Posts Tagged ‘Saranac Lake’

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Donnelly’s Ice Cream

A choice is something we (as Americans) are used to getting but with Donnelly’s Ice Cream the one thing you don’t get to decide is the flavor of the day. As the Donnelly’s motto attests, “Please pick a size, the flavor has already been decided.”

Over the years that we’ve lived in the Adirondack Park, Donnelly’s Homemade Ice Cream has been the only reason some groups we’ve led hiking in the High Peaks have made it down the mountain. A beacon to many a hiker, Donnelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is a social place as well as ice cream pit-stop at the four corners of Route 86 and 186, commonly known as Donnelly’s Corners, just minutes from Saranac Lake. It doesn’t seem to matter how weary we are on a hike off the mountain we can always manage to muster the energy for a cone of the flavor of the day. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Artists Reception: Great Camps and Rustic Lodges

The 7444 Gallery in Saranac Lake will host a ‘Meet the Artists’ opening reception Saturday, August 13 at 5 p.m. for f-Stop Fitzgerald and Richard McCaffrey. Their photographs will be on display until October 6.

The exhibit features more than 25 canvas-print photographs drawn from a book to be published by Rizzoli this fall, Adirondack Style: Great Camps and Rustic Lodges.

Adirondack Style describes the architecture, design, and natural beauty of Adirondack great camps and rustic camps. The structures make use of the materials readily available in the area — rough-hewn log exteriors that contrast with sometimes lavish and elegant interiors featuring intricate stonework and hand-carved furniture.



The book’s introduction is by Adirondack preservationist Dr. Howard Kirschenbaum; the foreward is by Laura S. Rice, chief curator of the Adirondack Museum; and text is by Adirondack Life contributors Jane Mackintosh and Lynn Woods.

Natural elements such as tree roots, twigs, and bark often played an integral part in the décor, and the simple yet elegant Adirondack chair has become an international symbol of leisure. Many camps had boathouses, teahouses, game rooms, and even bowling alleys, and several were designed by top architects of the era and incorporated their international influences: Pine Knot resembled a Swiss chalet; the architectural flourishes of Santanoni were Japanese-inspired; and The Hedges had Dutch doors.

Approximately forty of these extravagant camps survive, including ten that are National Historic Landmarks. Adirondack Style will feature thirty-seven of these camps, including Pine Knot, Uncas, and Sagamore, all of which were built for William West Durant, a pioneer of the Great Camp style; Wonundra, which was built for William Avery Rockefeller and his family; and White Pine, which President Calvin Coolidge once used as his Summer White House.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS:

f-Stop Fitzgerald is a noted photographer whose work has appeared in more than 100 periodicals, including Rolling Stone, GQ, Publishers Weekly, and The Village Voice. His collaboration with Stephen King, Nightmares in the Sky, was a national best seller.

Richard McCaffrey is currently staff photographer for The Providence Phoenix. He is represented by Getty Images and his work appears in numerous national and international books and publications.

7444 Gallery is on Depot Street, near Stewart’s and the train station.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Art and Photography: Saranac Lake ArtWalks

On July 8th, Mark Kurtz celebrated the Grand Opening of his new photography shop and studio at its new location, 82 Main Street in Saranac Lake, just in time for the 3rd Thursday ArtWalks that have a become such a popular summer tradition in Saranac Lake. This will be the second in a series of four this summer. And the next one is this Thursday, July 21st.

Kurtz has been a fixture in Saranac Lake for many years, where his uncluttered approach to scenic photography captures the imaginations of many visitors. His shop was originally further down Main Street, and now he can be found just a few doors down from Small Fortune Studio (at 76 Main) and the Adirondack Artists Guild (at 52 Main), two of the lynchpins of the ArtWalks events.

Some 26 artists and photographers participate in the self-guided tour that runs from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM. Start at any venue and do the in-town loop, and then hop in the car to visit some of the outlying venues like BluSeed Studios, where an interesting multidimensional sculpture exhibit opened earlier this month, featuring Ali Della Bitta and Native American inspired art by William J. Grant. There’s also the always hip Gallery 7444, featuring the works of artist, Sandy McDonald.

