Postcard ca. 1950s: Kummerlowe Archive
West Thornton, New Hampshire -- Rt 3
The following commentary is provided by Nate Coggeshall-Beyea who has extensively studied and documented the history and development of Howard Johnson's in New Hampshire:

The West Thornton store was perhaps one of New Hampshire’s most unique and shortest-lived HJ franchises. Located about 15 minutes north of Plymouth, West Thornton was HJ’s northern most restaurant along the Route 3 corridor. It was situated specifically to attract motorists on their way north to Franconia Notch for skiing, sight-seeing, hiking and camping, and a wide spectrum of other outdoor activities. Franconia Notch was home to New Hampshire’s famed icon, the Old Man of the Mountain, as well as countless other natural wonders and beauties. The many mountains here offered commanding views of the entire White Mountain range, drawing in visitors from all over the world.

Skiing was also a major attraction to the area, with Cannon Mountain offering numerous trails for various levels of skill and expertise. Its modern tramway from base to summit certainly made Cannon Mountain a popular destination throughout the year, most especially among leaf-peepers in the fall. Thus, Franconia Notch provided a perfect backdrop for an HJ franchise.

Postcard ca. 1940s: Dan Donahue

In an effort to preserve the natural magnificence of the Franconia area, limited development was allowed inside the Notch itself. As a result, towns just south of the Notch saw a tremendous influx of business from motorists looking for a place to eat or stay overnight before heading into the protected zone. West Thornton was one such town, and it was soon dotted with cabins, restaurants, and motor courts. The first known listing for the West Thornton HJ store was 1947. It was designed as a restaurant and cabin combination unit, most likely operating previously under a different name and later converting to an HJ franchise.

The restaurant was located prominently on the immediate roadside of Route 3, with the cabins set further back behind the restaurant. A small, heavily windowed structure, the restaurant resembled a campground dining hall more than an HJ. It was a one-story building with gable ends and a small gable-end addition on the right-hand side. A smaller version of a Mineola type cupola was perched on the roof-top, and an Bourne type sign beckoned motorists passing by. The Orleans type sign has proven to be a bit on an enigma. With West Thornton opening in the mid-1940s, this sign type was definitely out of place, a throwback to the mid-1930s.All roofs at West Thornton were orange, including those of the cabins. A late 1940s or early 1950s addition to the right-hand side expanded the restaurant’s capacity dramatically, providing evidence that it was a booming enterprise at that time. But success was short-lived at West Thornton, and by the early 1960s, the store was no longer an HJ. Possibly a victim of bypass by Interstate Highway 93, New Hampshire’s new central artery, this store’s last known HJ listing was 1960. It lasted just over 13 years

Postcard ca. 1950s: Kummerlowe Archive

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