Posts Tagged ‘Ausable Forks’

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Leaves Widespread Damage in the Adirondacks

Following a spring of historic flooding and two minor earthquakes, the Adirondacks has been slammed by the remains of Hurricane Irene leaving behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flooding and epic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails.

Damage from the remnants of Hurricane Irene is widespread across the Eastern Adirondacks from Moriah, which suffered extensive damage during the spring flooding that had still not been repaired, to the entire Keene Valley and into the Lake Placid region. Trails in the Eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas have been closed through the Labor Day weekend. The bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the Duck Hole Dam breached.

Every town in Essex County suffered damage officials say, but Upper Jay, Jay, AuSable Forks, and all hamlets in the town of Keene have been devastated by flooding of the AuSable, which rose to a record 12 feet over flood stage. Essex County Highway Department Tony Lavigne told the Press Republican that “the flooding is way worse than this past spring and much more widespread.” Mountain Health Center in Keene suffered heavy damage and has been closed. In Upper Jay, the historic remains of Arto Monaco’s Land of Make Believe are gone. Flood waters also raged through Lake George Village and closed dozens of roads in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties. [Lake George Photos via Lake George Mirror].

Tom Woodman, who reported on the situation in Keene for the Almanack, wrote that “The hamlet of Keene is an astonishing and deeply saddening sight. The fire station has been torn in half by rampaging waters of a tributary of the East Branch of the Ausable. Buildings that house the dreams of merchants and restaurateurs, who have brought new life to Keene, are battered, blanketed in mud, and perched on craters scoured out by the flood waters.” North Country Public Radio‘s Martha Foley posted photos of the devastation in Keene.

Route 73 has been washed out and undermined in several places, closing the main artery into the High Peaks and Lake Placid from the east. Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation told Woodman that Route 73 should reopen before winter. Route 9N between Keene and Upper Jay is expected to be reopened in a few days.

Although criticized at the time by many for being premature and unnecessary, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation warned recreationists to stay out of the backcountry and closed its campgrounds and other facilities across the Adirondacks on Saturday. That closure was fortuitous, as damage in some areas has stranded campers and has closed the Giant, Dix, and Eastern High Peaks wilderness areas. More than a dozen DEC campgrounds and day-use areas remain closed. These closures are expected to continue through the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

The historic dam at Duck Hole has been washed away, closing off only recently acquired access by canoe or guideboat into the High Peaks via Henderson Lake and Preston Ponds. Phil Brown has posted DEC photos of Duck Hole draining.

DEC District Forester Kris Alberga, who was among the first to see the widespread destruction in the backcountry during a flyover of the High Peaks Monday afternoon, reported that the bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the dam is leaking seriously. “There are numerous washouts on the Marcy Dam Truck Trail,” Alberga said in a e-mail forwarded to the Almanack, “Marcy Brook between Marcy Dam and Avalanche Camps jumped its banks, carved a new channel and wiped out much of the trail. The Van Hovenberg trail above Marcy Dam is eroded 1-3 ft deep in many places. The handrails on the suspension bridge on the Calamity Pond trail are gone and the trail is not passable.” Phil Brown reported today that the level of Marcy Dam pond has dropped, revealing mud flats. The trails along Lake Colden are reported to be underwater and the trail to Avalanche Pass made impassable.

The bridge on the Adirondack Loj Road south of South Meadows Road has been washed out, cutting off the Loj and stranding some 31 visitors and Adirondack Mountain Club staff there. The access to the Garden Trailhead at Interbrook Road is no longer passable beyond the bridge over Johns Brook.

Phil Brown traveled to Marcy Dam Monday afternoon and snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Other new slides reported include those on Mount Colden (including at the Trap Dike), Basin, Haystack, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw, in the Dixes, and on Giant Mountain.

Although reports have not been received from the Santanoni and Seward ranges, it appears that the Western and South-Central Adirondacks have not been seriously impacted. Backcountry users in those and other areas of the Adirondack Park should, however, expect blowdown and eroded trails, washed-out bridges and new landslides.

At a press conference held in front of the destroyed Keene Volunteer Fire Department, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency will suspend special permitting requirements to aid in a speedy rebuild.

Photo: Duck Hole Pond is draining after the dam went out. Photo courtesy NYS DEC.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Exhibit Honors Theme Park Designer Monaco

A new exhibit, “IMAGINING MAKEBELIEVE: An Exhibition Honoring Arto Monaco” will open with a reception at the Tahawus Lodge Center (14234 Rte 9N, Main St, Au Sable Forks, NY) on Friday, July 22, 2011, 6-9pm.

From 1954 to 1979, the Land of Makebelieve captivated visitors young and old. This summer, the Arto Monaco Historical Society invites you to remember the Land of Makebelieve, an enchanting, child-sized theme park, and its creator, Arto Monaco.

Born in Ausable Forks in 1913, Monaco designed not only the Land of Make Believe but Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Storytown and Gaslight Village. The Arto Monaco Historical Society was created after Monaco’s death in 2003 to preserve his legacy.

The exhibition in Au Sable Forks will feature images and artifacts from the original theme park, formerly located in Upper Jay but now closed to the public. The exhibition will also include plans for a new park that’s under consideration for the former Land of Makebelieve site.

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Ausable Forks Golf Great Marjorie Harrison

Seventy-five years ago, the Adirondacks were abuzz about a precocious athletic phenom, a plucky teenager who exhibited incredible abilities on the golf course. The best players across the region were impressed by this remarkable child who could compete with anyone on the toughest courses. In a man’s world, this youngster—a girl—could challenge the best of them.

Marjorie Harrison, daughter of Neil and Eva, was born in 1918 in the town of North Elba. Her dad earned a living as a golf-club maker, eventually moving to Ausable Forks to assume the position of club professional at the Indole Course.

