Tuesday, August 29, 2006

10 Deadliest Accidents in The Adirondack Mountain Region

Yesterday’s crash of a Greyhound bus near Elizabethtown reminds us of some of the tragic events that have occurred in the Adirondack region. Here is a list of the ten we believe were most tragic:

October 2, 2005 – Ethan Allen Sinking
Twenty-one people drown when the Lake George excursion boat Ethan Allen flips and sinks while turning against a wave.

1903 – Spier Falls Dam Ferry Capsizes
Sixteen men and a young boy were drowned when a ferry carrying workers capsized on the Hudson River near the Spier Falls Dam (then under construction) in Moreau between Lake Luzerne and Mount McGregor. The ferry was overloaded when high water made a temporary bridge too dangerous to use.

November 19, 1969 – Crash of Mohawk Airlines Flight 411
A twin prop-jet commuter plane (a Fairchild-Hiller 227, a.k.a. Fokker F-27) flying from La Guardia Airport in NewYork to Glens Falls crashes on Pilot Knob killing all 14 onboard. The accident is blamed on downdrafts on the leeward side of of the mountain.

August 3, 1893 – Sinking of the Steamer Rachel
The Lake George excursion steamer Rachel, chartered by more than twenty guests of the Fourteen Mile Island Hotel to take them to a dance at the Hundred Island House, is steered by an inexperienced Captain out of the channel and into an old dock south of the hotel. the old peir tears a large hole in the side of the boat below the water line and twelve were killed – many caught on the shade deck as the boat listed and almost immediately sinks.

July 30, 1856 – Burning of the John Jay
The 140-feet long Lake George steamer John Jay, loaded with 70 passengers, catches fire near the Garfield House about ten miles south of Ticonderoga on Lake George. Five die trying to swim to shore to escape the flames. The fire is blamed on an overburdened soot-clogged smokestack – the crew had kept a large hot fire in the boiler in order to make up lost time.

June 3, 1927 – Chazy Lake School Picnic Drownings
Five students, one quarter of the Dannemora High School senior class, drown when their rowboat is swamped in a squall on Chazy Lake during an interclass picnic. The only survivor is their teacher Emma Dunk, whose hand was caught in the boat keeping her above the cold water after she lost consciousness.

August 28, 2006 – Greyhound Interstate Bus Crash
Five passengers are killed when a Greyhound Bus Company’s bus No. 4014, traveling from New York City to Montreal, and making midafternoon stops in Albany and Saratoga Springs, overturns on the Northway (I-87) just before Exit 31 near Elizabethtown.

1995-2005 – Drownings at the Starbuckville Dam
A dangerous backflow whirlpool kills five swimmers at the Starbuckville Dam on the Schroon River over the course of ten years. The dam is finally rebuilt in 2005-2006.

August 12, 2003 – Split Rock Falls Drownings
Four teenagers, all ages 18 and 19, drowned at Split Rock Falls near Elizabethtown while on their day off from their jobs as camp counselors for a Minerva camp. When one fell into the water the other three tried to rescue him.

February and September 2004 – Border Patrol Checkpoint Accidents
In two separate accidents four are killed and more than 60 injured (four critically) when Canadian based buses fail to see a US Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 87 in Elizabethtown – poor signage is blamed.

We’d be interested in hearing about others.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Warren County: Starbuckville Dam / Schroon River

The new Starbuckville Dam on the Schroon River was put into service this summer by the Schroon Lake Park District. The old deteriorated timber dam (a replacement for the dam someone dynamited in the 1890s) was replaced with a 158 foot long steel reinforced concrete overflow spillway (at the same elevation).

The old 16 foot gate was replaced with two 14 foot wide gates and a new a fish passage area was added along with a stepped spillway to reduce water turbulence below the dam. In the previous ten years five swimmers had been killed after being trapped in the backflow at the bottom of the dam. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Adirondack Pool Balls: The Albany Billiard Ball Company

Here in the Adirondacks local pubs almost always have a pool table. For most of the history of Adirondack billiards, the Albany Billiard Ball Company supplied the balls. The company is believed to be one of the earliest plastics companies in the world.

According to The Smithsonian the business was started in 1868 in the South End of Albany. John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920), one of the company’s founders, was the inventor of celluloid which was used as a substitute for ivory, from which billiard balls were then being made (before the 1600s, bibilliardalls were made of wood).

