Friday, February 3, 2006

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Kicks Off Today

Since 1897 the people of Saranac Lake have been throwing a midwinter party – the 109th Saranac Winter Carnival begins today. According to their website:

The Winter Carnival’s origins can be found in Saranac Lake’s history as a world-famous health resort. In 1897, the first year of the event, the village was already a thriving community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness, its pristine setting providing rejuvenation for hundreds of tuberculosis sufferers drawn from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them.

The long, cold Adirondack winters offered an array of snow-covered mountains and ice-covered lakes, begging to be enjoyed on skis, sleds and skates. Thus, to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”.

The first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that sponsored skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.

This coming week (Feb. 3-12, 2006) will feature the “The Roaring 20’s” theme (that’s the decade, not the band) and will include two parades and two displays of fireworks along with:

Sports: Innertube, skating, and nordic and alpine ski races at Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah, skating races, snow volleyball, broomball, hockey, and snowshoe softball

Culture: Dramatic presentations by the Pendragon Theatre, a murder-mystery dinner theater, “an old-time amateur revue in the historic Harrietstown Town Hall, a Main Street Festival, a bevy of dinners, dances, receptions and concerts, and a slide show presentation.”

There will also be a display of traditional logging in the Adirondacks at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, but the centerpiece is the Ice Palace built using many of the old ice harvesting techniques:

The palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.

Legend has it though that the Palace was created to house the Winter Carnival Mascot Sara the Snowy Owl.

About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Pontiac Bay on Lake Flower; once a suitable ice thickness has been achieved, cutting with long ice saws begins. The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one-and-a-half to three feet thick, and weigh between four and eight hundred pounds!

These are moved onshore via a conveyor belt, and are maneuvered into place with “peaveys” – metal-tipped poles with hinged metal hooks – and ice tongs. The blocks are secured to one another with a “mortar” made of slush. While designs may vary from year to year, each palace has, on average, over 1500 blocks in it, and ranges from 70 to 90 feet in length and 40 to 60 feet in height. Within each design is an array of colored lights, that each night transforms the Palace into a vivid sculpture of ice and light!

Here are some links:

Early Ice Palace Postcard

Winter Carnival Profile from North Country Public Radio

Photo Gallery from the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce

Photo Gallery from WNBZ Saranac Lake (2003)

Ice Palace, a children’s book by Deborah Blumenthal

Flickr Ice Palace Search (Includes Others Beyond Saranac Lake)

UPDATE 2/8/06: Adirondack Musing is posting some photos of the construction of this year’s Ice Palace.


Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Tupper Lake’s Adirondack Dark Skies

Associated Press reporter Michael Virtanen is now offering a nice piece on the Adirondack Public Observatory:

The not-for-profit Adirondack Public Observatory in its first year has raised about $40,000 toward a $500,000 goal, according to board members. They have chosen a site in Tupper Lake, about 110 miles north of Albany. The parcel, at 1,600 feet in elevation, overlooks the town beach and campground at Little Wolf Pond.

“We are in what’s called a dark puddle here,” Staves said, noting the contrast in nighttime satellite images of the Earth. “We can actually see the Milky Way, which is something you can’t actually see most places now.”

The observatory had been offered a spot near the new Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks being built on the other side of the village. The reason it wasn’t? “there was too much light pollution from nearby Sunmount hospital, said Jan Wojcik, observatory board member.”

Great planning folks… the lights from a hospital reduce the overall impact of having both facilities within walking distance. Imagine the draw for something like that – now imagine how many visitors to the new museum will leave the museum, climb into their car, and drive to the observatory – we’ll guess not too many.

Apparently some planners in Tupper Lake neeeds a lesson on light pollution.

MSNBC has a nice image (on a screwy web page) of light pollution in New York.

By the way, the Natural History Museum construction is well under way.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In The Adirondacks Mining Accidents Once Occurred Regularly

According to the Associated Press the deadliest mining accident in American History was an explosion in a Monongah, West Virginia coal mine in 1907 in that killed 362 people.

Other recent mining accidents include:

2001: Explosions at a Jim Walter Resources Inc. mine in Brookwood, Ala., kill 13 people.

1992: A blast at a Southmountain Coal Co. mine in Norton, Va., kills eight.

1989: An explosion at a Pyro Mining Co. mine in Wheatcroft, Ky., kills 10.

1986: A coal pile collapses at Consolidation Coal Co.’s mine in Fairview, W.Va., killing five.

1984: A fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah, kills 27.

Here in the Adirondacks, mining accidents occurred with regular frequency in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company mines have claimed several men. William Otten was killed on March 13, 1928; later that year, 21-year-old Lyon Mountain miner Floyd Rounds was seriously injured when dust from an explosion was thrown into both his eyes.

