Monday, September 23, 2013

Lewis County’s Ottilia Beha and Mahattan’s P.S. 60

Ottilia Beha classJust a few months after applying, Lewis County’s Ottilia Beha was accepted, and in 1903 she began teaching in the big city. By 1909, she had taught at several public schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, and served as assistant principal at two facilities, gaining valuable experience.

In fall of that year, she was among 258 teachers to take the licensing exam for elementary school principal. Ottilia finished at the top of the group, leading to a promotion as principal of a Brooklyn school with 800 students and a staff of 19 employees. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Two Fiery September Anniversaries

1913 Army Tents at the Foot of GiantA year ago last April I wrote about the Spring 1903 fire season during which nearly half a million acres burned in multiple fires throughout the Adirondacks.  The largest fires were in Keene and North Elba; these had a personal relevance to me as they ringed Lost Brook Tract.  The one sweeping into the heart of the High Peaks from the north came within six minutes of consuming the entire tract before drenching rains stopped it.

Thanks to meteorological luck as much as the brave and exhausting work by men and women fighting their advance, the 1903 fires did not result in major losses to towns or settlements.  But there were incredibly close calls: the same drenching rains that saved Lost Brook Tract also saved Keene and Keene Valley from certain destruction: so imminent were the blazes in at least two directions that their heat could be felt and ash blanketed the hamlets.  Residents had buried their belongings and fled; only fate gave them homes to which to return » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Ottilia Beha: Lewis County Teaching Legend

Ottilia Beha classFor most of us, there are one or more teachers who made a difference in how our lives turned out. It might have been their kindness, teaching ability, understanding, or enthusiasm that inspired or affected us deeply. Whether you’re young or old, they remain “Mr.” or “Mrs.” to you throughout life, even if your ages differ by only a decade. It’s partly force of habit, but the special ones merit a lifetime of respect for one compelling reason: they made a difference.

For a great many folks attending school in Lewis County in the years on both sides of 1900, and an even larger group in a distant city, that person was Ottilia Beha. Such an unusual name was fitting for an unusually dedicated teacher. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Commentary:
Preserving and Promoting Adirondac and the Upper Works

Signage at Blast FurnaceToday I conclude my series on Adirondac the the McIntyre Mines.  The deserted village of and the remains of the operation at Upper Works make for an evocative Adirondack destination.  Though this abandoned settlement’s historically significant mining heritage is known among locals, history buffs, and High Peaks backpackers who use the Upper Works trailhead, it is by no means widely known, or even somewhat known.   There are great benefits to be had if this fact changes.

When the Open Space Institute purchased the Tahawus Tract from NL Industries they put a terrific plan in place to designate the area containing Adirondac and the 1854 blast furnace as a historic district.  Work began some years ago to stabilize and preserve the furnace, the one original village building, McMartin House (or MacNaughton Cottage)  and the cemetery.  However the work has taken years and  I hear through the grapevine that funding is an obstacle.  As a result the implementation of the historic district has been slow.  » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Mining in Ironville: An Early Electromagnet

jack_laduke_ironvilleThere was a time in the Adirondacks when American ingenuity was plugging into a new invention, called electricity.

I recently attended a yearly celebration at  The Penfield Homestead Museum in the hamlet of Ironville, Crown Point, where they harnessed that new-age power to create an amazing tool used in the processing of iron ore – an early electromagnet.

Watch the full report here.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Founding Moment of the Adirondack Park:
The 1894 Constitutional Convention

Log sluice and stripped mountainside, near Elizabethtown, 1880s1894 had been a hot summer. 119 years ago this week the most important question before the Constitutional Convention of 1894 came to a head. What, if any, amendments to the State Constitution should be adopted for the preservation of the State forests?

The scene was the Assembly chamber in the Capitol at Albany, the date was Saturday, September 8, 1894, and the speaker was a New York City lawyer by the name of David McClure, the chairman of the convention’s five-man special committee on forest preservation. The topic was, according to the man with the gavel, Convention Chairman Joseph Choate, “further consideration of a general order relating to the forest preserves.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brown’s Raid At Fort Ticonderoga This Weekend

Brown's RaidAn attack led by patriot Colonel John Brown will take British troops garrisoning Fort Ticonderoga by surprise (again) 236 years later during an upcoming event at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday and Sunday, September 14-15, from 9:30am- 5pm.  The living history weekend and battle re-enactment will for the first time ever recreate what has become known as Brown’s Raid.

Out of the hazy twilight before dawn on September 18, 1777 rushed Colonel John Brown’s men, catching the British and Brunswick garrison around Fort Ticonderoga completely by surprise. John Brown, no stranger to dangerous missions, helped engineer the first capture of Ticonderoga in 1775. With the stakes even higher, he would test his luck again. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 9, 2013

North Country Prisons: Hard Times in ‘Siberia’

prison-mapIn May 1973, Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed two controversial laws that would change life in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which the governor pushed through the state legislature, established new zoning rules for private land that aimed to protect open space and limit residential development. The other law set minimum prison sentences for drug users and pushers.

