Monday, June 26, 2017

Neil Litchfield, Lewis County’s Master Comedian (Part 3)

In early 1897, Neil and Stella Litchfield continued touring in the North Country, appearing at Canton, Chase Mills, Edwards, Lisbon Center, Oxbow, Massena, Morristown, Ogdensburg, Waddington, and other sites. For the next two years, they toured and performed while developing a new act for the future, a comedy sketch titled Down at Brook Farm. Ostensibly, it was loosely based on Brook Farm, a failed Utopian community founded in 1841 in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The most popular characters Neil had portrayed during the past two decades — uneducated, pure-hearted rural folks — became the nucleus of the new act. Down at Brook Farm was inspired by the popularity of other plays and sketches with “uncle” characters in the title — usually Uncle Josh, at the time featured in shows as Uncle Josh Jenkins, Uncle Josh Simpkins, and Uncle Josh Weathersby. Neil himself gained great praise for portraying the lead role in Uncle Josh Spruceby, playing alongside Stella, who nabbed the second-leading role of Aunt Jerutha. Together they made the show a top hit while touring theaters and opera houses in New York City, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Sometimes they covered a venue for three consecutive nights, and at other times appeared in three or four different towns or cities during the same week. It was an exhausting schedule but provided great publicity, and allowed time to refine the rural characters for the new act. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Neil Litchfield, Lewis County’s Master Comedian (Part 2)

By 1893, Neil Litchfield and his wife Hattie had resumed touring with other companies that billed Neil as “The Man of Many Faces.” After spending the year with the Vivian De Monto Company, they joined the Reno and Ford Company for the first half of 1894. In August they began touring the eastern and midwestern states with the Prima Donna Company, during which time Neil began to stand out noticeably from his fellow performers. Reviews in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania agreed with the Syracuse Evening Herald’s assessment that, despite great work by the show’s star, Eva Mecusker, “The most enjoyable thing of the evening was the recitation work of Neil Litchfield, whose ability as a comedian is large and could be employed more than it is with advantage.” A reporter for the Youngstown Daily Telegram wrote, “Neil Litchfield, as the ruralist, was the star of the show. His work was clever, and the reception he got was deserved.”

Late in the year, he performed with James B. Mackie’s company, The Side Show, and received rave reviews. As a budding star, he no longer needed to jump at the next offer, and instead began advertising his services to the highest bidder. In 1895, Litchfield announced his availability in major trade magazines and the entertainment sections of New York City newspapers. That summer, he toured coast to coast with Heywood’s Celebrities company, which provided ample opportunity to test new characters and refine other bits. A few months later, he joined another group, the Alhambra Vaudevilles. As reported in the New York Dramatic Mirror, “Carter, the magician, and Neil Litchfield, the character impersonator, are the leading people in the company.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Evening Programs at Fort Ticonderoga

defend the fortThis summer, Fort Ticonderoga will host a new behind-the-scenes evening program “Defend the Fort!” During this program, visitors will explore areas of Fort Ticonderoga off-limits to daily visitation. Curator Matthew Keagle will explain how the fort’s garrison prepared for sudden attack, bombardment, and a siege.

Other special tour opportunities include Guns by Night, Sunset Boat Cruises, and Beyond Bullets and Blades. Guns by Night offers a unique tour and a nighttime firing of weapons. Sunset Cruises aboard the Carillon include a narrated tour of some of the most archaeologically rich waters in North America. Beyond Bullets and Blades provides an opportunity to examine and handle original 18th-century weapons with the supervision of Fort Ticonderoga’s museum staff. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Adirondack History Museum Celebrating Suffrage Centennial

Ava Roberts of Peru visits the Adirondack History Museum’s new exhibit Adirondack SuffragistsUntil 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote in New York State. That changed on November 6, 1917, when New Yorkers voted to give women the ballot. The Adirondack History Museum is marking the occasion with “Adirondack Suffragists: 100 Years of Votes for Women,” a multimedia exhibit highlighting the national, state and regional aspects of the movement.