Fred Brinks, an Englishman, was killed on July 9, 1927. Polish miner Aleksandra Dachkon was killed at the Lyon Mountain mines in 1920. Another Polish immigrant, Edward Suzbalia, a foreman and 18-year veteran of the Lyon Mountain mines fell into Number 11 Mine in 1909. He fell 200 feet landing on his head and died instantly leaving a wife and two children. “He was held in the highest esteem both by his superior officers,” the Plattsburgh Sentinel reported, “and the men with whom he worked and was considered one of the most careful and reliable men in the employ of the company.”

Three men were killed and one seriously injured in one terrible week in 1927. One was 50-year-old George Bouyea who fell 300 feet into a shaft at Lyon Mountain. The 18-year company veteran and foreman in charge of repairing motors was adjusting a cable at the top of a shaft when he lost his footing. He was instantly killed leaving a wife and seven children.

In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.

Foreign workers frequently went unnamed. “An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.

Dynamite was the culprit in a fatal explosion at the Harmony Shaft in Mineville in Essex County in 1901. During the day shift a charge of dynamite had failed to explode. When the night crew came on, George Baker was informed about the unexploded charge and Baker, James Tate, and Thomas McClellan went to the spot to correct the situation. The blow of the tapping bar exploded the charge of dynamite and Tate’s head was blown off. Baker was blinded, his arm broken and his face badly injured. McClellan was seriously hurt. Baker lost an eye but he and McClellan recovered. Baker was troubled by what had happened. His wife went insane and was committed to a mental hospital in Ogdensburg. Baker started drinking heavily. In 1915, fourteen years after he the mine accident George Baker tried to kill himself with a shotgun. He overloaded the shells and the gun exploded – not to be deterred, he took up a razor and slit his own throat. He was just 45.

UPDATE 1/6/06: Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio (NCPR) interviewed Lawrence Gooley, Adirondack author of “Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town” after reading about Adirondack mining accidents here at the Almanack. NCPR has set up a webpage where you can hear the interview here.

UPDATE 5/1/06: The Almanack is now an NCPR Featured Blog.


Suggested Reading

Lawrence Gooley’s History of the Lyon Mountain Mines


Friday, December 30, 2005

Hops Around. Hops Around. Get Up and Get Down.

A while back (a long while back) William Dowd’s Hops To It post got us thinking about doing a nice piece on the history of hops in New York and the Adirondacks; Especially now that the Beer Hawkers have returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Over at the Northeast Hop Alliance, there is a nice recent NY hop history. While hops was a staple crop of New York farmers in years past it, only last year was the first beer brewed with all New York hops.

Hops, once a leading specialty crop in New York state, suffered from plant disease and insect pests. Prohibition in the 1930s also helped spell the crop’s demise, and 50 years ago, production ceased.

The last beer made entirely from New York-grown hops was brewed in the 1950s.

In the Adirondacks hops were an important supplemental crop for many farmers and hop picking provided income to many women and children as well. In Merrilsville George Lamson hired local women to pick his hops every year – Mrs. Henry Fadden wrote a poem about her hop-picking experience:

I went picking hops and though I worked with a will,
I had to go back with my box half filled.

To find my house in disorder, my dishes unwashed.
The children were sleepy, my husband was cross;

And because I didn’t get the supper before I swept the floor,
He kicked the poor dog and slammed the back door.

And said that if I would leaving picking hops alone,
He would give me a job of picking stone.

His advice was unheeded, I refused with disdain,
And resolved the next day to try it again.

Convinced if only I would do my best,
I could pick hops as fast as the rest.

But the weather was cold and I almost froze.
My fingers were numb and cold were my toes.

Thus for five long days I labored and toiled,
My work was neglected, my temper was spoiled.

And though you may think my experience funny,
I am resolved in the future to let the men earn the money.

The last reference I could find regarding the growing of hops in the Adirondack region was a 1949 notice of the arrival of “400 pounds of Bavarian beer hop roots” in Malone where “local growers hope to revive a once-flourishing New York industry.” Unfortunately, the importers were not mentioned by name, and how the experiement went was never revealed.

And who knew? Hops are good for you!

And while we’re at it:

Alan over at Gen X at 40, has our region on his mind – he’s looking forward to a trip to the Adirondacks, and at his Good Beer Blog, he has spotlighted Saratoga’s He’Brew 9 and declared his pick for Best Pub of 2005… drum roll please… is…..

Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George

Have a great new year!


Suggested Reading

The Homebrewer’s Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing Herbs


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Christmas Truce of 1914

For a brief time in 1914, against the wishes of the politicians and their absurd generals, the slaughter of World War One abated – at first those in power denied it had happened, but it did: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Some nice first hand accounts from the New York Times

More details from First World War.com

World War One executions for resistance


Friday, December 16, 2005

Historic Lake Placid Lodge Burns – Lost Hikers – Adirondack Brain Drain

Three items for your Adirondacks fix today:

Photos of the Adirondack Lodge fire from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

The resort was built in 1882 as a private residence. In the 1950s, he said, the residence became the Lake Placid Manor and was later renamed the Lake Placid Lodge. It is currently owned by David and Christie Garrett, who also own The Point, another resort lodge located on Upper
Saranac Lake.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Adirondack Wilderness vs. Adirondack History?

