Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Diane Chase: Learning About Tahawus

Adirodac_CottageUsually a trip to the Upper Works in Newcomb for my family doesn’t include an extended history lesson, but I always have a few interesting facts to tell our visitors while driving this seemingly endless stretch of County Route 25 to the southern entrance of the High Peaks. We are usually there to hike, though the area’s history is just as vast and interesting as its trails.

I share that the McNaughton Cottage is where Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and his family were staying in 1901 when he took his “midnight ride” after receiving word that President McKinley had taken a turn for the worst from an assassination attempt six days before. The Roosevelt family was climbing Mount Marcy when the official word of McKinley’s fate was received via telegram.

I could even give some vague references to the McIntyre Iron Works Blast Furnace and the dilapidated condition of an old mining town called Adirondac.

But now when we go to the Upper Works, we schedule a bit more time to explore this area with the addition of interpretive signs detailing the historical significance of these buildings, the mining operation and the blast furnace that would produce iron for only two years.

To say there are parts of this history I wasn’t aware of would be putting things mildly. I never imagined that there was a boat dock by the blast furnace that would be used to transport the iron pig through Sanford Lake to the Lower Works then on by wagon to Lake Champlain before reaching the company foundry in Jersey City, NJ.

McNaughton Cottage’s interpretive sign details the history of the town of Adirondac from 1826-1858, with references to the town’s other two incarnations: as the Tahawus Club which Roosevelt frequented and as a second mining operation. The Blast Furnace has historic maps and signs spread out along an accessible trail with two observation decks.

A few years ago I met a woman who had lived in the town of Adirondac in the 1930s as a young girl when her father had worked as part of a titanium mining operation. She shared stories of a bustling town that has been difficult to imagine when I would park the car at the Upper Works next to the ghost town overgrown with trees and bushes. Now, through these interpretive signs, I picture her stories with a better understanding of what used to be and is now beneath stone rubble and hidden by trees.

Photo of the McNaughton Cottage is used with the permission of Diane Chase,

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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.

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