“I have one goal and one objective, and that is to stop the pushing of drugs and to protect the innocent victim,” the governor insisted, promising that the harsh new penalties would stem the epidemic of cocaine and heroin addiction in New York City.

As it turned out, the Rockefeller drug laws—which also included tough penalties for marijuana use—would rival the land-use regulations in their impact on the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 9, 2013

John Dempster: Watertown’s ‘Blindfold Champion’

P2A Checkerboard wikiUndaunted after the tough checker loss to August Schaefer, Watertown’s John Dempster remained in New York City and continued working on his game. Competitive teams representing the city were chosen from a pool of highly skilled players, which included Johnny. When the world champion, Wyllie, came to town again, he played against nine of the region’s best competitors and vanquished all but one, who managed a tie. The next two best finishers against the great Wyllie were Schaefer and Dempster.

While John continued to win big matches, his efforts were now focused on memory development. The skills he learned, combined with the influence of matches he once played against Yates, steered him towards a new career: playing blindfolded. He went public and demonstrated just how adept he had become. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Adirondac: The Search for the Church of Tubal Cain

Tubal Cain on North Elba 1858 Land MapToday I return to my series on the McIntyre Mines, the Settlement of Adirondac and the romantic sense of the past the area embodies.  Being a ghost town, and an area of historical significance dating back nearly two centuries, the remains of the works, village, and private club possess an unmistakable aura of mystery.

This sense of the unknown, of the forgotten lives and fortunes of those who partook of Archibald McIntyre’s enterprise, extends beyond the experiences of wondering visitors who are discovering it for the first time or the hundredth.  Indeed, despite the fact that the history of Adirondac has been well-chronicled and that primary documents abound (mostly in the form of letters and business records) there are many things that remain legitimate mysteries to this day.  For example there were several furnaces  that were built or improved during the nearly thirty years the proprietors tried to make a go of it.  We still do not know where all of them were located.  We do not know where the original log boarding house sat, nor do we know where the great guide John Cheney lived during his many-year association with the mines. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again in North Creek

tedd-rides-again-450pxTeddy Roosevelt is not available to recreate his historic 1901 ride from the North Creek Train Depot, but nationally recognized Roosevelt reprisor Joe Wiegand will be on hand to fill those famous shoes.

On September 14-15 the Saratoga/North Creek Railway (SNCRR) is providing historic train rides, recreations and special excursions surrounding the theme of Teddy Roosevelt’s famed ride from Tahawus to North Creek. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Watertown’s John Dempster: Competitive Checker Champion

P1Bingham painting, checkers1850When ESPN began broadcasting events like poker and eating contests, it was regarded as innovative (or disturbing, as in the case of eating contests). A major media member had turned its attention to games rather than sticking with the traditional sports world. Unusual though it may have been, the move was hardly groundbreaking.

It harkens back to previous centuries, when popular games like chess and checkers received daily coverage on the sports pages of many of the world’s newspapers. And more than 130 years ago, an amazing North Country boy was mixing it up with the best of them in the world of competitive checkers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Public Meetings Planned On Future Of Historic RR Line

NYCRR-Adk-Div-MapThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) have announced that they will hold four public meetings in September about the management of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, a 119-mile nineteenth-century rail line in the western Adirondacks.

A bitter debate has raged in the Adirondacks over the past several years after rail-trail advocates began pushing to have the historic railroad tracks torn-up. In 2011, an organization calling themselves Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates began calling for the outser of the tourist railroad operation and for conversion of the rail bed to a multi-use trail. More than 10,000 people have signed-on to a petition calling for the removal of the tracks. The trail advocates’ call for a reassessment of the corridor’s management plan has resulted in this round of public hearings. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Preservation Tours

castle13This year Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) has offered 34 historic and notable destination tours that range from inside a maximum-security prison to horse-drawn wagon rides to an Adirondack Great Camp. Guided by field experts, the AARCH tours offer a diverse array of Adirondack architecture from the distant to recent past.

Our schedule this year starts in early June and ends in early September,” says Susan Arena, AARCH Program Director. “We offer second tours for places like Camp Santanoni and Dannemora because there is limited space. We balance that out by doing two tours.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Students Consider Adirondack, Wilderness Act History

Research fellows, Toni-Marie with Becky, Dave and Lorie at Zahniser'sThis summer, Union College student research fellows and Union College staff involved with the College’s Kelly Adirondack Center in Schenectady County visited the Adirondack cabin of National Wilderness Act author and chief legislative advocate Howard Zahniser, and that of Paul Schaefer, foremost Adirondack Park campaigner for wilderness and wild rivers in the 20th century.

The two cabins, and the close friendship that developed between Schaefer and Zahniser help tell the story of where wilderness preservation began and how the Adirondack Park has served as a national and global model of wilderness history, preservation and active stewardship so proximate to villages, towns, residents and more than ten million annual visitors to the Adirondack Park. The cabins are located in Johnsburg, Warren County. » Continue Reading.


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