Friday, February 18, 2011

Lake George Goes to Court to Protect Public Spaces

William Caldwell, the son of the founder of the settlement at the head of Lake George, continues to play a role in local affairs 150 years after his death.

While owning the majority of property in the community (including the so-called McGillis tract, which remained undeveloped until 1898, when his will was finally settled), William Caldwell deeded space for public purposes, including a site for a court house and rights of way for roads and sidewalks.

Now that it has been awarded a $536,000 grant to rebuild the west side of its main street, the Village of Lake George wants to come to terms with businesses that have encroached upon the space that Caldwell donated to the new municipality for the public right of way.

In preparation for sidewalk renovations, the Village is seeking a judicial determination that the space belongs to the public, not the business owners.

Lake George Village’s Board of Trustees have resolved questions arising from encroachments with several building owners, but the owners of at least four buildings dispute the Village’s claims of ownership.

A Warren County Supreme Court judge is expected to issue an opinion sometime this spring, said Mayor Bob Blais.

William Caldwell’s father, James, laid the foundations of the family fortune (and the community that would bear his name) in a store in Albany, where his wife tended counter. In time, Caldwell came to own a group of mills in which all sorts of articles, from hair powder to chocolate, were made.

Despite the fact that he was a Federalist, and the Governor, George Clinton, was a Jeffersonian, James Caldwell’s application to purchase land from the state commission charged with selling the state’s unappropriated and waste lands was accepted, and he acquired one of the largest tracts that the commission sold. Early in 1800, he purchased the site of Fort William Henry and a tract of land around it known as Garrison Ground from Columbia and Union Colleges, which had received them from the State.

Within ten years, James and William Caldwell had built twenty houses. When Timothy Dwight, president of Yale, visited the village in 1811, he remarked that he was surprised to find “a beautiful village.”

The renovation of Canada Street’s west side will include new sidewalks, lights, benches, a state-of-the art storm water management system and, among other plantings, disease-resistant elm trees.

The project is expected to be completed this spring, said Mayor Blais.

Photos: Encroachments into the public right of way began as early as the 1920s.
Canada Street today.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror
or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine

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Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.





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