In late December, the rustic red barn that stood at the intersection of Routes 73 and 9N in Keene was taken down by the Department of Environmental Conservation after it became hazardous.
Although not an officially-recognized historic landmark, many who have traveled through Keene saw the barn, with its majestic High Peaks in the background, as a quaint countryside icon.
Since it came down, folks have waxed nostalgic while mourning the abrupt loss of this unassuming structure. I decided to dig into the barn’s history and see if there was more to it than met the eye. » Continue Reading.
The colorful name Devil’s Kitchen has been used in numerous book titles, restaurant names, and for hiking destinations in at least seven states. Close to home in upstate New York, we have a Catskill version, described here as “quite possibly the most hellacious [bicycle] climb in New York State.” The same area, with cliffs, numerous waterfalls, and slippery slopes, has seen many hiker deaths as well.
But there’s another Devil’s Kitchen farther north, located about midway on Route 9 between Chestertown and Warrensburg. Despite lacking the cliffs and stunning landscapes featured at other identically named places, deaths have occurred at the Adirondack site—which today exists in name only. » Continue Reading.
Work on the Lake George Gateway project along Route 9 in the town of Lake George is expected to be largely complete by this fall, while minor work is expected to continue into June, 2017.
The $6.95 million project, designed by the town of Lake George and administered and constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation, is making streetscape improvements for users of all modes of transportation along one mile of Route 9, east of Adirondack Northway Exit 21. The work includes the installation of shared-use and designated bike lanes, new sidewalks, landscaping, raised center medians with pedestrian refuge areas, new lighting, crosswalks and drainage. » Continue Reading.
An effort latter this month hopes to gather public input about how to diversify and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the what organizers are calling the “Great South Woods” – a more than 2 million-acre area of public and private lands in the southern Adirondack Park that includes parts of Oneida, Herkimer, Hamilton, Fulton, Saratoga, Warren, and Essex Counties.
The driving forces behind this new initiative have been Bill Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). » Continue Reading.
On the heels of the passage of Proposal 5 last November to sell 200 acres of Forest Preserve to NYCO Minerals, Inc., state agencies and NYCO are now going for broke in new permit applications for a massive expansion of NYCO’s two mines in the Town of Lewis. At the December 2013 meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) there was unanimous cheering among the APA Board and senior leadership over passage of Proposal 5. In those same weeks, NYCO began its applications to expand its two mines in Lewis.
NYCO is seeking major expansions of both mines. With its political fortunes at an all-time high, the time is right to permanently change the scale of its mining activities in the Champlain Valley. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Pub and Brewery owner John Carr has announced that he is purchasing the four-acre lot on Route 9 owned by the Off-Track Betting Corporation for $1.25 million. Carr’s immediate plans for the property include expanding Adirondack’s brewing and bottling operations and building the first whiskey distillery in Lake George. OTB will continue to operate a betting parlor at the site until it secures a new location, according to Carr.
With the construction of a new plant on the property, Carr expects his brewing and bottling capacities to triple. “We look forward to seeing our Adirondack beers being sold in every county of the state,” he said. Once the expansion is complete, Adirondack Brewery is expected to produce 35,000 barrels of beer a year. Carr said the project will take five years to complete and cost approximately $5 million. » Continue Reading.
Sticks & Stones Bistro & Bar in Schroon Lake was just a twinkle in the eyes of owners Steve Holmes and Gary Tromblee when we were wrapping up the selection of our favorite bars in the Adirondack Park. The doors opened at the same time as our book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, hit the market. We recently visited Sticks & Stones and walked away knowing they were a “High Peak” in our book. A Happy Hour MacNaughton. » Continue Reading.
The 1924 sign law that effectively banned billboards throughout the Adirondack Park shows how our forbearers were braver, wiser, and more prescient than we are today.