Kurtz has his own special exhibit of some of his clean architectural shots, his panoramic landscapes, and small themed collections of his best work, which offers a tremendous sense of form and movement. Long an advocate of the huge range offered by tradional darkroom work, Kurtz has recently begun working as often using digital processing techniques as well to create his stunning large prints. His connection to the Adirondacks and to the art community of Saranac Lake give his work a unique sense of integration of human and natural forms—so start your tour at his new photography studio to see it in person. This month, the Mark Kurtz studio also features the work of local painter, Matt Burnett.

The ArtWalks are great fun, with music, plenty of good food from local restaurants and a real sense of community. The artists will all share stories with you, and you will certainly want to return to the village by Lake Flower, Saranac Lake.

Ample parking is available on the streets as well as in lots off of Dorsey St. and between Broadway and Church Streets.

Photos courtesy Mark Kurtz Photography.

Linda J. Peckel explores the Adirondacks by following the arts wherever they take her. Her general art/writing/film/photography musings on can be found at her blog Arts Enclave.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Mark Wilson: Where Budgets Overlap, Redraw The Map

With the legislative season over, and as the Big Ugly and same sex marriage debates drift off into memory, and Senators and Assembly members scurry home to their Independence Day parades and summer vacations, a word or two of sanity and frugal budgeting in the quiet wake of the dysfunction that is New York State Politics.

For years now, politicians across the state have promoted cost savings through consolidation of services and the resulting efficiencies: neighboring school districts here, a coterminous village and town there, adjoining public works departments somewhere else. In the vast landscape that is our ongoing fiscal crisis (state, county & local budgets combined), these kinds of economic savings are small potatoes. Any legislator (or governor, for that matter) who is really serious about saving money and eliminating redundancy through consolidation needs to think bigger. Way bigger.

In short, it is time for our state leaders to throw away their microscopes and pick up their surveyors’ transits. It is time to redraw the map of entire counties and regions across New York.

By way of example, consider the Village of Saranac Lake, the poster hamlet for upstate geopolitical dysfunction: one village which overlaps two counties, three towns, two congressional districts, two State assembly districts, nestled high within the Adirondack Park. The inefficiencies are numerous, the taxes redundant, and governmental gridlock over almost any cost-saving measure is guaranteed.

Much of Saranac Lake’s overlapping political chaos dates to 1822, a time when the minds of Albany power brokers conjured up an Adirondacks populated by Wolverattlers, Grizzelopes and general outcasts from polite society. It seemed far easier to determine boundaries from the comfort of a down-state office using a straight edge on flat maps than to take into account more meaningful topographic boundaries such as watersheds, rivers and mountains. The region’s eventual settlement quite naturally followed these more practical constraints and the stage was set for the village’s perpetual governmental tug of war.

Quite recently, the mayor of Saranac Lake declared his village “the capital of the Adirondacks.” For all the scorn and derision this boast brought on, it might just be that he had a point. After all, like Saranac Lake on a grand scale, the Adirondack Park’s geography comprises two whole counties and parts of ten others. Portions of six congressional districts overlap the park. Likewise the park is partially represented by four state senators and six members of the assembly. The population and therefore power centers of all the overlapping political divisions lie outside the blue line, making it the political equivalent of a maple tree dangling a dozen sap buckets.

Attempts have been made over the years to redress the boundary chaos. As far back as 1913 Dr. Lawrason Brown of Saranac Lake proposed an eponymous county for the Adirondacks. Echos of this call for an administrative restructuring have been heard as recently as 2007. More recently a commission in the village of Saranac Lake has looked into changing the hamlet’s designation to a city, thereby seceding from its component township administrative zones. All these efforts have run athwart of deeply vested interests lying outside the proposed frontiers. It is abundantly clear that any change in the wasteful status quo will need to come from less subjective offices in Albany.

Part of the solution will soon rest in the hands of state legislators as they redraw congressional and state legislative districts. This is a prime opportunity to create representation more along lines of common interest and less along lines of political expediency. While this will not end the redundancy of the current county maps, in the Adirondacks at least it will guarantee that the interests of an important cultural, environmental and economic region is at the top of at least a few leaders’ agendas.

