Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Appreciation For Old Lake George Courthouse

Jim Martino head of the Lake George Buildings and Grounds department in the restored LG courtroomThe Lake George Historical Museum is housed in the former Warren County courthouse, built in the decades between 1845 and 1878.

To the annoyance and frustration of the directors of the Lake George Historical Association, which operates the museum, and the Supervisor and Board of the Town of Lake George, which owns the building, the courthouse has not always been treated with the respect a museum of local history, let alone a historic building, deserves.

In recent years though, things have begun to change.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson ordered the windows and the 19th century clock face, all of which were damaged by a hailstorm, to be replaced.

This past year, under the direction of Jim Martino, the head of the town’s Buildings and Grounds department, the wood floors of the courtroom were restored.

Since 1970, the year the building was rededicated by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as the Lake George Institute of History, Art and Science, the floors have lain under plywood and carpet.

“We didn’t know what was under there, or what condition it would be in,” said Martino.

Once it was determined that there was, indeed, a wood floor beneath the carpet, Martino consulted with Tom Devlin, the owner of Northern Hardwoods.

Devlin identified the wood as ash. Martino says that its probably the floor that was laid down in 1845.

“Look at the burn marks where the coal stove was,” said Martino. “The random sized widths suggest they used whatever was available from a local mill.”

The floor’s condition “was not good, but not so bad that it had to be taken up and replaced,” said Martino.

Restoring the floor occupied much of his department’s winter, said Martino.

“If we weren’t in here working on the floor, we were shoveling snow,” he said.

The town crew also built a new platform for the judge’s bench and the witness box and helped rearrange the room, which is the museum’s primary exhibition space.

“We all collaborated,” said Lisa Adamson, the museum’s curator.

According to Alex Parrot, the president of the historical association’s board of directors, the restoration of the courtroom floor was made possible by a grant from the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust, a Saratoga-based foundation.

Enough money remains from the grant to refinish the floors in the foyer and adjoining rooms.

“Without the contribution of the town’s time and labor, none of this would have been possible,” said Parrot. “We used the grant to pay for materials, and they did the rest.”

Photo: Jim Martino head of the Lake George Buildings and Grounds department in the restored courtroom.

A version of this story first appeared in the Lake George Mirror.

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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.

2 Responses

  1. Dave Gibson says:

    Tony, thanks for this very good news of great efforts on the parts of the Historical Museum, the Town and grantfunders.
    I believe a much earlier collaboration between the Town’s Bob Flacke and preservationist Paul Schaefer, with help from the new State Planning Office (Harold A. Jerry, Jr.) resulted in the Courthouse’s restoration in the mid 1960s. Paul spoke about that quite a bit. I look forward to visiting again soon.

  2. Tony Hall says:

    Dave, you’re correct, Paul Schafer was involved with creating what was to be known as “the Lake George Institute of History, Arts and Science,” with a center for the study of Adirondack history and labs for scientific research included. The story began in 1963, when Winnie LaRose (a founding trustee of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy), Chuck Hawley (a Lake George Park Commission chair) and other local citizens fought to prevent the demolition of the building. When Gov. Rockefeller dedicated it in 1971, he used the occasion to promote architectural preservation. Schaefer’s legacy remains in an exhibition about conservationists and,if I’m not mistaken, some material about the poet Jeanne Robert Foster, whom he introduced to my family

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