It was a bold decision that resulted, by some accounts, in the removal of over 1,400 billboards. In the Adirondack Park this law largely prevented an assault of rooftop and roadside billboards that dominate broad stretches of the U.S. – the cluttered strips of Anywhere USA. » Continue Reading.
As part of Queensbury’s 250th anniversary celebration, the Chapman Museum has opened a new exhibit, Queensbury’s Boom: from Country to Suburb. The exhibit explores the post World War Two development of Queensbury from a rural township to a bustling community.
Using materials gleaned from archives at the Chapman, the Queensbury Town Historian, Crandall Public Library Center for Folklife, History and Culture, and the Warren County Records Center, the exhibit features the history of early housing tracts such as Cottage Hill, the first shopping centers on Upper Glen, the Queensbury school, the Warren County Airport, and popular tourist attractions that sprang up along Route 9. » Continue Reading.
Witherbee’s Carriage House Restaurant, on Route 9 in Schroon Lake, is a bar, restaurant and a museum of local history. From the display of various wagons and wheels surrounding the structure to the collection of wheeled conveyances inside, the title “carriage house” is an understatement. There’s even a little red Gore gondola hanging on the building! With so many antiques, farm implements, Adirondack region memorabilia and assorted other wonders, it was hard to focus on our mission. The bar is located in the loft upstairs, and even the stairs, solid and obviously aged, spoke of times of true craftsmanship. Kim’s attention was immediately drawn to the vast collections occupying every barn-board wall, corner, crevice and rafter. Old photographs, woodworking tools and vintage advertising adorn the walls. Suspended from the beams above, unbelievably, are an antique carriage, a harness sulky, a sulky hay rake and a Victorian highwheel bicycle. The loft is open, spacious, well lighted and, while packed full with “stuff”, appears uncluttered and notably dust deficient. Witherbee’s closes for its annual Clean-up Close-down two weeks before Thanksgiving in order to give the place a thorough scrubbing and general sprucing up, something we feel more establishments should consider.
It was the drink specials board that caught Pam’s attention, boldly offering the Pamatini. She knew what she was having to drink! The Pamatini, consisting of pomegranate vodka, cranberry juice and lime, turned out to be a misspelled Pometini, but that didn’t spoil Pam’s enthusiasm or the cocky swagger in her attitude when she discovered a namesake cocktail. Two other drinks were featured, namely the Moose Milk and the Nut Cracker. The Moose Milk is made with Jameson whiskey, maple syrup and milk, and is very popular at Witherbee’s. The Nut Cracker is vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s and Frangelico.
Patty and Bill Christian have owned Witherbee’s for four years. We had the pleasure of meeting Patty and the bartender, Amanda, who filled us in on some of the history of Witherbee’s. Converted from a barn that was part of the Edgewater Resort, the restaurant was originally known as Witherbee’s in the 1960s, then Terrio’s for 28 years. When Patty and Bill bought it, they felt a nostalgic need to restore the original name. We commented on the vast collection on display and Patty told us that they had to remove several truckloads of similar items. It was hard to imagine there having been even more.
Witherbee’s attracts a variety of clientele. It’s a favorite of locals, summer people and those just passing through. Friday night bands bring in their own fan base, fundraisers draw locals, open mic night rounds them up from as far away as Lake Placid and Ballston Spa. Witherbee’s even has its own song, written by local musician and open mic night host Mark Piper, called Witherbee’s Blues. As we were concluding our observations and interview, a man and woman joined us at the bar. The man, eyeing us strangely (we get that sometimes) and with a glimmer of recognition, said he knew us. Never having been recognized in this particular role, we were pleased to finally make the acquaintance of the North Country and Hudson Valley Rambler, Joe Steiniger, local food and wine blogger extraordinaire. Joe was one of our first fans and, to show our appreciation for his support, he was crowned with one of our few remaining Happy Hour in the High Peaks hats.