Having first wielded a club at the age of three, young Marjorie began developing her golfing skills on the local links. In a shocking glimpse of future possibilities, she won the women’s cup at Indole in 1928 when she was just ten years old.

In 1932, the loss of her mom, Eva, to pneumonia, tested Margie’s inner strength, but that was something the young girl never lacked. With few team sporting possibilities available to girls, she excelled at horseback riding, skating, skiing, shooting, and, of course, golf, which are largely solo pursuits requiring heavy doses of self-reliance.

Neil soon began to eye the amateur golf tour as a challenge for his highly skilled daughter. In sports, the term amateur revealed nothing in regards to talent—it only meant that a competitor was unpaid, and thus pure (unsullied by the world of professional athletics).

At that time, there was no golf tour for women professionals. Nearly all the best players competed for cups, trophies, prestige, and for the sake of competition. Turning pro was rare. Only a few of the top women players were signed to represent major sporting goods companies. Once money was accepted, they forfeited all eligibility to compete in amateur events. Men lived in a different world, but for women, a professional golf tour was more than a decade away.

In August, 1933, Marjorie Harrison played in the state event at Bluff Point just south of Plattsburgh, where an international field offered stellar competition. She fairly burst onto the New York golfing scene, battling to the semifinal round, where a seasoned opponent awaited.

Incredibly, Margie went on to lead her semifinal match by one hole going to the 18th (nearly all tournaments featured head-to-head match play). There, she faltered, three-putting the final green to lose her advantage. But with steely resolve, Margie parred the single playoff hole for the win, sending her to the finals.

In the championship round she faced Mrs. Sylvia Voss, an outstanding golfer who promptly won the first three holes, putting Margie far behind. Bringing her power game to the fore, Harrison tied the match by the 14th and led by one at the 17th, but lost the last hole to finish in a tie. Just like in the semifinals, a playoff was necessary.

And, just like in the semifinals, Marjorie holed a par putt to win on the first playoff hole. She was barely 15 years old and had conquered some of the best golfers in an international tourney.

From Boston to Dallas to the West Coast, newspapers touted her great accomplishment. The New York Times wrote, “Swinging a wicked driver and with iron shots of unusual precision … Marjorie Harrison of Au Sable Forks won her first major golf tourney today.” She was also featured in The American Golfer magazine for the Bluff Point win.

In 1934, Marjorie, 16, made it once again to the finals at Bluff Point, where she was set to face Dorothy Campbell Hurd, a golfing legend. Hurd, 51, owned 749 victories, 11 national amateur titles, and once held the American, British, and Canadian titles at one time.

They played even through 16 holes, but Hurd pulled out the win on the final two greens. A gracious opponent and future member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Hurd was clearly impressed, saying, “With a little more experience, no woman golfer will be in the same class with Miss Harrison. She is a future champion that bears watching by the leading golfers.”

Hurd was right—there was much more to come, including several wins over the next few years. Margie finished near the top in virtually every tournament she entered. Some were very gutsy performances featuring remarkable comebacks, but most were head-to-head battles where mistakes seemed to have no effect on her. She was one tough competitor, always playing with grace, humility, and great determination.

In 1935, Marge finished second in the New York State Championships, and then reached the semifinals each of the next three years. Another major breakthrough came in July, 1937, when she shot a 37 on the final 18 holes at Rutland, Vermont (near her dad’s home area of Castleton) to win the Vermont state title. She was just a few months past her 19th birthday.

At Brattleboro in 1938, Marjorie successfully defended her Vermont title with a birdie on the 15th hole to clinch the win. Other highlights that year included shattering the course record at Bluff Point; winning at Lake Placid; and teaming up with the legendary Gene Sarazen in a remarkable comeback to win a benefit tourney.

For years, Marjorie was at the top of New York’s competitive golfing scene, which attracted some of the best players in the country. Despite the high level of play, it was considered an upset NOT to see her name in the semifinals of any tournament she entered. Whether in Quebec, Syracuse, the Berkshires, Briarcliff, or anywhere else she competed, the North Country’s ambassador of golf was respected and admired for her sportsmanship and fine play.

Many club titles were won and course records set by Marjorie, including at Bluff Point, Lake Placid, Albany, and Troy. She wowed the crowd at Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, battling fiercely to finish second in the Mason-Dixon tournament. Some golf writers pointed out that unlike athletes from warm-weather areas, Miss Harrison achieved great success despite playing only a few months of the year, and while attending high school and different colleges.

Though still a youngster, she returned to Ausable Forks in 1940 for a career review at a testimonial dinner—and for good reason. A few days earlier, at the age of 22, Marjorie had overwhelmed all comers and captured the New York State Women’s Golf Championship.

She maintained her winning ways, but during the World War II years, sports were sharply curtailed across the country to conserve fuel for the troops. Opportunities were meager, but Margie picked up two wins in 1944, followed by a stellar performance that led her once again to the finals of the New York State Championship Tournament.

Her talented opponent in the finals, Ruth Torgersen, was a very familiar combatant from many past matches. Torgersen, in fact, would go on to win a record seven NYS championships and be named New York’s Golfer of the Century.

On this day the two stars battled for 32 holes, at which point Marjorie held a three-hole lead. But on the 33rd, a stroke of bad luck left her ball balanced atop a bunker. Deemed an unplayable lie, it cost her the hole as Torgerson was quick to take advantage and cut the deficit to two.

Undaunted, Margie looked down the fairway of the 346-yard 16th hole and blasted a 200-yard drive. She nearly holed her second shot from 146 yards out, and then tapped in an easy putt for her second New York State title.