The Glens Falls Post Star today is telling us all about Earl Allen, who (according to the photo cutline) “owns more than 200 acres in the Adirondack Park and has fought with the state to keep every bit of it.” Apparently in newspeak when you’re asked to sell your two and one half acre piece of land in the middle of the wilderness area to the state for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers, you are fighting the state to keep your more than 200 acres of land.

It’s no surprise that the Post Star panders to the right wing anti-Adirondack Park types. There used to be a William “Bill” Doolittle (the Will Doolittle of the Post Star or his father? Not that Will Doolittle) who was a one-time publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and former President of the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce. He moved from New Jersey and then outwardly positioned his paper to support the radical right “natives vs the state” mentality – he even suggested the hands across the mountains emblem for the developer front-group League for Adirondack Citizens’ Rights (now long defunct) and suggested to them that they make connections between their fight to eliminate environmental protection of the Adirondacks to the Patriot cause in the American Revolution.

Three items in the Post Star article bothered us here at the Almanack:

“One Johnsburg town official, who requested his name be withheld for fear of retribution, likened state land to cancer.” Apparently, in Johnsburg you can get elected by lying to your constituents, or at least keeping them from the truth of your views.

” ‘I wouldn’t give the state nothing,’ [Allen] said sharply during an interview earlier this month, his 80-year-old hand balling into a fist on his dining room table. ” Now we can guess that Mr. Allen doesn’t really mean that he “wouldn’t give the state nothing,” what he really means is that if it’s his private preserve, surrounded by state forest, he’s not going to give it up. We assume he doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t serve his country in time of war, or send his children or grandchildren to do the same. We assume that even though the state no doubt gives plenty to him and his town (which has just received nearly a million dollars in tax dollars for development), he certainly can not be drawing Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, sending his kids to public schools, or driving on state or county roads – can he? When he is ready to leave this world he’s not going to ride in a partially state funded Johnsburg ambulance – is he?

Now for the funny part. Here’s a couple of gems:

It seems Mr. Allen is “still bitter about the burning” of Fox Lair, a resort for the rich that was turned into a rich boys summer camp until it was burned to the ground when the state purchased the land in the 1970s. Mr. Allen – It’s our land! We own it! You don’t want to sell yours and we wanted to clear the rich kids camp off ours! Maybe you should apply your property rights to someone besides yourself.

“You can drive anywhere in the state, anywhere in the park and not have any recollection of what was there 100 years ago in some places,” J.R. Risley, the Town Supervisor of Inlet, said. Ohhh… Mr. Risley we support your newfound devotion to historic preservation! That’s why environmentalist want to see wilderness instead of New Jersey-style development!

The problem is that you want to return to a time when the developers (Railroads, Tanning, Mining, and Lumber firms) took advantage of their friends in the State Legislature to clear-cut, cause devastating fires, and horrific depletion of topsoil, dams that flooded farmland and villages alike. The problem is, Mr. Allen and Mr. Risley – you don’t know your history!

So – here we are to give you some details:

Army archaeologists discovering history at Fort Drum:

Army archaeologists already have identified a major Iroquois village in the middle of the post with dozens of lesser sites scattered around the installation. Rush said nearly 200 significant sites have been located on post. Among them: Near the boat-building site, Rush and her colleagues have marked out a 5,000-year-old Indian village.

100 years indeed.


Friday, December 2, 2005

Demon Rum: The Adirondack Winter Elixir

Alternet is offering a nice set of articles [one, two] on Rum the booze that changed the world. One of our favorite excerpts:

As the Prohibition and Temperance movements grew in strength patriotic prints of the first president and his officers were bowdlerized. The Currier and Ives print of [George] Washington’s farewell toast to his officers that was published in 1848 showed a glass in his hand and a decanter on the table. By 1867, the glass had disappeared, leaving him with his hand on his chest in Nelsonian mode, and the decanter had been converted to a hat! Successive biographers of Patrick Henry turned him from a former tavern keeper to an occasional tavern visitor, before dropping the tavern entirely from his life story.

And then there is this gem:

On January 15, 1918, a 58-feet-high tank built by the Purity Distilling Company split open and disgorged its 2.3 million gallons — 14,000 tons — of molasses. Like some glutinous volcanic lava flow, it gurgled across the North End of the city in a flood 5 feet deep that ran at 35 miles an hour, taking over twenty people in its path to the stickiest of sticky ends.