Witherbee’s Carriage House Restaurant is well-known for its Big Ass steak and homemade soups, as much as for the Moose Milk, and all of the restaurant menu items are available in the loft. We shared a heaping plate of nachos, one of the most generous portions we’ve seen. The main restaurant area is downstairs and is smaller and more intimate. The bar seats 9 to 10 people, but the large upstairs has a dozen additional tables for relaxing or dining. A pool table is comfortably out of the way.
During the summer, Witherbee’s is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to close. During the winter, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Sunday, and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They host an open mic night every Thursday and feature live entertainment every Friday in the summer and every other Friday during winter months. Witherbee’s hosts fundraisers, holiday parties and even a Murder Mystery dinner. Happy Hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. feature $3.00 drafts, but weekly themed drinks are available anytime. The snowmobile trail system leads right to the back door and riders have been known to fill a thermos with Moose Milk before mounting their sleds. Witherbee’s is open all year except for New Years Day, Easter, the two weeks before Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Add Witherbee’s to the list of not-to-be-missed.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
Of all the businesses in Lake George Village, only a few have been owned and operated by the same family for fifty years or more.
That short list includes Fort William Henry, the Lake George Steamboat Company, the Stafford Funeral Home and Mario’s.
Those businesses were joined this year by the Tom Tom Shop, the Canada Street gift and souvenir shop founded in 1960 by Sam and Dorothy Frost and owned today by their son, Doug Frost. “To have survived fifty years, that’s something to be proud of,” said Doug Frost. “Of course, I’m proud that I’ve been able to carry on a business started by my family. And I’m even more proud of what got us here. You don’t survive for fifty years without earning the trust of your customers, your vendors and the community.”
Those relationships begin with the customers, many of whom visited the shop in its early years and still return, first bringing their children and now returning with their grandchildren.
“The same families come in to shop summer after summer, generation after generation,” says Doug’s sister, Dorothy Muratori, who works in the store in the summers.
A gift shop in a resort village is unlike anything found in a suburban mall or on a city street, says Frost.
“People want something that will remind them of the experience of being on Lake George,” he said
Shopping at the Tom Tom Shop, he said, becomes a memorable experience in itself, one that draws people back.
“We’re here to make people happy,” he said.
Although the Tom Tom Shop sells a variety of gifts and souvenirs, it’s best known for its Native American jewelry, art, crafts and clothing.
“That’s part of our identity, but it’s also what appeals to people. Maybe people connect with Native American arts and crafts because it compensates them for the lack of connection with environment,” said Frost.
The Frosts’ interest in Native American arts and crafts began with Sam Frost’s mother, Loretta Frost.
She made annual trips out west to collect pottery and jewelry. In 1952, she helped Sam and Dorothy Frost start Indian Village, a Lake George attraction on Bloody Pond Road.
“Every summer, we brought entire families of Hopi, Chippewa or Sioux Indians to Lake George, where they would live until Labor Day,” said Sam Frost.
Rather than a theme park, Indian Village was an encampment that people could visit, watch ritual dances and ceremonies and listen to Native Americans discuss their history and lives, Sam Frost explains.
Indian Village burned in 1958. In 1955, the Frosts opened a souvenir shop called the Indian Trading Post on Route Nine.
Before the Northway was built, Route Nine was, of course the gateway to Lake George and the Adirondacks, and the Trading Post’s Teepee was a famous roadside attraction.
But according to Sam Frost, owners of attractions on Route 66 told him that the approaching interstate would divert most of his traffic, and he began looking for a shop in Lake George Village.
The Mayard Hotel burned in 1959, and in 1960 Lake George’s first mall opened on the site.
The Frosts leased the mall’s largest and most prominent store, the one fronting Canada Street. (Doug Frost now owns the mall and the adjacent parking lot.)
“Customers’ tastes haven’t changed that much since the store first opened,” said Sam Frost. “We used to sell a lot of Reservation jewelry, but that’s become too expensive.”
“I don’t buy what I want, but what I know my customers will want,” said Doug Frost.