In that same year, the Women’s Professional Golf Association was formed, to be replaced six years later by the LPGA. Had she been born years later, there’s a good chance the girl from the Adirondacks would have won a good deal of prize money. For Marjorie Harrison, though, life took a different path.

After completing college, she had begun a career as a physical education teacher. In June, 1946, while still competing and winning, she married Bart O’Brien, himself a star golfer at Indole, the Ausable Forks course managed by her father, Neil.

For a while she competed as Marjorie Harrison O’Brien, but when Bart took a job teaching in the Oneida school system, they moved there and began raising a family. Semi-retired, Marge played occasionally in tournaments, but by 1954 she was busy raising three children, teaching, and becoming a very active participant in the community.

She began giving adult golf lessons, and children’s lessons soon followed. Bart became school principal, and together he and Marjorie maintained a high profile as community leaders. Honors were bestowed on both of them for their work in the school system, and in 1970 she was chosen as an honorary life member of the Oneida school district PTA.

In 1973, Marjorie was named Outstanding Citizen by the Oneida Rotary, and Bart was cited several times for his work on behalf of the organization. Through it all, they maintained close ties annually with family in the Ausable Forks area, where her dad, Neil, still held the position of golf pro at Indole through the mid-1960s.

Marjorie Harrison O’Brien passed away in 1999, and Bart died in 2004—two natives the North Country can truly be proud of.

Photo: Young Marjorie Harrison, golfer extraordinaire.

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.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Footy Film Fest in AuSable Forks

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities
The Footy Film Festival isn’t just for the freestyle and snowboard culture, Director Mike Kirshner insists. The category was left ambiguous, snow-sport action footage from the current season with the only restriction being time. This first winter-sports amateur film contest has an under 5-minute and under 30-minute category that includes entries from all walks of life, not just the freestyle world.

Kirshner says, “We wanted the festival to be open to all though we did primarily get entries that are involved in the culture. We do have an ice fishing entry and even one with young kids competing in some of the disciplines. We want this event to continue to grow and have more entries outside the freestyle culture.”

The disciplines that Kirshner refers to are in two areas, ski and snowboard. In the ski category competitors compete in Moguls, Dual Moguls, Aerials, Slopestyle, Halfpipe and Skiercross. In the snowboard field, participants compete in Slopestyle, Halfpipe, Boardercross, Giant Slalom and Slalom.

Spectators are encouraged to attend the Footy Film Festival and all funds will be used to support the United States of America Snowboard Associations Adirondack (USASA ADK) athletes at Nationals at Copper Mountain.

“The idea of an amateur film festival felt like a natural fit. A lot of the first year boarders and younger kids in the snow and ski culture are already filming themselves on YouTube and Facebook,” says Kirshner. “For some kids the filming may even take priority over the primary activity. So out of this culture we decided to have a contest for the Adirondack region that would support the subculture while also acting as a fundraiser for those athletes trying to make Nationals, which are in Colorado this year.”

The film festival will take place at the Hollywood Theatre in AuSable Forks this Friday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. All tickets are $5. Awards will be given to the top three in each category following the showing. First place for <5 minute edit will receive $100 cash prize and a GoPro camera while the first place winner for < 30 minute edit will receive $200 cash prize and a GoPro camera. Other prizes will be awarded from PlacidPlanet Bicycles and Hardway Apparel.

All in all it should be a fun first-time event that will continue to grow overtime. For some it may be an introduction to freestyle sports or just an interesting view at some up and coming talent.


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Monday, January 10, 2011

APA Critic Indicted on Felony Environmental Charges

A long-time critic of state environmental policies and enforcement has been indicted by a Clinton County grand jury on charges of violating several environmental conservation laws.

A Department of Environmental Conservation press release said Leroy Douglas of Ausable Forks, was charged for a 2008 incident with “Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the third degree, a felony with a maximum fine of $150,000 and up to 4 years in prison” after allegedly improperly “disposing numerous 55-gallon drums containing a hazardous substance” onto property owned by his Douglas Corporation of Silver Lake.

Douglas was also charged with misdemeanors of Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste, Disturbing the Bed/Banks of a Classified Trout Stream and Failure to Register a Petroleum Bulk Storage Facility, each of which could come with significant fines and up to a year in jail.

North Country Public Radio added that “a state investigator found a wide range of contamination on Douglas’s land, including a pile of lead acid batteries, dead animals and medical waste.”

Douglas told The Press-Republican that he believes the indictment is politically motivated. He claims the state wanted to buy his land but he refused to sell.

“DEC has had warrants to search my property twice since I wouldn’t sell,” Douglas said to the Plattsburgh daily. “If I’m such an environmental villain, what would they wait two and a half years for?”

The Press-Republican added that Douglas has filed suit in federal court against the Adirondack Park Agency in relation to a 2007 enforcement action against him.

“Douglas says the charges originated with his son, Michael, with whom he had a falling out a few years ago, and whose girlfriend, Elizabeth Vann, works for the DEC,” according to a report written by Post-Star Projects Editor Will Doolittle.

The Glens Falls daily, which has called for the APA’s abolition, has featured Douglas in several pieces (most notably here) written by Doolittle on alleged malfeasance by the Agency.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that Douglas pleaded not guilty to this week’s charges.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Strategies for High Peaks Communities Workshop

The High Peaks communities are developing a regional strategy for community revitalization, sustainable economic development, enhanced public access and promotion of the High Peaks waterfronts as an important resource for recreation and tourism.

A workshop will be held on Tuesday, September 28th at 6:30 PM at the Town of Wilmington Town Hall at 7 Community Center Circle. The goal of this workshop will be to present the vision, goals and key projects and initiatives for community and regional revitalization identified by the High Peaks communities in the Revitalization Strategy. Participants will be asked for their input on the goals and priority projects.

The revitalization strategy includes the following communities:

* The Town of Keene including the hamlets of Keene Valley and Keene;
* The Town of Jay including the hamlets of Upper Jay, Jay and the Essex County portion of Ausable Forks;
* The Town of Wilmington; and
* The Town of North Elba and the Village of Lake Placid.

The strategy lays out a vision and set of goals to create a prosperous shared future for the High Peaks region including:

* Revitalization of hamlets and downtowns
* Developing a plan for cycling facilities and safe biking routes
* Creating more access to the Ausable River for locals and tourists
* Protection of the Ausable River and other water bodies
* Enhanced tourism amenities and marketing
* Investigating sources of alternative energy including hydro-electricity
* Developing a plan for trail head improvements and creating new local trails and pedestrian connections
* Protecting cultural and historic resources

The project is funded by a grant from the NYS Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund and financial support from the participating communities.

For more information contact Melissa McManus, Project Coordinator (518) 297-6753.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Doris Kenyon: Ausable Forks Movie Star

Ausable Forks was once the favored respite of one of America’s most famed and beloved actresses of her time. During the prime of her career in the 1920s, to escape constant media scrutiny, this lady returned often to the Adirondacks, a quiet, peaceful place filled with the memories of childhood.

Doris Kenyon was born on September 5, 1897, the daughter of James and Margaret Kenyon. James, once a protégé of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a person of some renown in his own right, achieving widespread fame and praise for his skills as a poet. Many of his works were featured in Harpers, the Atlantic, and other reputable magazines. After writing two books, James remained in the literary world and became a publisher. His position would help open doors for his talented daughter.

The family lived for a time in Chaumont, New York, northwest of Watertown, and then moved to Syracuse, where Doris was born. Her brother, Raymond, nineteen years older than Doris, was a dentist and oral surgeon in both Philadelphia and Syracuse. Health issues and a deep love of hunting and fishing prompted his move to the Adirondacks in pursuit of a less strenuous life.

Ray Kenyon chose Ausable Forks as his new home, immersing himself in local life, business, and politics. He served in several key positions, including many years as chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, and several more as state assemblyman. Due to his great skill as a dentist and his affable nature, Raymond became a fixture in the community.

Young Doris was a frequent visitor and guest at her brother’s home—so frequent, in fact, that she has sometimes been claimed as an Ausable Forks native. She spent many summers at Fern Lake and was well known in the village, particularly for her singing ability.

When Doris was in her teens, her father became head of the publishing department of the National Encyclopedia of Biography. It was a position of prominence and power, earning James close ties with luminaries from many venues, including show business.

By this time, Doris had sung with different choirs and had developed a reputation for the quality of her voice. At a meeting of the Authors Club, which she attended with her father, Doris was invited to sing, delivering a very impressive performance.

Among the attendees was the renowned Victor Herbert, who had been a superb cellist in Europe, having played in the orchestra of Johann Strauss. In America, he worked at the Metropolitan Opera and became a famed composer and conductor. Like many other stars, Victor maintained a home in Lake Placid.

Her performance before the Authors Club wowed Herbert, and though Doris was only sixteen years old, he decided to cast her in the stage musical Princess Pat. The show opened on Broadway in the Cort Theatre, and Doris’ stage debut as the character Coralee Bliss was a big success. The movie industry soon showed an interest in her. (Apparently for her acting skills, and not for her lovely voice. The silent film era wouldn’t give way to talkies for another 14 years.)

Doris couldn’t resist the opportunity. She left a promising stage career to appear as Effie MacKenzie in The Rack (Milton Sills was the leading star), which was released in December 1915. That performance earned her the lead role in Pawn of Fate, released in February 1916. Within a month, Worldwide Film Corporation signed Doris to an exclusive three-year contract at $50,000 a year ($1 million per year in today’s dollars) … and she was still a teenager!

Despite her youth, Doris displayed maturity with her newfound wealth, donating to projects like the Childrens’ Home in Plattsburgh. She supported the troops during World War I, subscribing to $50,000 worth of Liberty Bonds, the highest amount of any actress in show business.

Under her new contract, Doris played the leading role in many movies. In 1917, after making A Hidden Hand for Plathe Films, she formed her own company, De Luxe Pictures. The crew stayed at the Lake Placid Club while filming its first project, The Story of Seven Stars.

As life became more hectic, Doris returned frequently to her childhood roots in Ausable Forks, spending time with Raymond. She and her brother shared an affinity for fox hunting, a very popular pastime in those days. Raymond’s camp on Silver Lake was one of Doris’ favorite places, and there she hosted luminaries from show business and other industries.

Doris went on to star in nearly fifty silent films, including 1924’s Monsieur Bocaire with living legend Rudolph Valentino, and 1925’s A Thief in Paradise with Ronald Colman. During her long career, she played opposite all the great stars of the day, among them Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Bellamy, John Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Robert Young, and Adolph Menjou. Her fame was such that newborn Doris Kappelhoff (born in 1922) was named after Kenyon. Kappelhoff would gain great fame under her stage name, Doris Day.

One of the leading men in several of Kenyon’s movies became the leading man in her personal life. Milton Sills was a major star of the era, and he and Doris had performed together many times. In May 1926, Doris announced she had purchased her brother’s camp, and a few weeks later came an update—she and Milt Sills would soon marry … on the shores of Silver Lake!

The ceremony took place amidst the October splendor of the leaf color change, creating a sensational backdrop at the camp Doris called “Moose Missie.” And, as they honeymooned through the Adirondacks (two days in a suite of rooms in Agora at the Lake Placid Club), plus Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Park, workmen were completing a beautiful mansion on their sixty-acre estate in Hollywood, California.

