Thank you for your interest in and support of the Valley News. We need to raise $60,000 to host journalists Frances Mize and Alex Driehaus for their one-year placements in the Upper Valley through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Mine Could Be Yours: Ruggles For Sale

  • Joseph Su and his daughter Anwen, of Nashua, N.H., look around Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H., on June 15, 2016. They had come to the mine not knowing it was closed. A real estate agent overseeing the mine property was there when they arrived so they were able to see the site. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Real estate agent Beth DeCato Beaulieu locks up the gift shop at Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H., on June 15, 2016. The attraction is up for sale for $2 million. It's closed for this season, except for an open house for the general public on Saturday, June 18. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At Ruggles Miine in Gratfon, N.H., Anwen Su,17, looks around the site on June 15, 2016. Su and her father had driven from Nashua, N.H., to visit the mine not knowing it was closed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Minerals litter the ground at tourist attraction Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H. on June 15, 2016. The site is up for sale for $2 million. It's closed for this season, except for an open house for the general public on Saturday, June 18. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2016 5:49:07 PM
Modified: 6/17/2016 5:50:37 PM

Grafton — Another set of pilgrims drove slowly up the access road to Ruggles Mine the other day — Jonathan Szarek recalling childhood outings in the early 1970s, his wife, Toni, and their daughter Sienna brimming with anticipation for their second visit.

In the woods about two-thirds of the way up Isinglass Mountain, the Pelham, N.H., family found a locked gate, and shortly learned that the longtime mica mine turned off-the-beaten-track tourist destination is closed, and that its owners are looking for a buyer.

“I grew up coming here every summer with my mother,” Jonathan Szarek recalled before driving back down the hill. “You have mental pictures in your head from back then. When we were here last year it hadn’t changed a lot.

“It’s like a trip down Memory Lane.”

For the public, Memory Lane might be the only avenue for exploration of Ruggles Mine. After an open house for the general public Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., whoever buys the 230-acre property will decide whether it will continue as a beloved local attraction.

The Searles family, whose patriarch bought the mine 55 years ago, and who started welcoming visitors in 1963, put it on the market last fall and has been receiving offers to buy the property. Asking price: $1,999,000.

“I’m not into standing on my feet all day anymore,” Geraldine Searles, now 90, said on Friday, referring to her decades of greeting visitors at the gate, the ticket booth and the gift shop. “But it would be nice if someone who understands minerals and working with the public can keep it open.”

As remote as Ruggles Mine is, a visit is enough to explain its appeal. On a clear day you can see, if not quite forever from the top of Isinglass Mountain, then at least across a wide swath of central New Hampshire.

And if you turn away from the panorama stretching from nearby Cardigan Mountain to the wilds surrounding Ragged Mountain to walk between the museum and the gift shop and through a high, wide tunnel of rock down into the open pit, you can see back in time, with glistening shards and sheets of mica at your feet and arches and caves you’d expect to see on a movie set for a sword-and-sandals epic.

Realtor Beth Decato Beaulieu has fielded a growing number of inquiries from potential buyers since an Associated Press story about the mine ran in newspapers around the country last week, including in The New York Times.

“We’ve had some really strong leads,” Decato Beaulieu, who grew up in Lebanon, said during a visit to the mine on Wednesday. “There are a lot of possibilities.”

The possibilities that potential buyers have raised for the site, which Sam Ruggles discovered in 1803 and which yielded tens of millions of dollars worth of mica, feldspar and other minerals to various owners until the Searleses stopped the commercial mining operation in 1969, have ranged from opening a campground to putting up a restaurant that takes advantage of the view.

“There’s road maintenance,” Decato Beaulieu said. “There’s money that has to go into this property. You could keep this going and you could add to it.”

Searles’ daughter Andrea Brownell, an artist who worked at Ruggles for 44 years through the 2015 season, is crossing her fingers that the eventual buyer will continue to invite visitors, maintain the gift shop and the museum at the entrance, and rent and distribute hammers, picks and buckets to kids to excavate rocks and minerals to bring home.

“My biggest hope for the mine is that somehow all of my hardworking, devoted employees can get their jobs back,” Brownell wrote during an exchange of emails on Thursday. “There is very little employment in Grafton for young people. … Most of the kids start in their early teens and work through high school and often through college. Naomi Kocurek and her sister Natalie had been there for several years. Zoe Stanford was just 13 and last year was her first year. Marcus Moses stayed until he graduated and still helped out when he could. Wendall Clough, a veteran, was just wonderful with all the school groups. His son Jason Clough had also been working for several years. There have been many wonderful people who have helped over the years.

“I will miss them.”

Geraldine Searles, meanwhile, is nostalgic for the visitors, among them a Japanese family that returned almost annually for decades. 

“The children are wonderful,” said Searles, who lives in Lebanon. “Especially the little boys with their buckets full of rocks. They get so excited about them. The schools do a good job of teaching them about these things, and they come in very knowledgeable about what they’re looking for.”

Once one of those kids herself, Decato Beaulieu said, “This is not easy for Geraldine. There’s more to this than a sale. It’s something I’ve poured my heart into.

“I want to do a good job for them.”

Along with the opportunity and the obligation, Decato Beaulieu sees the marketing of the property as her own walk down Memory Lane.

“When I was growing up in Lebanon, my parents would take us up here, get us out of the house to explore,” said Decato Beaulieu, now in her early 40s. “When we were little, the drive over and then up this road felt like the Kancamagus Highway trip: You keep climbing and climbing and climbing: ‘Are we there yet?’”

Once they got there, they forgot about the long march.

“I remember going to the ticket booth,” Decato Beaulieu said. “The lady at the booth would give us a pail and a little hammer. When you left, they let you take what you found. Then we’d have a picnic at the view before going home.”

Such memories keep families coming back for more. According to Decato Beaulieu, one of the neighbors near the entrance to Ruggles at the bottom of Isinglass Mountain reports that “every day, there’s like 30 cars turning around.”

At least one southern-New Hampshire family would happily drive all the way up from Pelham and then up the mountain again.

“I was in awe of the beauty,” Toni Szarek said of her 2015 visit. “Blue sky against the stone arches. You don’t see things like that around here.”  

Saturday’s open house at Ruggles Mine runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. To learn more or to R.S.V.P, call 603-234-3559. For directions, and to learn more about the mine’s history, visit rugglesmine.com

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy