Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Adirondack Museum Opens for the Season

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York will open for the 54th season on Friday, May 27, 2011. This season, the museum opens two new exhibits and also introduces a host of family activities and special events.

The Adirondack Museum’s two new exhibits – “The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” and “Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” – showcase two very different, yet complimentary, visions of the region.

“The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” features paintings and prints depicting life in the Adirondack woods-images of hunters, sportsmen, guides, and settlers, that include a wealth of historical detail. Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait was the classic artist of Adirondack sport. From the objects Tait worked with to Currier and Ives prints and finished oil paintings, the exhibit showcases Tait’s artistic vision and skill and highlights the region’s beauty and character.

“‘The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait’ looks at the life and work of this most quintessentially Adirondack artist,” said Chief Curator, Laura Rice. “This exhibition represents a rare opportunity to see some of Tait’s most important works, including a few from private collections which are rarely, if ever, on exhibit.”

“Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” focuses on the work of one of the nation’s most recognized amateur wildlife photographers in the first decades of the 20th century. The “Night Vision” exhibit features approximately 35 original large-format photographs of Adirondack wildlife. Roberts’ cameras, equipment, colored lithographic prints, hand-colored transparencies, published works, and his many awards will also be exhibited. Roberts’ Adirondack wildlife photographs represent an important breakthrough in science and the technology of photography. His work has been published in Audubon Magazine, Country Life, Modern Photography, and The National Geographic Magazine.

The Adirondack Museum has planned a full schedule of family activities, hands-on experiences, special events, lectures and field trips for all ages. Programming for families in 2011 has expanded to include an Artist in Residence program, and a collaborative canvas where visitors can help paint an Adirondack landscape.

This summer, the museum has a special new event to kick-off summer for families -“Familypalooza” – on July 9. Familypalooza will include a bounce house, music show by Radio Disney, kayaking and paddling demonstrations on the museum’s pond, costumed animal characters, food, face painting and more. Children age 17 and under will be admitted free of charge for the day. Families will also enjoy “The Adirondacks Are Cookin’ Out!” – a tribute to food prepared with smoke and fire – on July 28, and Dog Days of Summer on August 6.

Two special exhibits will also return in 2011. The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park in, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit shares culinary stories and customs, and a bit about local celebrity Rachael Ray. “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” includes historic quilts from the museum’s textile collection as well as contemporary comforters, quilts, and pieced wall hangings.

The Adirondack Museum has introduced some lower admissions prices for 2011. The admissions prices are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors (62 and over), $12 for teens (13-17), $6 for kids (6-12) and free for those 5 and under. Admission will be free for members and all active military every day. Reduced group rates are also available.

The museum is open May 27 through October 17, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13; the museum will close for the day on September 9. Visit www.adirondackmuseum.org for more information. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Environmental Historian at the Chapman Museum

This Wednesday, May 25, at 7 pm, noted environmental historian John Cumbler will present a talk entitled Mills, Water Power Dams and the Transformation of the Environment at the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls. The lecture is the first in a series of programs, funded in part by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities, which expand on the themes of the Chapman’s current exhibit, Harnessing the Hudson: Waterwheels & Turbines, a history of waterpower on the upper Hudson River. The program is free and open to the public.

John T. Cumbler, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, has taught at the Univ. of Louisville since 1975, specializing in United States Environmental History and Economic History. Professor Cumbler is the author of numerous books including: Northeast and Midwest United States: An Environmental History (2005) and Reasonable Use: The People, The Environment, And The State, New England 1790-1930 (2001). In his talk he will explore the impact of industrialization on rivers and the history of how people have responded to that degradation.

The Chapman Historical Museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls. The exhibit Harnessing the Hudson will be on view through September 25th. Public hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. For more information call (518) 793-2826 or visit www.chapmanmuseum.org.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lake George Lake Steward Program Expanding

The 2011 Lake Steward Program on Lake George, managed by the Lake George Association, will significantly expand over last year’s level thanks to new funding provided by the Lake George Park Commission (LGPC).

Lake stewards, posted at several Lake George boat launches throughout the summer, inspect incoming boats for invasive species, remove suspicious specimens, and educate boaters about the threats of invasive species and how to prevent their spread. The Commission’s marine patrol is contacted whenever stewards encounter a boat being launched that has obvious signs of invasive species and is unwilling to be inspected. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Following The Masters at Chapel Pond Slab

The Adirondack Park doesn’t enjoy as much cachet in the rock-climbing world as, say, the Gunks and the White Mountains. A recent geology book written for rock climbers, for instance, fails to mention the Adirondacks in its chapter on climbing venues in the Northeast.

That’s OK. We can do without the crowds. But the fact is that the Adirondacks offer superb rock routes and a rich climbing history. On Sunday, Josh Wilson and I got a taste of both at Chapel Pond Slab.

Anyone who regularly drives Route 73 from the Northway to Keene knows the slab—eight hundred feet of bare rock that rises above the highway just south of Chapel Pond. It’s an excellent place for beginning climbers to learn how to do multi-pitch routes.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock awards five stars—its highest rating—to two of the six routes at the slab: the Regular Route and Empress. Both were pioneered, at least in part, by legendary rock climbers and both are rated 5.5 in the Yosemite Decimal System. By today’s standards, a 5.5 climb is considered easy. But when the system was created, back in the 1950s, the scale ranged from 5.0 to 5.9, so a 5.5 route would have been regarded as moderate in difficulty. Nowadays, the scale ranges up to 5.15, so a 5.5 is no big shakes.

The Regular Route evolved from another route, Bob’s Knob Standard (rated 5.3), that was first climbed by John Case in 1933. Case, a former president of the American Alpine Club, helped introduce European climbing techniques to the United States earlier in the century. Case’s route was the first on the slab. Over the years, climbers tried variations of the route and eventually developed the more interesting and more challenging line known as Regular Route. The two routes still share the same beginning.

Empress was first ascended in the 1930s by Fritz Wiessner, one of the best climbers of his generation. Among his many accomplishments, Wiessner “discovered” the Gunks and established a number of routes there. He also earned fame as a high-altitude alpinist. In 1939, he came within two hundred meters of K2’s summit—fifteen years before “the Savage Mountain” would finally be conquered (four men died on Wiessner’s expedition).

On Sunday, Josh and I followed in the footholds and handholds of these masters when we did Bob Knob’s Standard, Regular Route, and Empress—altogether about 2,400 feet of climbing. Usually, each route is ascended in six or seven pitches, or stages, but we climbed without a rope except for one wet pitch on Regular Route. Climbing sans rope (that is, without belays or protection) is not recommended, but it’s sometimes done on these routes.

Although I had climbed Empress twice before, I got a little wigged out on its celebrated fourth and fifth pitches. Both involve ascending long stretches of slab with almost no holds. The holds that do exist are Lilliputian bulges, ridges, or depressions. Essentially, you trust the rubber of your climbing shoes to keep you on the rock.

Josh finished the route first. I waited several minutes while he went to the top of Bob’s Knob to take photos of me ascending the final pitches on Empress. This gave me the opportunity to look down (at that point, I had climbed five hundred feet) and contemplate what I was about to do, mindful of a nasty fall I had taken on the Eagle Slide last summer.

When Josh gave me the OK to start, I stepped onto a small ledge on the slab and began searching for tiny irregularities in the rock on which to smear my soles. Starting up, I had to fight the impulse to rush over the rock to get out of danger as soon as possible. I knew I’d be safer if I proceeded carefully, deliberately. Still, I found myself hurrying toward the end.

After finishing, I had a greater admiration for Fritz Wiessner. Yes, the routes he established are not especially difficult by today’s standards, but advances in equipment have changed the climbing game. Wiessner explored Chapel Pond Slab long before the era of sticky-soled slippers. In those days climbers wore leather boots. I suppose Fritz had on something of the sort when he first did Empress. I can’t imagine how he found the traction—and the nerve—to get up that rock.

As for protection, the old-school climbers hammered pitons into the rock instead of placing cams and aluminum chocks into cracks. And their ropes were made of hemp, not stretchy nylon. If the lead climber slipped, chances are the rope would break when it pulled taut. Hence, the motto of that time: “The leader does not fall.”

Do you think Empress is easy? Try climbing it in hiking boots.

Photo by Phil Brown: Josh Wilson on Regular Route.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Missing NYC Sport: Adk Guides Take The Stand

Suspicious circumstances had developed surrounding the disappearance of respected New York City businessman John C. Austin in July 1891. Two insurance companies who held life policies on Austin were deeply interested in his possible whereabouts. Neither had bought the story that Austin had drowned near Coney Island, leaving three small children fatherless. They believed a boat had picked him up and that Austin was now living and hiding out in the Adirondacks.

Colonel Edward C. James, a nationally renowned, colorful attorney represented the insurance companies. His opening statement was a classic. After building to a crescendo, James presented his climactic claim: “Gentlemen of the jury, I will show you John C. Austin as he is today, alive and well.” With that, he unwrapped a heretofore mysterious package, revealing a nearly seven-foot-tall cut-out likeness of Austin, taken from a hunting photograph.

The courtroom was stunned, and for the entire trial, the jury and a packed house of spectators were constantly confronted with a powerfully connected message. Facing them from a corner was the huge likeness of the missing man in hunting regalia, while in the courtroom sat a grand selection of Adirondack woodsmen dressed similarly to Austin, awaiting their turn to testify.

The plaintiffs appeared to have a tough case to prove, but their attorneys approached the trial from an angle that would elicit much sympathy. Pointing to Austin’s three young children strategically placed in front of the jury box, they presented their opening line: “The only question you are called upon to decide is whether the father of these three little children was drowned on July 4, 1891.” The intent was obvious, but no less effective.

Colonel James enjoyed some remarkable moments, shocking the court with the revelation that Austin, widely believed to be very well off financially, was in fact virtually bankrupt. He owed over $2500 (about $62,000 today) on various bills. Since his disappearance, Austin’s home had been sold for substantially less than its mortgage value. Days before vanishing, he withdrew $150 from the business (equal to $3,700 today). And on July 3, he had cashed a $400 check (equal to $10,000), even though his account to cover it held only a $2 balance.

The $400 check (he vanished on July 4—it was written on July 3 but postdated for July 7) had been cashed by his brother-in-law (Carruthers), who was stiffed for the full amount. Colonel James pointed out that Austin, a supposed pillar of society, apparently wasn’t so averse to fraud after all, having knowingly committed it against his own relative. It was powerful stuff.

The keystone of James’ case in support of those suspicious elements was what the media described as the “mountain flavor” of the courtroom. The effect was enhanced by the fact that many of New York’s “well-to-do,” including a number of top attorneys, frequented the Adirondacks as a favored getaway. Their interest in the Austin case was further piqued by the opportunity to see and listen to “their” guides speaking in court. Thus, the serious legal battle did contain a sideshow element.

When the time came for the Adirondack guides to testify, the defense suffered a serious setback. James Ramsay of Lowville said he had known Austin for many years and had delivered him to Crystal Lake in Lewis County just a month after Austin’s disappearance from Manhattan Beach.

However, Ramsay recounted conversations they shared regarding Austin’s recently deceased wife and the status of his children. During intense cross-examination, the details he had provided were shredded due to inconsistencies. The plaintiffs’ attorney suggested that Ramsay’s statements bordered on perjury, delivering a strong blow to the defense case.

Other guides, however, acquitted themselves quite well before a thoroughly pleased audience, some of whom recognized the mountain men by sight. Certain testimony, like that of Charles Bartlett, helped undo the damage from a day earlier. Much was made in the media of the visitors from the mountains and their service in court (their rough appearance was also noted). Colonel James, himself a North Country native (from Ogdensburg), was appreciative of their efforts.

Bartlett was followed by a parade of fellow guides who insisted they knew Austin and had spent time with him. He was said to have stayed for a while at Eagle’s Nest on Blue Mountain Lake. Some described his behavior at the Algonquin Hotel on Lower Saranac Lake, where he displayed outstanding skill on the billiard table. Austin was, in fact, known in New York City as an excellent pool player—one witness had played against him a day or so before he vanished.

Among those who took the stand were Eugene Allen, Edwin Hayes, Robert King, Walter Martin, and Ransom Manning, all described as guides in the Saranac Lake area. Others included Hiram Benham, James Butler, Thomas Haley, Charles Hall, and James Quirk, offering convincing proof that Austin had perpetrated a fraud and was moving about in the mountains, avoiding detection.

The men described encounters with Austin at several well-known establishments: the Ampersand Hotel, Hatch’s, the Prospect House, Miller’s Hotel, and Bart Moody’s. Many of the sightings were by multiple witnesses. One of the biggest problems for the company case was the outright honesty of the guides, who frequently used “I don’t remember” when asked about details from the events of the past few years. They were being truthful, but hearing that statement repeatedly from witnesses helped suggest the likelihood of faulty memories.

When testimony ended, Colonel James offered a fine summation supporting the statements from many people who had seen Austin since his supposed drowning. Trull, the lead attorney for the Austin family, enamored himself with the crowd, making light of the guides’ claims chiefly by attacking Ramsay, who had made conflicting statements. By targeting the guide with the weakest testimony, Trull hoped to dismiss them as a group. He smiled at the weak memories of some, and dismissed as untruthful those who recalled the past with remarkable clarity.

He also ridiculed the idea that a man in hiding could wear “ … leggins’, slouch hat, corduroy trousers, duck coat … what a likely yarn! Dressed in this conspicuous manner … and he wanted to hide!” Trull’s voice fairly dripped with smiling sarcasm.

The analogy was actually warped (though he would certainly stand out in New York City, no man who dressed like that in the mountains would be conspicuous), but the erroneous concept was lost on the jurors—city men who routinely dressed in suits.

In the end, the jury was out only 23 minutes, returning to declare Austin dead. There were several moments of complete silence following the announcement, as if everyone were stunned.

Then, punctuating the victory, Trull revealed the major role that sympathy had played in the case. Turning to the jurors, he said, “Gentlemen of the jury, on behalf of my clients, the three little orphan boys left alone and helpless by John C. Austin, I thank you.”

Excused by the judge, the jury filed out, stopping only to offer Trull an unusual comment that was in keeping with the prevailing air of sympathy: “We want to contribute our fees as jurymen to the unemployed poor, and want you to arrange the matter with the clerk for us.”

The companies later dropped a plan to appeal, instead deciding to cut their losses and pay the settlement. Thus ended the court case over the insurance claims. But as far as the companies were concerned, that’s all that was settled. They remained convinced that Austin had successfully duped everyone and was alive, well, and soon to be much better off financially.

When the Austin family received the death benefit checks, they were at the same time relieved and angry—relieved to collect the amount in full, but angry with the section of the check that said, “Pay to the executors of the estate of John C. Austin, deceased.” The insurance company had drawn a line through the word “deceased,” emphasizing their belief that he was still alive.

Though Austin had been pronounced dead, his story wasn’t. Reports came in of more sightings, and two agencies asked for a bounty in exchange for bringing him to New York.

Barely a month after the trial ended, headlines reported that Austin was under surveillance by a detective in Toronto. Subsequent articles addressed the issues of his status. Having been pronounced dead, was he now safe? Could a country extradite someone who had been pronounced dead? Could the other country accept extradition of a deceased person?

The questions were put to Colonel James, who commented on the jury’s decision: “They did not seem to appreciate the evidence that was presented, and with one fell swoop, they killed Austin and rendered his children orphans. It was sheer murder, but they thought they were right. You may have thought I was jesting when I said that the jury killed Austin. It is not that.

“Actually, Austin is not dead, as this revelation proves. There is no reason to doubt the truth of the report. He is judicially dead in this country. As long as he stays in Canada, he is alive, all right. As soon as he crosses the border into this country, he drops dead—theoretically.”

That’s the last anyone heard of John C. Austin.

Photo Top: Manhattan Beach Bath House on right.

Photo Bottom: Headline from the Austin case.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Shingle Shanty Paddling Rights Case Update

The state’s effort to intervene in the trespassing case against Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown hurts private property owners, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued early last week.

“This case is asking the court to say, basically, ‘Have canoe, will travel,’” said Dennis Phillips, the Glens Falls attorney representing the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Northern NY Agricultural Development Numbers

With $300,000 in funding now secure in the 2011-2012 New York State Budget, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is moving ahead with 2011 on-farm research and outreach projects in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

A 2010 NNYADP Impact Statement provides a snapshot of the NNY region’s agricultural industry: approximately 4,200 farms, 1.11 million acres, a farm employee payroll of $52.9 million, Northern New York farm products’ market value more than $595 million. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Northeast National Pastel Exhibition Opens

The 7th Annual Northeast National Pastel Exhibition has opened at the new Arts Center / Old Forge and will be on through June 25th. The exhibition is considered a highlight of the Arts Center’s annual exhibition calendar, with thousands of visitors a year from the Northeast and beyond attending. The exhibition features works from some of the nation’s foremost pastel artists. More artists than ever have submitted work in the hopes of being selected this year.

108 works were chosen by pastelist Wende Caporale, this year’s juror of selection and author of several major publications on painting with pastels.

Admission to the Arts Centers exhibitions is $8/$4 members & groups of 6+/Children
under 12 free.

Illustration: “Rain Walker” by Sarah Pollock.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adirondack Arts in the Park Summer Event Calendar

The Adirondack Arts community has announced its 2011 summer season highlights, featuring Shakespeare in the Park, Saranac Lake Village Art Walks, free concert series and a new Adirondack art festival that celebrates the artistic history and community of the Adirondacks.

Arts in the Park – Summer 2011 highlights will include the inaugural Adirondack Arts Heritage Festival in Saranac Lake on June 26- July 4. For nine days, 35 uniquely Adirondack activities span a range of art forms, from fly fishing to historic Saranac Lake walks, to Cure Cottage lore. Join the Adirondack arts community in Saranac Lake for the first heritage celebration of the arts, culminating with a July 4th Parade of Boats on Lake Flower, concert and fireworks.

Free summer concert series kick off every summer in communities throughout the Adirondack Park. In June, Songs at Mirror Lake Music Series kicks off a summer of free musical performances in Mid’s Park on Main Street, Lake Placid. This free concert series runs every Tuesday through August. The Lake Placid Sinfonietta will also perform six free Wednesday night concerts in Mid’s Park July through August. Offering classical music fare, the Sinfonietta is the Orchestra of the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Lakes Summer Theatre Festival features 42 performances of six productions in 18 Adirondack towns. Based in Blue Mountain Lake, the theater troupe’s festival line-up includes: Romeo & Juliet, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Violet, The Conference of Birds, Movie Madness Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Live in Concert. For performance dates and locations, log onto AdirondackExperience.com for more information. At the Charles R. Wood Theater near Lake George, the Adirondack Theatre Festival will present The K of D, a ghost story and one-woman play, June 29-July 2.

A 4-year tradition will take place during the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council’s Annual Arts Festival June 11-12 in Glens Falls. This two-day festival features juried arts and craft shows, family activities, food and entertainment. For a complete list of summer concert series, arts festivals, workshops and museum exhibits.

You can search events, attractions and Adirondack vacation packages online.

Photo: Tara Bradway as Helena, Collin Ware as Demetrius in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Hungry Will’s Variety Hour produced by The Adirondack Shakespeare Company in 2010.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

APA Honors Clarence Petty

The Adirondack Park Agency celebrated Arbor Day 2011 with a tree planting in honor of Clarence Petty. Petty was one of the first employees at the Adirondack Park Agency following a long career with the NYS Conservation Department. He served on the Pomeroy Commission (Inter-Legislative Committee on Natural Resources) and the Temporary Study Commission on the Adirondacks.

Mr. Petty had a profound impact on the Adirondack Park and is considered one of the most influential environmentalists of the 20th century. » Continue Reading.


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