The wedding had been announced in May 1926, but was delayed until October due to Doris being ill. (Seven months after the ceremony, she gave birth to a son, Kenyon Clarence Sills.) Following the wedding and lengthy honeymoon, Doris took some time off from acting, but returned soon to star in several movies with her husband. In effect, they were the industry’s “power-couple” of the day, starring in movies and receiving constant media coverage.

In 1929, they passed the summer at Silver Lake, where Milton was recovering from illness. Doris spent several weeks at the camp, but she also did about a month of vaudeville performances before the two of them returned to making movies. And, upon special request, she served in August as a judge for the baby parade and pageant in Lake Placid’s summer carnival.

In 1929, Doris gave a concert performance in New York City, confirming that she still had a great singing voice. At the same time, unlike many other silent-film stars, she smoothly transitioned into the world of “talkies,” remaining one of Hollywood’s top stars.

In September 1930, tragedy struck Doris’ life. Shortly after playing tennis with his family, Milton Sills, 48, suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack. Doris, just 33 at the time, was devastated by the loss, and buried herself in work to help ease the pain.

She had been recognized in the past for other skills—writing, poetry, and as a pianist—but it was singing that Doris really missed. Plans had already been made for a return to regular concert performances, and after the death of Sills, Doris went on a world tour. After many successful European shows, she returned to the United States with a renewed interest in her film career.

Through the 1930s, Doris remained a major movie star, appearing in at least fourteen more films. She was also quite busy on the marital front. First came Syracuse real estate broker Arthur Hopkins in 1933, a union that lasted only a few months (annulled). Next, Doris was married to Albert Lasker in 1938 for a year (divorced). Finally, she married Bronislav Mlynarski in 1947 (that one lasted twenty-four years, ending with Mlynarski’s death in 1971).

Through the WW II years, Doris again supported the troops by singing with the USO. In the 1950s, she acted in television shows, sang on the radio, and performed two roles in radio soap operas. From silent films to the advent of television, she had done it all.

It was an incredible career spanning the Metropolitan Opera, stage, screen, vaudeville, concerts, radio, poetry, television, and writing. She was a success at everything she tried (even marriage, in the end). One of Hollywood’s lasting stars, Doris Kenyon passed away from heart trouble in September 1979, just a few days shy of her 82nd birthday.

Top Photo: Poster from a Kenyon movie.

Middle Photo: Doris Kenyon in A Thief in Paradise.

Bottom Photo: Doris Kenyon collectible tobacco card.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Exotic Wildlife: Gators in the Adirondacks

In 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released the film Lake Placid. Despite the title, the story takes place on fictional Black Lake in Maine. The folks at Fox apparently figured the name of an internationally renowned Olympic site in New York might attract more attention than Black Lake, which was, after all, placid, just like the title said. Except for those times when a giant killer crocodile was thrashing on the surface, gulping down humans for lunch.

It was hard to tell which was less believable: that Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, and the legendary Betty White would sign on for such a project; that a movie based on such a far-fetched concept could make money; or that a member of the order Crocodilia could be found on any lake within 700 miles north of the Carolinas. If you’re a betting person, which is/are true?

The answers: Yes—Fonda, Pullman, and White (plus Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson) played the major roles in the movie. Yes, it earned money—nearly $32 million, enough to spawn Lake Placid 2 in 2007, and Lake Placid 3, scheduled for release on June 26, 2010. And yes, members of the order Crocodilia have lived recently in the north woods. All bets are winners!

The gator of Mirror Lake existed, appropriately enough, in the village of Lake Placid, and it scared the heck out of some very surprised tourists. I was once an avid fisherman, and before you take a fisherman’s word on something as ridiculous as this, it’s probably best to seek a higher authority, say, the New York Times. In 1903, they ran a story titled “Alligator in Lake Placid.”

That was two decades before “Lake Placid South” (Lake Placid, Florida) came into existence, so rest assured, the story applied to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. The tale in the Times began in early 1903 when the Stevens brothers, proprietors of the famed Stevens House, learned the answer to that age-old question, “What do you give someone who has everything?” The obvious answer: a reptile from the tropics, given to them as a gift by a friend who was returning from Florida.

A young alligator became the newest addition to the hotel’s amenities (deterrents?), housed temporarily in a bathtub. Around May, when ponds were open and the snow was melting, they made a decidedly non-tropical decision, releasing the gator into Mirror Lake. Frigid nights brought ice to the lake’s shallows, leaving only the slightest hope for the gator’s survival.

A few weeks later, on a warm, sunny day, appeared the oddest of sights at Mirror Lake—an alligator catching some rays on the beach. Because of its size, the gator posed little threat to humans, and the Stevens had a new attraction for patrons and curious northerners who, in the summer of ′03, hoped to glimpse the elusive newcomer.

Imagine the surprise of visitors a year later, innocently walking the shoreline of Mirror Lake in early summer, and stumbling upon an alligator! They reported their amazing find to management, who explained it was merely the Stevens’ family pet. (We can assume the Stevens housed it for the winter, but in warmer climes, gators can survive the cold in underground dens. Lake Placid’s temps would have provided a stern test of that system.)

Though the whole story seems like a once-in-a-lifetime tale, especially for those of us familiar with Adirondack wildlife, the Mirror Lake gator was not as unusual as you’d think. Similar incidents have occurred from Malone to Keeseville, and Ausable Forks to Ticonderoga. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it became fashionable to have exotic pets, and many small alligators were among those carried home from Florida to the Adirondacks. Most of them were less than two feet long. Some escaped from their owners, while others were released into the wild.

It’s unclear what became of the survivors, like the Mirror Lake alligator or the many pets kept by private individuals. Or the one at the Lake Placid Club in 1933. That’s another story that defies belief. George Martin, the swimming instructor at the club, captured (with help) a seven-foot alligator from southern Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. They wrapped the reptile’s huge jaws in wire and prepared to take him north.