According to Brunswick: “Ivory from elephant tusk grows in an annual ring, much like a tree. A blood vessel that goes through the center of the tusk can be seen as a black dot.” The dot served as the center mark of the ball where the ball was pinned while being turned on a lathe.”

The Plastiquariana> reports that:

[Albany billiard ball maker] Phelan & Collander were offering a $10,000 reward for a suitable substitute for ivory, the growing shortage of which was threatening their business. Hyatt spent several years in the search for such a material but there is no evidence that the prize was ever awarded. Indeed, Hyatt set up his own manufacturing company which, a little later, became the Albany Billiard Ball Company. Initially, composition balls were coated in a coloured layer of almost pure cellulose nitrate [called collodion].

According to the Smithsonisn, The “Hyatt” composition ball dominated barroom and pool hall tables until the 1960s, but according to the Billiards Guide:

Unfortunately, the new balls could shatter under hard impact and manufacture of them had to be stopped until a fix for this problem was found. The discovery that solved this problem was celluloid. However, because of the problems with his earlier billiard balls, acceptance of these celluloid billiard balls did not come easily. However, this process did lead to the discovery of Bakelite and cast-phenolic resins which are the main components of billiard balls even to this day.

Thanks for the photo and idea from an anonymous Craiglist Request.

Some Adirondack Pool Links

The Winners of Last Year’s Joss Cues Northeast 9 Ball Tournament at Adirondack Billiards in Glens Falls

The Greater Albany American Poolplayer Association


Suggested Reading

Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know

Byrne’s Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

With Pipe and Book: Will Lake Placid Lose The Adirondacks’ Best Book Store?

Although it was reported a couple weeks ago by NCPR, Tigerhawk reminds us that With Pipe and Book, a landmark Lake Placid book store is closing next year after 29 years. We quoth:

While looking around I overheard a conversation between another customer and the cashier, and when my son had finally succeeded in herding me to the register I asked the cashier if what I thought I had overheard was true. Yes, she said. Breck and Julia Turner, proprietors, were retiring and the store will be closing next summer. It was sad news, but I was heartened to hear that, if the store must close, it is the choice of the owners and not due to lack of business or escalating rents. I will miss it terribly, and after it is gone my family will find me far less interested in driving the 35 miles from our quiet lakeside camp to the touristy streets of Lake Placid.

For those who love books and/or tobacco and have reason to be in the region, I strongly recommend you drop by With Pipe and Book in its last year of existence, and enjoy a very special store. It is located at 91 Main Street, Lake Placid, New York, and can be called at 518-523-9096.

A very special store indeed – the Almanack wishes them well. Their moving on points-up us how important local business is, particularly in this case to local book publishers and writers like the late Barbara McMartin who no doubt sold quite a few copies out of Lake Placid.

Three of our favorite local history and culture bookstores:

Owl Pen Books in Greenwhich, Washington County, NY

HOSS’s Country Corner in Long Lake, Hamilton County, NY

Old Forge Hardware, in Old Forge, Herkimer County, NY


Suggested Reading

The “Edge” of Humor and Other Stories of Lake Placid People


Friday, August 11, 2006

Adirondack Local History Up in Flames

Adirondack landmarks have had a tough year so far – first there was the arson that destroyed the Episcopal Church in Pottersville and then last week the Brant Lake General Store went up in flames.

The Brant Lake General Store was one of those classic places found all around the Adirondacks – part deli, part bait shop, part hardware store, newsstand and convenience store. It only recently changed hands (the new owners added a liquor store) when it caught fire sometime after midnight on August 1. The store’s former owner, Roger Daby, was among firefighters from six local companies and who fought the three alarm fire. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 7, 2006

Adirondack Birding Google Maps Mash-Up

Thanks to TourPro at Adirondack Base Camp for pointing us to the lastest offering from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council – an Adirondack birding map!

And while we’re at it – we’ll refer you to our own Adirondack Map round-up from about a year ago.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Adirondack Tourism: Another Study in the Works

The Northern New York Travel and Tourism Research Center has announced that it will conduct another survey of regional tourism in the Adirondacks. According to the Press Republican:

[The study] will measure the local economic impact of tourism in a 10-county area.

The first report, issued in 2003, showed that the average tourist spent an average $63.66 a day while in the Adirondacks — $33 on a day trip and $109 if they stayed overnight, according to Laurie Marr, executive director of the Research Center.

