the lodge's mountaintop setting, providing dramatic views of the surrounding scenery. Massive fieldstone fireplaces stand at either end of the living room. According to one popular story, the large moosehead over the west fireplace was a gift from President Theodore Roosevelt. The floor and trim in the room, as well as the original furniture, are dark oak. Signed photographs of many dignitaries are displayed on the walls; among them are William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt and Marshall Joffre of France.
On the ground floor the dining room lies to the right of the main entrance hall. The dining table and chairs are those used by the Weeks family. The red tile floor is also original.
The area to the left of the entrance hall formerly contained six bedrooms. In 1966 it was converted to a display area for exhibits tracing the history of forestry and conservation in New Hampshire. It also houses an impressive mounted bird collection.
The fieldstone tower in front of the house, listed in the National Historic Lookout Register, was originally built as both an observatory and water tower. At 56 feet (17m) high, its observation deck affords expansive views of the New Hampshire and Vermont countryside. One of Weeks' motives for erecting the tower and for building the road to the summit, was to ensure that local residents and visitors could enjoy the spectacular views from the top of Mt. Prospect. In 1941 a fire observatory was added to the top of the tower, which is maintained by the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands.
Recreation - The 420-acre Mt. Prospect estate was given to the state of New Hampshire in 1941 by John Weeks' children, Katherine Weeks Davidge and Sinclair Weeks. The site is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, from late June to Labor Day; and then most weekends until Columbus Day. Adult admission is $2.50; children under 18 and New Hampshire residents age 65 and over are admitted free. Visitors are welcome to hike and picnic.
The Weeks State Park Association hosts a series of weekly summer programs related to the north country of New Hampshire. The public is welcome to attend the free programs that are normally scheduled in the park Thursday evenings. Occasionally, programs are scheduled for other days and times. For more information about the park or the dates and topics of programs call the park on the days it is open, at 603/788-4004.
Climate - Winter can be cold with average temperatures ranging around 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold temperatures humidity bring heavy, water-laden snow to all parts of the state. Spring begins in mid-March and lasts through May. This time of the year is referred to as mud season in the mountains. The sugar is flowing early in the season and wild flowers bloom toward the end of it. Summer is the busiest season of the year for the tourism industry. This is an excellent time to travel, mountain roads are open and most of the mud has dried. Average summer temperatures range around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall brings the leaf lookers to see the spectacular colors of the deciduous trees. Expect to see bus loads of people enjoying the crisp fall New England weather.
Follow Interstate 93 north through Franconia Notch to Route 3. Take Route 3 north through Twin Mountain and Whitefield. John Wingate Weeks State Historic Site is located off Route 3, two miles south of Lancaster.