How do you transport a 7-foot alligator 1,000 miles? By George’s reckoning, you crate it, lay the crate on the car’s running board (most cars had them back then), lash the gator’s tail to the car’s rear fender, and hit the road. Though the wires around his jaws were snipped, the animal refused to eat, but they did make frequent stops at gas stations to water him down. He was christened “Mike,” and the club made plans for a facility where the animal could spend the winter. In the meantime, he was kept among Jacques Suzanne’s menagerie about a mile south of the village.

On a few occasions in the North Country, folks have unexpectedly stumbled upon alligators, and it’s hard to imagine the shock of the moment. Unfortunately, the reaction was uniform: kill it. A young boy from Malone, startled with his find (an 18-inch gator), dispatched it with a rock.

Another alligator’s death begs the question “Why?” The story was reported in the Wells area in late October 1957. Two bow hunters were hoping to bag a buck, but they spied a 32-inch alligator treading water near a beaver dam. One of the men put an arrow into the gator just behind the head, killing it. It was assumed to have been a released pet surviving on its own. No one knew how long it had been there, or if it had denned and somehow weathered the previous winter. (Not likely.)

Back in 1924, a young gator in Keeseville survived as a pet for three years until a couple of barn cats settled a longstanding feud, dragging it from its tank, killing it after an intense battle, and partially devouring the carcass before the owners drove them off.

But not all the alligators in the Adirondacks met tragic ends. Some were part of a traveling show associated with the Seminole Indians of Florida. Virtually every Florida carnival and sideshow featured alligator wrestlers, and among the best was George Storm. In the 1950s, a complete Seminole village was set up at Michael Covert’s hotel in Wilmington, and part of the daily show that summer was Storm performing his specialty.

Considering the unknown fate of Lake Placid’s alligators, their known proclivity for longevity, and the movies by the same name, it might be a good idea during the Ironman Triathlon to count swimmers going into Mirror Lake as well as those coming out. Just in case.

Photo Above: Poster from the first Lake Placid movie.

Photo Below: The Stevens House as it looked when it hosted the alligator.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let’s Eat: Rockwell Kent’s Asgaard Dairy

In 1926 artist Rockwell Kent married Frances Lee, his second wife. An infamous womanizer, Kent made little effort to hide his affairs, even bringing some of his paramours home for dinner with his new bride. In less than a year, the Kent’s marriage was in serious trouble. To save the relationship, Rockwell and Frances agreed to leave New York City and move to a place with fewer temptations.

Frances found a perfect spot in the heart of the Adirondacks–an old farm near Ausable Forks with views of Whiteface. Kent remembered his first view of the property: “The nearer we got to the house the worse it looked; and when we finally came so close as to lose sight of its general proportional unsightliness we became only the more aware of its particular shoddiness.” Nevertheless, the couple purchased the property for $5,000. It was about 200 acres, the heart of the farm “being level meadowland, and the rest pine woods and pasture of a sort…Lock, stock, and barrel we had purchased our farm: the land, the buildings, the team, the cows and heifers, the wagons, implements, and tools.”

Within three weeks of purchasing the property, plans for a new house and barn were complete, and within five weeks contractors had poured the concrete foundations. By snowfall, the buildings were under roof. Kent named the farm “Asgaard,” meaning the “farm of the gods” in Nordic myth. He painted the name in four-foot-high letters on the barn.

The property came complete with a tenant farmer on site. Kent purchased a local milk route, and hired the man to manage the dairy operation. The business of farming did not prove very profitable: “You’d think—I mean that people who have never owned a farm would think—that when a farmer, paying his own taxes and all his costs of operation, can earn enough to live, he’d earn at least as much when someone else pays his taxes and his costs for him, not to mention a salary. But it’s funny about farming…It just doesn’t work out that way.” Kent persisted, finding satisfaction in making his land productive, if not entirely profitable.

During World War II, Kent aided the war effort by doubling Asgaard’s milk production, increasing the size of his herd of Jersey cows, enlarging the barn, and installing a bottling plant so he could sell directly to local customers.

In 1948, Kent’s business ran afoul of local political sentiment when he organized a chapter of the leftist American Labor Party. After distributing political leaflets in Ausable Forks, his customers began canceling orders, one of them saying, “We don’t want Russian milk.” The local Catholic priest visited his workers, telling them to quit and asking them if they were Communists. After losing two employees and the major portion of his customers, Kent gave his entire business to two of his remaining employees and asked them to move it off the property as quickly as possible. When he and Frances received death threats, and a warning that “Someday they’ll be up to burn him out,” friend Billy Burgess watched the property armed with two guns.

The national press picked up the story of the controversy, and although Kent estimated that the incident cost him $15,000, the resulting publicity for the American Labor Party was well worth it. Kent himself decided to run for Congress on the American Party ticket, but to no one’s surprise, was not elected.

In 1969, lightening struck the house at Asgaard, and burned it to the ground. Rockwell and Frances rebuilt a smaller home on the site, where Kent, aged 87, died two years later. He is buried at Asgaard, under a slab of Vermont marble inscribed “This Is My Own.”

Come see Rockwell Kent’s milk bottle (2008.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

ADK Music Scene: Legends On Friday Night

Friday March 5 brings the musical legends to the Capital District. Dave Mason and Leon Russell are playing a show together at the Hart Theater at The Egg in downtown Albany. Dave Mason was a founding member of Traffic and recorded with other legends such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. Leon Russell has been touring since the 60’s and has been featured on more studio albums by major artists than you can shake a stick at. The same night, Richie Havens is at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady. Richie is of course most famous for his performance at Woodstock in 1969. If you’ve never been to Proctor’s, this would be a good night to go. The theater is absolutely beautiful and luckily has been saved from the wrecking ball more than once.