A far more productive solution to bureaucratic redundancy and a guarantee of long-term budget savings would be to redraw New York State’s county boundaries from scratch to more accurately reflect over three hundred years of settlement since westerners first began dividing the map. Such a plan is hard to imagine in a state that last saw a significant boundary change nearly eighty years ago. But in the age of GIS and Google Earth, there is less and less defense of lines that were drawn in the middle ages of manual cartography with little or no connection to the real world.

This Commentary first appeared in the Sunday Gazette of Schenectady


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Scenic RR Summer Events

There certainly is controversy about the Adirondack Scenic Railroad being a viable tourist attraction versus the tracks becoming an interconnecting bike path through the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.

Those that believe the expense, need and usage isn’t warranted are often pitted against nostalgic train riders who want to ride the rails. For now the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is running full steam ahead for the summer season. For parents wishing for a different type of experience, perhaps this is the way to go.

I have never been sure what made my son stop in his tracks when he heard a train’s whistle. Is it a taste of magic, new destinations or a promise of adventure? For us as we board the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and hear the conductor yell “Ready to button up,” it is a bit of each. With our busy lives this is one Adirondack family activity where we really do get to sit and watch clouds go by. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Historic Saranac Lake Unveiling Photo Exhibit

On June 22, 2011, Historic Saranac Lake will unveil a new John Black Room Exhibit, “The Little City in the Adirondacks: Historic Photographs of Saranac Lake.” Created in collaboration with the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, the exhibit features almost fifty framed historic photographs of Saranac Lake residents and buildings during the early part of the twentieth century.

The exhibit portrays a vibrant little city with a prospering and diverse economy. Saranac Lake grew quickly in the early 1900s to accommodate thousands of health seekers that came to the village seeking the fresh air cure for tuberculosis, made famous by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. The exhibit features the unique architecture of the village as well as photos of local residents at play and at work.

The photographs represent only small portion of the rich photo collection of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. Library curator, Michele Tucker graciously loaned the photos to Historic Saranac Lake, and a team of dedicated volunteers has worked to install the exhibit. Many of the photos were originally printed and framed by the late Barbara Parnass, who was one of the founding Board Members of Historic Saranac Lake in 1980.

The photograph exhibit replaces an earlier exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake. The exhibit will be on display for twelve months. Plans are underway for a new, comprehensive exhibit on Saranac Lake history to be installed in the John Black Room in 2012.

The Saranac Laboratory Museum opens June 22. The public is invited to visit the new photo exhibit and the laboratory museum space during regular hours through October 7, Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 to 2:00, or any time by appointment. Admission is $5 per person, members and children free of charge.

Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Room, Saranac Lake Free Library.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

USA Cycling Sanctioned Races This Weekend

Team Placid Planet, a cycling and multisport club based in Lake Placid and the High Peaks Region, will host the 4th Annual Wilmington-Whiteface Road Race on Saturday, June 11th and the 3rd Annual Saranac Lake Downtown Criterium (NYS Criterium Championships) on Sunday, June 12th. Both races are sanctioned by USA Cycling, the national cycling sanctioning body, and provide opportunities for men, women, and youth of a variety of experience levels as well as first-time racers to participate.

More than $4,600 in cash and merchandise prizes, medals and trophies will be awarded. A portion of the proceeds from the race will be donated to local charities in Wilmington and Saranac Lake. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spencer Boatworks Fire [UPDATE]

The building destroyed by fire Early Saturday morning at the Spencer Boatworks compound on Route 3 north of the Village of Saranac Lake was the large converted barn set back off the east side of the road (photos adapted from Google maps).

No full assessment of the damage has yet been released, though the Plattsburgh Press Republican cites a loss figure in the $2 million range. Spencer Boatworks hosts the annual Runabout Rendezvous, a classic boat show on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. This summer’s gathering is still scheduled on the Spencer web site for July 9th.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spencer Boatworks Fire Recalls 1919 Blaze

The fire that claimed Spencer Boatworks’ storage building on the Bloomingdale Road north of Saranac Lake early Saturday morning destroyed an untold number of antique boats from around the Tri-Lakes region.

The monetary loss at a storage facility renowned for its restoration of and care for rare wooden motor boats—Fay & Bowen, GarWood, Hacker Craft, Chris-Craft, as well as their own designs—could be incalculable. » Continue Reading.


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.


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