Monday, May 1, 2006

Lake George Fire – A Chance to Fix Some Lake George Blight

Last week’s fire in Lake George Village destroyed a block of architectural blunders that had replaced the majestic Hotel Lake George, which itself was destroyed by fire in 1978.Let’s only hope someone has a little better foresight and consideration of the character of the village when they rebuild (or approve a rebuild) this time. Consider what it looked like in the 1950s:

The old Hotel Lake George had been a local landmark owned byCaldwellSupervisor (as the Town ofLake Georgewas known then) Edwin J. Worden – it was called the Hotel Worden until the late 1940s or early 1950s.

As early as July 8, 1913, Worden was already a busy man with his duties as proprietor of one of the town’s most popular hotels, owner and manger of the Worden Garage, and as a member of the board of supervisors then in quarterly session.

Then there was the draught. Two of the town’s four reservoirs were inoperable and workmen were struggling to reconnect them to the town’s water supply and town residents were ordered not to use their garden hoses.

Then there was the fire. It raged on the mountains on the east shore across from the village. Worden took a number of men over to the east side by motor boat about 9 pm to battle the blaze, and was returning about an hour later for more when he ran out of gas in the middle of the lake. When the wind picked up and he found himself tossed from side to side, barely able to stay afloat as waves washed over the sides and soaked him to the bone.Out of desperation Worden tore a plank from the vessel’s bottom and tried to paddle ashore but to no avail as the wind was driving the boat north up the middle of the lake.

Around one in the morning residents of the east side of the lake, by then thoroughly panicked by the fire closing in around them, sent for Worden at his hotel and it was finally discovered that he was missing. A search was begun but the Supervisor was still drifting north well out of the area of the searchers.Finally giving up on his makeshift paddle, Worden wrapped himself in a blanket and huddled at one end of the boat where he awoke, shivering, in the morning to find himself only 100 yards from shore. Eventually reaching the nearest rocky outcropping, he used his makeshift oar to keep the boat from being dashed against the rocks and finally made it safely to shore. There he located a nearby resident, refueled his boat and was back at the hotel in an hour’s time, safe, but exhausted

Suggested Reading

A Postcard History of Lake George

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

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