Thursday, March 4

Classic Rock / Reggae influenced Fingerdiddle is at Trapper’s Tavern in North Creek from 7-10pm. This is a fun two-piece band with a guitar and drummer. Look for them sometime Whitewater Derby weekend as well.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finger-Diddle/185969906157
http://www.copperfieldinn.com/events.asp

Friday, March 5

Another duo with guitar and drums – Sirsy is at The Putnam Den in Saratoga at 9pm. There is an opener.
http://www.sirsy.com/
http://www.putnamden.com/

Red Molly will be playing two shows at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, one at 7pm and one at 9:30pm. Caffe Lena’s website says they are “Called “a cross between the Dixie Chicks and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou’” this hot NYC trio blends their voices on irresistible songs by Gillian Welch, Iris DeMent and Hank Williams, adding in bluegrass standards, old-time southern gospel, and classic American tunes. You simply can’t hear them without falling in love.”
Tickets are $20 at the door.
http://www.redmolly.com
http://www.caffelena.com

Eat, Sleep, Funk plays at 20 Main in AuSable Forks at 10pm.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eat-Sleep-Funk/162026102287?v=info
http://www.myspace.com/20main

Dave Mason & Leon Russell at The Hart Theater at The Egg in Albany 7pm.
http://www.leonrussellrecords.com/
http://www.theegg.org/

Richie Havens at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady at 7pm.
http://www.theegg.org/
http://www.eighthstep.org/8thstep/Home.html

Tim Herron Corporation at Slicker’s in Old Forge at 9pm.
http://www.timherroncorporation.com/fr_index.cfm
http://www.myspace.com/slickers_tavern

Saturday, March 6

Tim Herron Corporation at the Monopole in Plattsburgh at 9pm.
http://www.timherroncorporation.com/fr_index.cfm
http://www.monopole.org/

Jimkata at The Putnam Den in Saratoga at 9pm.
http://www.myspace.com/jimkatamusic
http://www.putnamden.com

Jen Gadway is a solo singer/guitar player who will be playing at Laura’s Tavern in North Creek at 9pm.
http://www.laurastavern.com

Wednesday, March 10

Vinnie Leddick at barVino in North Creek at 7pm.
http://www.barvino.net

Photo: Courtesy of Leon Russell


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Great Vocalists, Big Band, Jazz and Classical

Were I to be in the area this week, I wouldn’t miss Annie and the Hedonists at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center on Saturday. This downstate bluesy folk band makes fantastic song choices and has a fabulous vocalist.

Another performance I would do my best to make is in North Creek, where wonderful vocalist is Maddy Walsh playing with Mike Suave at barVino, where I hear the food and ambiance alone are worth the trip. Here’s what we have to look forward to in the week ahead:

Thursday, February 18th:

In Canton, Open Mic at The Blackbird Cafe. This is a continuing talent contest and it starts at 7 pm.

Friday, February 19th:

In Potsdam, “An Evening with Elvis” with impersonator Joe Angerosa. The performance will be held at The Old Snell Auditorium starting at 6 pm with a $5 cover.

In Jay, JEMS Coffee House Series features Jazz Saxaphonist, Jonathan Lorentz. The performance is from 7 – 9 pm at The Amos and Julia Ward Theatre.

In Potsdam, The Count Basie Orchestra will perform from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. They will be at the Helen Hosmer Concert Hall at SUNY Potsdam.

Saturday, February 20th:

In Lake Placid, Annie and the Hedonists will be performing at 8 pm. They will be at The Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center. They are a very good band.

In Ausable Forks, Capital Zen plays at 20 Main. Show starts at 9 pm.

In North Creek, Fingerdiddle performs at Laura’s Tavern starting at 9 pm. I know nothing about these folks except that they must have been liked because they’ve been asked back to the same venue within the same month. That’s a good sign.

In Lake Placid, Raisonhead is at Zig Zags starting at 9 pm.

Sunday, February 21st:

In Potsdam, The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD Encore of “Der Rosenkavalier” . This held at the Roxy Theater from 1-5:30 pm.

In North Creek,Suave and Maddy play barVino. They’re on from 5 – 7 pm.

Wednesday, February 24th:

In Canton, The Manhattan Piano Trio will play at St. Lawrence University from 7 pm. Free admission at The Underground.

Photo: Annie and Jonny of Annie and the Hedonists.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Winter Carnival Concerts, Irish Session

Another wonderful week of the Saranac Winter Carnival. There is music every night. Tonight, Jeff Bujak is a rarity in this area – he bills himself as “Intelligent Dance Music” – from his videos that sounds accurate.

My favorite new live band from Vermont is Jatoba, click on this link to hear one of their cool tunes called “Blizzard”. They are opening for Hot Day at the Zoo. Oh, I also adore Lucid and they are the special guests of Raisinhead on Saturday. Check out their tune “Po Man’s” by clicking on their myspace link.

Thursday, February 11th:

In Saranac Lake, Jeff Bujak, the intelligent dance music specialist, is at The Waterhole starting at 9 pm.

Friday, February 12th:

In Saranac Lake, Jatoba opens anywhere from 8 to 9:30 pm (depends on which website you check in with) for Hot Day At The Zoo at The Waterhole. If you click on this link you’ll see a cute video of Hot Day doing “I Saw Her Standing There”.

In Ausable Forks, “Jesus Loves Tractors” and Sven Curth. He gets going around 9 pm at 20 Main.

Saturday, February 13th:

In Saranac Lake the Band Concert follows the parade in the Harrietstown Hall. This is a fun event where the bands that you just saw a glimpse of as they passed by now get to strut their stuff on stage. Fantastic energy in the Town Hall for those ready to be inside for awhile.