Molasses drownings aside, maybe its time for a Rum Revival! Check out:

Peter’s Rum Labels

Wikipeda: Rum Running

Rum Across the Border The Prohibition Era In Northern New York

A Coast Guard History of Rum Interdiction

The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World

Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Rum, Romanism, & Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884

We like beer, though we’ve commented before on liquor in the North Country, and on Homeland Security and Prohibition. – in case you missed it.


Friday, December 2, 2005

Adirondack Mountain Lions, Panthers, Pumas, and Cougars Oh My!

There is perhaps no wildlife question in the Adirondack Region that raises so many anti-government / anti-DEC hackles as the question of whether or not there are mountain lions (a.ka. cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts) in them thar woods. People actually get angry… figuring that them city folk in the DEC just don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t believe the locals, or they are hiding the fact that the big cats are around. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2005

Adirondack Natural History at Home and In Space

Two new developments in Adirondack Natural History. The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks has announced they will open this July and an Adirondack Public Observatory is planned for Tupper Lake.


Thursday, November 3, 2005

At Your Fingertips: Great Adirondack History Search Tools

Google Print is finally here. It joins the Listing of Oldest and Rarest [Adirondack] Books, the Adirondack Chronology [pdf], Northern New York Historical Newspapers, the Southern Adirondack Library System’s access to Heritage Quest, Making of America, and the Harper’s Magazine Search in the really cool free Adirondack historic resources department.

A few of the gems from Google Print:

Charles Zinser’s The Economic Impact of the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan

White and Beal, Acid Rain: The Relationship between Sources and Receptors (Excerpt)

Benson Lossing’s The Empire State: A Compendious History of the Commonwealth of New York

Jacob A. Riis’s Theodore Roosevelt the Citizen

From Lifehacker:

To search books that mention the printing press in the public domain in the U.S., search for: "printing press" date:1500-1923

International books in the public domain can be searched like so:

"printing press" date:1500-1846


Suggested Reading

The Adirondacks: A History of America’s First Wilderness


Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween / Samhain

Happy Halloween, the old Celtic Pagan holiday Samhain and the anniversary of the day Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation. The old holiday was taken over by Pope Gregory IV in 840.

Also, the anniversary of the death of Houdini in 1926 and of River Pheonix in 1993.

For your scary enjoyment:

Halloween Night 1952
America’s Electric Chair
The Scariest Place in the Adirondacks


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Internet Stuff Sunday – Interesting and Bizarre

Vermont’s Diabologue recently had an interesting reminescence on the early days of the Internet. Say What? has added their own memories of the Commodore 64.

Some folks over at the BlueMoo.net Adirondack community board are worried about their kids holding their breath… yeah… big danger there.

And why we’re on Adirondack community boards, the amazingly dull Adirondacks Live Journal is looking for a new moderator.

In case you missed it… the Queensbury Pagan Day apparently rocked and people are surfing the St. Lawrence!

Oh yeah… got junk mail problems? Think of the fun you can have with this.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Two More Adirondack North Country Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Two soldiers from Lowville have been killed while serving in Iraq. Seamus Davey, 25, and Kelly Cannan, 21. Two more lives lost, two more families damaged. The son’s and daughters of the rich and powerful are avoiding the military like the plague and Iraqi veterans are suffering from plagues of their own.

Some facts from the last Gulf War according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (as of March 1, 2001):
696,661 U.S. troops served in the Gulf War between August 2, 1990 and July 31, 1991 — these are considered “Gulf War Conflict” veterans by the VA

Of the 696,628, 504,047 are separated from service and eligible for benefits through the VA

As of December 1999, more than 263,000 sought medical care at the VA

Of the 504,047 eligible veterans, 185,780 (36%) filed claims against the VA for service-related medical disabilities

Of the 171,878 VA claims actually processed, 149,094 (80%) were approved in part (note — most claims are made up of multiple issues, if any one issue is granted, VA considers it approved)

Of the 504,047 eligible for VA benefits, 149,094 (29%) are now considered disabled by the VA eleven since the start of the Gulf War; and

Another 13,902 claims against the VA still pending.

More than 9,600 Gulf War veterans have died.

Conflict veterans are 51% more likely to have their claims denied than “theater” veterans (those who served in the Gulf since August 1, 1991)


Sunday, October 2, 2005

Lake George Cruise Boat Ethan Allen Tragedy

Ethan AllenThe 40-foot tour boat Ethan Allen has capsized on Lake George. It happened at 3 pm; 49 passengers were on board.

Update: The Associated Press is reporting 20 were killed, making it the deadliest such tragedy in the history of Lake George and the Adirondack Region. We’ve been told that the emergency room at Glens Falls Hospital was overwhelmed and forced to send patients to Saratoga Hospital. The AlbanyEye is reporting on the reporting. » Continue Reading.


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