The final results were released in 2004 and showed that tourists to northern New York spent over $1.5 billion in 2003 with a local economic impact of almost $150 million (in local government revenues). It also showed that an estimated 35,000 jobs are supported by both direct and indirect tourist dollars across northern New York, with a resultant $662 million in wages and income earned by business owners in 2003.

Bryan Higgins at SUNY Plattsburg conducted a similar study in about 2000 and reported at that time that only two had been done in the previous ten years:

We are aware of only two scientific assessments of regional tourism issues and needs having been conducted in the Adirondacks during the 1990’s. The first was a brief visitor intercept survey at various attractions and lodgings in the Park, carried out by Ambrosino Research (1993) for the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council. The second was a compilation of available research prepared by Dr. Chad Dawson at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) et al. (1994) for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A key finding of Dawson’s report is that the lack of accurate and objective data on recreation and tourism use within the Adirondack Park is a serious limitation to any NYSDEC comprehensive recreation and tourism planning efforts and therefore needs to be addressed in the future.

The most recent county reports are interesting reading as was this detail from the Plattsburg PR:

The 2003 study revealed a few surprises to some: just 7 percent of the tourists that year were from the New York City-Long Island area; 6 percent were from Canada; and only about $14 a day was spent on shopping.

It’s not clear if that is just Clinton County or the region in total and unfortunately the combined results are not available on the web. Also, the poverty numbers are still elusive. According to the New Tork Times, in 1992 the only five counties with unemployment rates above 15% were Hamilton, Warren, Essex, Lewis and Jefferson.

The state rate in June 2006 was 4.5% and the county numbers were:

Hamilton 3.6 %
Warren 3.7
Essex 4.9
Lewis 4.6
Jefferson 5.0

Why such a big differnence? They changed the benchmark in 2004 – did that lower the rates considerably?


Friday, July 21, 2006

Schroon Lake: Scaroon Manor Day Use Area Finally Opens

The Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, on the site of the old Taylor’s on Schroon, has finally opened to the public (word has it that their will be limited camping facilities beginning next year). According to a DEC press release, it’s the “first new recreational facility constructed in the Adirondack Forest Preserve since 1977.”

Scaroon Manor comprises 241 acres in the towns of Chester, Warren County, and Schroon, Essex County, including 1,200 feet of shoreline on Taylor’s Point on the western shore of Schroon Lake. The day use area, which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, contains a beach [next to the abandoned boat crib at left], swimming area, large parking lot, bathhouse, and 58 picnic sites located in the pavilion and surrounding areas. It will be operated by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The parking lot contains ample parking for all users of the Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, with designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities.

The site features a 120-foot long beach and 10,000 square-foot swimming area that can accommodate hundreds of bathers and swimmers. The lawn area immediately adjacent to the beach provides additional space forrecreation or relaxation. The beach bathhouse has changing areas, flush toilets, and sinks, all of which are accessible to persons with disabilities. The picnic pavilion contains 20 picnic tables and there are 38 additional picnic sites located in three areas close to the beach. Half of the picnic sites in each area are also accessible to people with disabilities.

In the 1700s, the Scaroon Manor site was called Spirit Point because of its use by religious worshipers. The property was home to a large farm, and eventually housed a succession of summer resorts. As a major summer resort from the 1930s through the 1950s, the facility included a grand hotel with a large ballroom, guest cottages, a golf course, and a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater. The last resort at this site – The Scaroon – closed in the early 1960s.

The property was acquired by New York State in 1967, and became part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Many of the original buildings were sold and removed to new locations, some of which can still be found on the shores of Schroon Lake today.

That last line is interesting – the big rub has always been that they simply burned down a historic hotel and resort complex. That’s still true.

No word on what will become of the “500-seat outdoor amphitheater” (right) an amazing Greek style theatre that looked pretty rough last time we saw it.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Adirondack Heritage For Sale – And Not Very Cheaply

A recent post over at one of our favorite blogs, York Staters, got us thinking about the price of Adirondack History. Jesse, one of the blog’s several prolific and thoughtful writers, offered this about the Adirondack guide boat, which he calls the pick-up truck of the region:

It is ironic that the pick-up truck has become the Rolls-Royce, but the boats are once again slowly proliferating in the region. Yet, how many Adirondackers can afford part of their heritage? At the same time that the Adirondacks themselves are increasingly being bought off and subdivided for homes for suburbanites, the artistic heritage of the people is only available to these same outsiders. This is not only true for guideboats, but also for Adirondack packbaskets, performances of traditional Adirondack music, which have all become expensive for, and distant from, the lives of Adirondackers.