In Saranac Lake after the parade, Los Blancos is playing at The Waterhole starting at 3 pm. “I Miss Your Water” is a hot song.

Late night Saranac Lake, Raisinhead with special guest Lucid is getting it on at The Waterhole starting around 8:30 pm.

Sunday, February 14th:

In Saranac Lake, Tim Herron will be at The Waterhole at 3 pm. This man’s lyrics are so bloody honest it’s a little hard to take – in a good way.

Also in Saranac Lake, Irish Music at Pendragon from 5 – 7 pm. The musicians are: Michael Cooney on uilleann pipes, Sue Grimm on flute s and whistles, Kyle Murray on bodhran, Jeff Couture on fiddle, Barry Kilbourne on concertina and Shamim Allen on rhythm guiatr.

Wednesday, February 17th:

In North Creek, The Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip will be at barVino. Show starts at 7 pm.

Photo: Jatoba


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moby Dick and the Adirondacks

Long ago there were whales at the edge of the Adirondacks, but it wasn’t till last year that I saw one myself—the same day our trail was blocked by a bull moose, another creature I’ve yet to see here. This wild kingdom was on Gaspe peninsula, Quebec. The whale left a huge impression, as did Moby Dick. I can’t pretend to have read this engrossing however longass 1851 book, but I listened to it on tape during that trip, and it took another week to finish it. So it was as unexpected as a water spout to spy a poster announcing that Pendragon Theatre, in Saranac Lake, is staging the story this weekend.

Pendragon’s Web site has an explanation. “Moby Dick Rehearsed is a play that attempts to turn the 800-page novel into a two-hour play,” says director Karen Kirkham of Dickinson College. “That in itself is a feat to admire. Orson Welles’s 1955 play is little known. Even less known is Welles’s repeated opinion in interviews later in life that the play ‘is my finest work—in any form.’”

The show is at 7:30 Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21, at and 2 p.m. Sunday, November 22. Tentative performances in December are Dec. 4 at 7:30 and Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. The production will tour schools and arts centers around the region until March. Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for seniors and students; $10 for age 17 and under. Pendragon is at 15 Brandy Brook Avenue. For information and reservations, contact Pendragon Theatre (518) 891-1854 or pdragon@northnet.org.

A 1930 edition of Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent, who lived in Ausable Forks, is credited as a factor in the novel’s rediscovery. You can see Kent’s powerful pen and ink drawings at this link to the Plattsburgh College Foundation and Art Museum, to whom many of Kent’s works were bequeathed by his widow, Sally Kent Gorton. The 1930 printing was first offered as a limited edition of 1,000 copies in three volumes held in metal slipcases. AntiQbook is offering a set for $9,500—something for the Christmas list.

Cover of the 1930 Chicago, Lakeside Press edition of Moby Dick, illustrated by Rockwell Kent


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Asgaard Dairy Takes National and State Honors

Goat’s milk cheeses from Asgaard Dairy of Au Sable Forks collected second place awards in National and New York State competitions earlier this month. Such achievements in the first full year of production took owners Rhonda Butler and David Brunner and cheesemaker Kirsten Sandler by surprise.

At the National Cheese Society annual meeting in Austin, Texas, August 7, the dairy took silver for its goat’s milk feta. “It’s kind of like the Academy Awards of cheese,” said Butler. Last week at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, the placing entry was a fresh chevre with cilantro, hot pepper and garlic—all from the Asgaard garden.

Butler and Brunner, with help from daughter Johanna operate the dairy from the iconic Adirondack farm once owned by artist and political activist Rockwell Kent. They retail their cheeses and a new line of goat’s milk soap direct from the farm, at farm markets in Elizabethtown, Keene and Lake Placid, and at natural food markets in Keene, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Lake Placid Lodge also features Asgaard’s “Whiteface” chevre on its menu.

Looking forward, this year the family plans to add ten more milking goats to their herd of twenty. The sudden success arrives at a bittersweet moment: the family lost one of their original two goats—Kelly (pictured above with Johanna)—this spring.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cold Spring Granite Company Looks To Expand

Neighbors of the Cold Spring Granite Company recently received notice from the Adirondack Park Agency that the company hopes to expand its quarry in Au Sable Forks. Cold Spring Granite is one of the largest stone manufacturers in the world and it continues to thrive, even in this tough economy. (In fact they are currently looking to hire a hand polisher and installer – apply in person at 13791 Route 9N in Au Sable Forks).

Cold Spring Granite supplies products ranging from building facing, to countertop slabs, grave markers, and mausoleums. It has been privately held by the Alexander family for three generations. Cold Spring (of Minnesota) established the (subsidiary) Lake Placid Granite Company in 1957. Local residents complained over the mine’s expansion by 25 percent in 1988.

Here is the APA’s project description:

The project is a greater than 25% expansion of pre-1973 mineral extraction (Quarry) with a 70.10± acre life of mine. The applicant proposes the extraction of a maximum of 10,500 cubic yards of consolidated mineral, on an annual basis during a five year permit term in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation permit. A total of 41.60± acres will be affected in the next five year term. The proposed mining operation will operate year-round, May 1-September 30, Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday’s 7:00 a.m. to 12 noon, and October 1- April 30, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 400 p.m., and Saturday’s 7:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Proposed blasting hours are year round Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Crushing and breaking of rock will occur during hours of operation. There will be no rock crushing, rock breaking, or blasting on Saturdays. On occasion there will 24 hour operations for the cutting of stone. The equipment to be used in the mining operation includes front-end loaders, bulldozers, dump trucks and portable rock crusher, excavators, generators and rock cutting saws.

The quarry shares a border with the Ausable Acres residential community. Public comments are being taken until July 23, 2008 and should be addressed to:

Michael P. Hannon
Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
(518)891-4050

Include the Project Number (2008-229) in any correspondence.


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