Though preceded by many western states in state-level action, New York was nonetheless a major national battleground in the fight for women’s rights in general and in the struggle for the passage of a national woman’s suffrage amendment – one finally ratified in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tours of Historic White Pine Camp Planned

White Pine Camp Historic ToursWhite Pine Camp will host a series of walking tours of the historic camp, on Wednesdays from June 21st through September 27th, and on Saturdays, June 24th through September 2nd.

White Pine Camp is one of the Great Camps of the Adirondack Mountains and served as Calvin Coolidge’s summer White House. The camp also offers a year-round retreat with thirteen cabins and cottages, along with a vintage bowling alley originally used by the President. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Lake Champlain Boat Tour of Archaeological Sites

Archaeological Tour of Lake ChamplainThe Fort Ticonderoga’s 60-foot Carillon is providing boat tours with views of the lake, surrounding mountains and the fort itself, while also crossing some of the most archaeologically rich waters in North America.

The 90-minute archaeological tour, available daily Tuesday through Sunday, features the story of Fort Ticonderoga and places the fort into a larger context as part of the imperial struggle for the continent in the 18th century.

“From shipwrecks to a massive bridge that the Americans built in 1776, Lake Champlain holds defining stories of America’s past,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO, in an announcement sent to the press.  Hill says the Carillon has become one of the most popular attractions at Fort Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Captain Lewis: Horace Brown’s Great Brown Horse

Horace Brown, perhaps the greatest horse trainer from the northern Adirondacks and foothills, attained fame and many trotting victories in America, Europe, and Russia. Of all his successes, none was more acclaimed than the marvelous season of 1882. Collectively, it was among the unlikeliest stories in sports, an early equivalent of the US hockey team’s stunning Olympic victory in 1980, when a group of fresh, largely untested amateurs came together and conquered the world’s best.

The 1882 story became legend and was often repeated, but the first couple of names involved aren’t absolutely certain. Bear with me briefly through the details, for the story will get better. By most accounts, the horse in question was bred by Jeff Brown of Dresden, on the western shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. In the vicinity of Dresden, he sold it to Richard Brown (and now the names are certain,) who sold it to Lawrence Bogert, who sold it to Stewart L. Purdy of the town of Benton. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hotel Saranac Listed Among Historic Hotels of America

The Hotel Saranac, which first opened its doors in 1927, has been recognized by the Historic Hotels of America, an official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is one of 295 hotels listed.

In order to be recognized by Historic Hotels of America, a hotel must be more than 50 years old and have “faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity.” The hotel is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Fritz Wiessner’s Historic Climbs Are Still Challenging

The legendary Fritz Wiessner established more than a dozen rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks, according to the authors of Adirondack Rock. I’ve written about a few of the better ones, including Empress on Chapel Pond Slab, Wiessner Route on Upper Washbowl Cliff, and Old Route on Rooster Comb Mountain.

One reason I’m drawn to Wiessner routes is their historical interest. Arguably, Wiessner was the strongest rock climber in the United States during the 1930s. Indeed, the authors of Yankee Rock and Ice suggest that the German immigrant “was so far ahead of what others were willing to try that he did not significantly improve the general standard.” In other words, few of his contemporaries could repeat his harder routes. » Continue Reading.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Lake Champlain Revolutionary War Gunboats

The gunboat Philadelphia is the second oldest surviving American fighting vesselThe Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) will host a presentation by Art Cohn on the histories of the gunboats Spitfire and Philadelphia, I and II, on Tuesday, June 6, at 6:30 pm. Cohn, Senior Advisor & Director Emeritus of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, will give his presentation at the Old Base Memorial Chapel, on the Oval, in the City of Plattsburgh.

In October, 1776, British forces were committed to taking back control of strategic Lake Champlain and to that end, engaged an American fleet under the command of General Benedict Arnold, in a three day naval contest. In the course of the first days, during the Battle of Valcour Island, the gunboat Philadelphia sank one hour after darkness and caused the fighting to stop. That night, in an attempt to gain the safety of Fort Ticonderoga, Commodore Arnold escaped past a British blockade, but in the night had to abandon two weakened gunboats. One of these gunboats, the Spitfire, sank into the deep, dark waters of Lake Champlain. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Horace Brown, Master Horseman (Conclusion)

In 1894 Horace Brown relocated to Vienna and won his first race there. Riding fast mounts that he trained in a city stable, he continued claiming victories in important contests, and also won ten races in Germany. The following year was no different, as he captured many high-stakes races in Austria, France, and Germany. Of his ability to train horses and make them great, a writer for Spirit of the Times commented, “Horace Brown can get the speed out of a trotter as well as any, and better than many.”