To that we add this tidbit.

The most recent book on the history of the Adirondacks is Adirondack: Of Indians and Mountains, 1535-1838 – price? $39

One of the great resources for Adirondack information is the Adirondack Atlas – price? $23 (just reduced from $35 for a paperback!)

Expensive and distant indeed!


That said, if you can afford them, and they are great books, take the time to buy through the “Suggested” links we’ve been adding. It’s a nice way to contribute to the Almanack and help keep us going (actually we’ll keep going whether you buy or not, but making even a little cash makes us feel a whole lot better about it!).

Suggested Reading: Adirondack: Of Indians and Mountains, 1535-1838

Suggested Reading: Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Strange Life of James Jesse Strang

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left.

So it was that Joseph Smith, prophet of God and founder of the Mormon Church (now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) rather mistakenly announced the demise of these United States on this day in 1843.

So what do Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church have to do with the Adirondack region? A man named James Jesse Strang – his parents were born in Saratoga and Washington counties at the end of the 18th century. He was born in 1811 and later moved with his wife to Chautauqua County. He later moved to Nauvoo, Illinois where he met Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Mormon Church.

Long story short, Strang converted to Mormonism, was elected to the State Legislature, claimed to have had heavenly visions, and that an angel appeared before him to tell him the secret location of – you guessed it – another buried account of ancient people, this time etched into brass plates.

After Joseph Smith was killed by a mob in Illinois in 1844 a feud erupted between Strang and Brigham Young over who was his rightful heir. Smith’s followers divided between “Brighamites” and “Strangites.” Although Strang produced a letter from Smith appointing him the new Prophet (still in the Yale University Library), and 12,000 believers allegedly joined him, the winner was Brigham Young who excommunicated Strang and took his followers to Utah – home of the Big Love!

Strang moved with about 125 followers to Beaver Island, Michigan where he proclaimed himself “King of the Kingdom of God on Earth” and well, generally pissed off the local Irish fishermen and farmers by extracting tithes from them.

That didn’t last long and James Jesse Strang was shot 150 years ago this June and died a short time later. His spiritual descendents are still spread around the Midwest, Canada, and even Mexico although a mob burned the Beaver Island temple around the time of Strang’s death. There are no temples for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as the True Faith – not to be confused with the Utah folks who use Latter-Day, rather than Latter Day).


Suggested Reading

Biography of James Jesse Strang


Monday, May 8, 2006

Some Posts From Around the Adirondack Region You May Not Have Seen

Over at jockeystreet we have a great post on the meaning of May 1st – that’s the original May 1st, not the jingoistic 1958 Cold War version that is dying a slow and deserving death in Glens Falls – apparently much to the dismay of the Glens Falls Post Star.

Speaking of the region’s worst daily – and we recently spoke with a long time VIP at the paper who completely agreed with that assessment. We wish we could say more about that but he asked us not to. Anyway, Matt is back with his Angry (and strikingly disturbing and truthy) Letters to the Editor which demonstrate the long held accusations of Matt’s. Apparently they are withholding and corrupting the news, printing painfully slanted rhetoric in place of the news, and, well, lying to their readers.

A nice comparison is to take a look at these two stories:

From the Post Star: DEC wins court decision stopping vehicle use on Adirondack roads (now that’s a headline – how the hell will we get to the grocery? or the pub?)

And from the North Country Gazette (now a one woman about to go under webzine): Horicon Loses Attempt to Lift ATV Ban

In other internet news – we have a bizarre thread on the need to carry guns while hiking. Forget the bears! Its the teenagers some are ready to shoot.

And there’s the local Wikipedia war with words!

While we’re going on about the new wonders of the internet – Metroland has a good read about the death of local music retailer The Music Shack – unfortunately the blame is all on us, has nothing to do with them:

For every music collector, record collector, appreciator of album covers and lover of lyric sheets, there is a careless bandit, an unemotional music drone, the one who downloads music willy-nilly, regardless of taste, ignoring the band’s history or influences, oblivious to the group’s importance and pedigree or lack thereof. These buyers are the ones who are giving Memorex, Dynex and Verbatim a boost in the piggy bank. They are the ones you see scooping the jumbo CD carrying cases off the shelves at Wal-Mart to fill with ugly, scribbled-on discs. They are the people who don’t recognize the album covers or know the track names of their favorite bands.