“The most difficult thing in the retail business is the ability to make changes, to be able to look at something and know if it will appeal to your customers. If I know what I’m doing, it’s because I learned it from my parents,” Doug Frost said.
Frost has worked at the store from the moment he could be of use, he said.
“I grew up in the business; my father said I should learn the business from the bottom up, and I did, working in the stock room, marking merchandise, stocking the shelves. I learned every aspect of the business. Once you put every aspect together, you can run a business successfully,” he said.
Frost also learned from his father that running a business is a full-time commitment.
“Dad always said, you have to be there, in the shop, or you’ll discover you have partners you didn’t know existed,” he said.
But however committed Frost is to his business, he recognizes the value of the slower-paced off-season.
“We’re blessed,” he said. “We stay open year round, but I still have time for my family and the community. And we’re on Lake George, the most beautiful place on earth.”
They call it “Crazy Corners” or “Spaghetti Junction” or “Dysfunction Junction.”
For years I’ve driven through the unique, bizarre intersection at Routes 9 and 73 in New Russia, a hamlet of Elizabethtown. For years, I’ve wondered: who on earth designed this crazy confluence, and why?
Today, the route gets about 3,200 vehicles per day, according to the state Department of Transportation, many of which are occupied by hikers, climbers or skiers heading to the High Peaks.
Those who see it for the first time are usually, at least, surprised. When Route 73 hits Route 9, the lanes split off in separate directions, crossing each other in a crazed and seemingly random pattern before coming together again. Even after driving through it for 20 years, I still get confused about where to look for oncoming traffic. After another surreal experience driving through Dysfunction Junction recently, I decided to investigate. Whose idea was this, anyway, and what’s the point?
My first stop was Peter VanKeuren, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation in Albany. After a little research, he explained that the intersection was built in 1958, using a design that has been instituted (with slightly variations) in other areas, such as Cairo down in the Catskills. That was already news to me, because I always thought it had something to do with preparations for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
According to an engineering book at the time, the design is a “bulb type-T intersection” that “favors the heavier right-turn movement from the upper to the lower left leg of the intersection. Sight distances are excellent and approach speeds are approximately 40 miles per hour.”
VanKeuren, however, was unable to explain why this intersection was chosen for this spot. The Cairo intersection, which I’ve driven through on numerous occasions, involves lanes that are already divided, so it’s less jarring. The New Russia intersection, on the other hand, is just a simple, two-lane country road.
A conversation with Conrad “Connie” Hutchins, historian for E-Town, shed some more light.
The intersection, he reminded me, was built long before the Northway, which was wasn’t completed until the late 1960s. Of course!
Before the Northway, Route 9 was the main artery between Albany and Montreal. The road was filled with motels and restaurants to accommodate the traffic. And the previous intersection — a simple stop sign — would occasionally back up with cars, according to locals alive at the time.
“Route 9 was busy,” Hutchins said of the time. “It would be a real mess if we had the traffic now that we had then.”
Taking that into account, this intersection makes sense for the time. The design allows Route 9 traffic to flow through without stopping, while anyone continuing on 73 would have to wait. Nowadays, they’d probably throw in a roundabout instead, but in the 1950s such an idea would have been seen as so foreign.
At the time the intersection opened, locals didn’t really take much notice of it, said Nancy Doyle, whose husband Walter worked on its construction. “If you follow the signs, it’s no big deal,” she said.
Calvin Wrisley, 61, a lifelong resident of the town, says he doesn’t remember any bad accidents occurring there. “I think it’s fairly safe.”
Of course, now the intersection makes less sense. Most traffic is heading not northeast on Route 9, but northwest on 73 — especially on weekends. And today’s drivers, used to traffic circles and traffic lights, are often flummoxed when they are confronted with this intersection for the first time.
Looking back, the choice certainly seems at least a bit short-sighted. After all, plans for the Northway were already underway when this intersection was being constructed. Did no one think: “Hey, when the Northway opens, traffic on Route 9 will be totally different…”
Still, if it’s any consolation, the state won’t be using this design anymore. Not because it’s unsafe or, yes, dysfunctional. But for another reason, says VanKeuren: it takes up too much space.