By the end of September 1895, after heading the season’s winners list at Baden, Germany, and capturing big races at Vincennes and Neuilly in the suburbs of Paris, his contract with French owners expired. He was soon off to Russia, where he completed another very successful campaign.

In early 1896 he began training for Serge de Beauvais, another famous French horseman. After winning many races in the Paris area, Horace set up shop in Vienna, which became his adopted home. By year’s end, partly because of his winning efforts and stellar reputation as a trainer, the city became known in the media as the “foremost trotting center in Europe.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Historic Firsts: Aerial Fish Stocking Of Adirondack Waters

DE HartnettAs the once seemingly endless supply of Adirondack brook trout declined from over-fishing in the late nineteenth century, sportsmen’s clubs turned to fish stocking in an attempt to keep fishing at accustomed levels. Seth Green established what is believed to be the first commercial fish hatchery in the western hemisphere at Caledonia near Rochester in 1864. Green was among those who strongly advocated for New York to engage in fishing regulation and fish stocking. The state established a stocking program in 1868. Green himself brought fish from his hatchery to the Fulton Chain in January 1872. This was probably the first recorded instance of Adirondack fish stocking and incidentally marked the introduction of smallmouth bass into Adirondack waters.

Thus began what a 1981 DEC report on fisheries called a “near maniacal” program of fish stocking in the Adirondacks. New York acquired Green’s hatchery in 1875, then began to construct hatcheries throughout the state. The Saranac hatchery was completed in 1885. The Cold Spring hatchery on Fourth Lake was constructed later the same year. In 1887 the Cold Spring hatchery was relocated to Old Forge just below the dam. At first native trout roe were collected and raised to fingerlings in the hatcheries. As time passed native fish were supplemented with brown and rainbow trout as well as a host of other non-native species. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roaring Twenties Exhibit Opening At Historic Saranac Lake

saranac lake roaring twenties posterHistoric Saranac Lake has invited visitors to step back in time to explore the 1920s with a new exhibit Wednesday, May 31 at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. “The Roaring Twenties: Check in to a Grand Hotel” explores the decade through the context of a grand hotel of the era and celebrates the upcoming reopening of the restored Hotel Saranac. Visitors can explore spaces in the 1920s hotel such as a guest room, a ballroom, and a speakeasy.

Local artists, Hannah Gochenaur, Morgan Paul, and Maria DeAngelo painted the mural backdrops. Pendragon Theatre Costume and Set Designer, Kent Streed, consulted on the project early on, helping to brainstorm key theatrical features. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Tahawus History: An Early Adirondack Railroad

1840 essex co burr RRThe history of railroads in the Adirondack region has been well documented. The names of Dr. William Seward Webb and Dr. Thomas Clark Durant are permanently etched in the annals of railroading with evidence of their work still in existence today. However, the first Adirondack railroad to bear the name was established decades earlier.

In April of 1839, by an act of the State Legislature, a corporation was chartered with $100,000 capital to be known as the Adirondack Railroad Company, with David Henderson, Archibald Mclntyre, and Archibald Robertson as owners. These names should sound familiar. Although subscription books were opened with all due formality, there would really be no stockholders excepting the original proprietors. The route was to run from the Adirondack Iron and Steel Company’s works in McIntyre (later known as Adirondac) to Israel Johnson’s Inn at Clear Pond in the town of Moriah. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lakes to Locks Passage: New York’s Great Northeast Journey

Lakes to Locks Passage has completed the third in the series of Waterways of War guidebooks. Waterways of War: The Turning Point of the American Revolution focuses on the 1777 northern campaign of British General John Burgoyne. The book is also the centerpiece of a broader initiative to develop the Turning Point Trail, a narrated driving tour from Plattsburgh to Albany. » Continue Reading.


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