Metal fans are in a tizzy – where will they buy the latest Tool? Meanwhile, music is making real progress on an old front – connecting with the dramatic and awful things that are happening today. We give you:

The release of Bruce Springsteen’s cover of Pete Seeger tunes from Hudson Mohawk IMC
The release of Neil Young’s Living With War (with extra mp3 goodness for all you “unemotional music drones”) from Vermont’s False 45th Blog.

UPDATE #1 – 05/10/06: NCPR reports on calls to restrict ATV use by young children.

UPDATE #2 – O5/10/06: Forgot to mention a really great music blog agregator with plenty of great mp3 goodness – elbo.ws


Monday, May 1, 2006

Lake George Fire – A Chance to Fix Some Lake George Blight

Last week’s fire in Lake George Village destroyed a block of architectural blunders that had replaced the majestic Hotel Lake George, which itself was destroyed by fire in 1978.Let’s only hope someone has a little better foresight and consideration of the character of the village when they rebuild (or approve a rebuild) this time. Consider what it looked like in the 1950s:

The old Hotel Lake George had been a local landmark owned byCaldwellSupervisor (as the Town ofLake Georgewas known then) Edwin J. Worden – it was called the Hotel Worden until the late 1940s or early 1950s. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Adirondack Earthquake Anniversaries – The 1931 Warren County Quake

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake. It also mark the April 20th anniversary of a 5.1 earthquake that struck near Ausable Forks in 2002 and still another anniversary – an almost forgotten earthquake that occurred in 1931.

At about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, on April 20, 1931 the first shock hit. The shaking of the earth was severe in Warren County where hotels and other buildings swayed and local stores were rattled, their goods falling from the shelves. There were at least three shocks in all – local newspapers reported the trembling lasted nearly a minute each time.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in New York. According to the New York State Museum’s Geological Survey there have been more than 400 with a magnitude greater than 2.0 since the first was recorded near New York City in 1737. The shocks from that quake were felt as far as Boston, Philadelphia and in the Delaware Gap [more].

A large quake had struck along the St., Lawrence River and Lake Champlain in1877 and significant damage was reported near the epicenter and as far as Saratoga Springs where rumblings were heard and buildings trembled. Another quake was felt locally in 1897 with similar consequences. In 1916, four quakes were centered in Warren County; a large quake centered in Western New York was felt in five states in 1929 including locally.

The 1931 quake was centered near Warrensburg where more than 20 chimneys collapsed and the spire of a church was twisted, but the damage was widespread. Hague was shaken and residents of Lake George Village reported great rumblings and of hearing “a load roar that lasted several seconds.” Walls cracked in Glens Falls; windows were broken in Luzerne. The Postmaster of Whitehall reported dishes broken and the District Attorney in Saratoga reported that the ceiling of his office collapsed. Fearful residents of Ticonderoga fled from their shaking homes. R.L. Baker’s general store in New Russia, up in Essex County, shook considerably, rattling the goods on the shelves and the customer’s nerves. Shelves and homes were shaken in Lewis County and vibrations were felt in Vermont and Western Massachusetts, where a telephone pole snapped and crushed a car. The tremors were noticed as far east as Cambridge, Mass.

Everywhere in Warren County pendulum clocks stopped and chimneys collapsed. A landslide occurred on McCarthy Mountain overlooking the Hudson in Wevertown, a scar on the mountain that can still be traced from above. Luckily, no one was reported injured.


Suggested Reading

Geology of New York


Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Thin Ice: Some Strange and Tragic Stories

New snow yesterday and the disappearance of another ice fisherman, this time on Middle Saranac Lake, was a reminder that Adirondack winters, sometimes brutal, can also be deceiving.

According to Paul Schneider’s The Adirondacks: A History of America’s First Wilderness, snowfalls at higher elevations can average over 100 inches a year and the western edge of the park receives well over 200 inches on average. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Taylor’s On Schroon Lake – Anti-Semitism of Days Gone By

Over at eBay, there is a unique item of Adirondack history for sale. A 24-page advertising pamphlet from 1910 for Taylor’s on Schroon (photo above). And there it is, one simple line: “Gentile trade solicited” – in other words Jews need not apply. In the first decades of the 1900s anti-Semitism and nativism were rampant in the Adirondacks as in the rest of the country. The Ku Klux Klan worked hard from its local base in Schenectady to establish Klan groups in Ticonderoga, Glens Falls, Saranac Lake, and elsewhere – some were quite successful. This tidbit, written by C.F. Taylor Jr., is one of the more rare blatant examples. » Continue Reading.


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