Alan Wechsler is a freelance writer living in the Capital Region of New York. He is a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks.
Plans are afoot for a large hotel on the shores of Schroon Lake in Essex County, according to the project’s manager Joel J. Friedman of Friedman Realty in Schroon Lake. “Over the next few months we will be refining the project,” Friedman told the Almanack via e-mail, “a final version of the exterior and landscape plan is a month or two away.” The hotel, which is to be located on Route 9 a half-mile south of Schroon Lake Village, is expected to include approximately 81 rooms and suites, meeting rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center. The project’s developers hope to begin construction this spring or summer but, Friedman said, “In this economy that may or may not happen; we will know more in one to two months.” The entity that hopes to build the hotel, Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC- Schroon Lake Hospitality, was awarded $975,000 in October 2009 from the Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund designed to revitalize New York’s Upstate economy. The $120 million Fund, announced by Governor David Paterson in May 2009, “supports projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. “This first round of funding finances business investment, infrastructure upgrades and downtown redevelopment.”
Over the past several decades, in part due to the construction of the Adirondack Northway (I-87) which diverted north-south traffic from Route 9, Schroon Lake has lost most of it’s tourist accommodations. Friedman however, cites “the dramatic increase in the value of waterfront and real estate properties,” as the root cause, “further exacerbated by a lack of investment into the existing motel stock by some folks over the past few decades.”
“In a small community like Schroon Lake,” Friedman told the Almanack, “it is the churn of tourist dollars that is the key to keeping these [main street Schroon Lake Village] businesses successful.” “It is projected that this hotel will provide almost 20,000 tourist nights,” he added, “that alone will have a significant impact to Schroon’s and our neighboring communities’ economies.”
A number of studies since the 1970s have argued for the need for improved lodging facilities in Schroon Lake including the Town of Schroon’s 1977 Comprehensive Plan (produced by Environmental Consulting Groups, Inc.) and an Adirondack Park Agency (APA) study prepared for the town that same year. The APA study concluded that the town should “Make provisions for the continued growth of commercial recreation by such means as taking steps to extend the recreational season by providing other activities and encouraging a major chain to locate a motel in Schroon.”
Local critics of the plan have noted that Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC- Schroon Lake Hospitality is not listed in the NYS Division of Corporations index of corporations and business entities. This is not uncommon for new projects according to Friedman who said that the LLC’s name was filed in December and it’s Articles of Incorporation were filed early this year. The principles of the corporation are David & Jane Kaufman and Roger & Joel Friedman.
Photo: Proposed Schroon Lake Hotel, photo provided by developers.
The Adirondack Journal reported this week that Warren County supervisors “derailed” (pun apparently intended) a local tourist railroad development project by voting to pay a consultant for the design of two of the railroads train stations at Hadley and Thurman. Looking around the net, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is going on, but it seems as though the county may be dragging its feet on the plan to improve the long neglected Delaware and Hudson RR tracks between Corinth in Saratoga County and North Creek, near the Gore Mountain Ski Area.
NY State Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn definitely is, when he announced $20 million in rail funding last week to go toward 15 projects statewide, extending the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake was not on the list. In December 2006, former George Pataki had promised $5 million to make the 26 miles of track between the two villages passable. » Continue Reading.
The sandy beach landing at Eagle Point in Pottersville on Schroon Lake was probably used as a campsite for thousands of years. A short road along the point was already improved for at least 20 years before it was purchased by the State of New York in 1928. Over the next year the state built the Eagle Point Campground with 64 improved sites along a one mile stretch between Route 9 (the International Highway) and the lake – another eight sites were added later.
It now has hot showers, flush toilets, pay telephones, and a small quarters for the DEC caretaker. It’s also a favored spot for some of the folks over at Scream and Fly.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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