To the casual observer, the Lake George Steamboat Company’s marine railway near the foot of the lake is unlikely to conform to any preconceived notion of a historic site.
Built in 1927 by Crandall Dry Dock Engineers, it’s a utility, used to haul vessels in and out of Lake George for repair, maintenance and storage.
But in the 19th century, almost every harbor on the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada had similar railways, almost all built by Crandall Dry Dock Engineers; the Crandall railway at Hart Bay is, according to New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, among the few that remain intact and in operation today.
The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has, therefore, recommended that the railway be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The Board cast its votes when it met in March in New York, where it recommended adding thirty nine sites to the registers, including Fort George in Lake George.
“These nominations reflect many of the varied commercial, agricultural, political and social movements that have shaped New York State,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Bringing recognition to these properties will help us to preserve and illuminate important components of New York State history.”
According to Bill Dow, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, the entire marine railway complex, which includes 390 feet of track under water, the cradle and the gears in the small frame head house, was nominated for the registers.
“Without the marine railway, the Lake George Steamboat Company could not have continued to operate through the Depression and the post-War eras,” said Dow.
According to Dow, the railway was constructed to haul the Sagamore from the lake for repairs.
On July 1, 1927 the Sagamore rammed the point of Anthony’s Nose, and began to sink. The captain, John Washburn of Ticonderoga, ordered that the hole in the hull be stuffed with mattresses. He then sailed her into Glenburnie, where she discharged her passengers, and then beached her in a small cove. After repairs were made at Hart Bay, she was refurbished, launched again in May 1928, and sailed for another five years.
According to the State Board of Historic Preservation, the Crandall Marine Railway complements the Lake George Steamboat Company’s Mohican, which was placed on the registry of Historic Places two years ago.
“Together, the railway and the excursion boat recall the nearly two century history of pleasure boating on one of the Adirondack Regions’ largest and most popular and accessible tourist destinations,” the State Board noted.
The Lake George Steamboat Company is now preparing an application to place the former Lake George train station on the registers of historic places.
Like the Steamboat Company, the station was owned by the D&H railroad, which built the station in 1909 in the same Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture as its nearby hotel, the Fort William Henry.
“The Lake George Steamboat Company represents America, or the America of the past, as few companies do,” said Bill Dow. “We feel a responsibility to honor that past by preserving our legacy.”
Photo: Mohican at marine railway.
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