As noted in stories in Adirondack Explorer and Almanack, the Inner Gooley Club buildings on the shores of Third Lake in the Essex Chain, were nominated for inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic Places.
The nomination is controversial because the lake and lands around it, including the Gooley Club footprint, is publicly-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve classified Primitive, and managed as closely as possible to Wilderness guidelines.
Furthermore, as pointed out by Peter Bauer in the Almanack piece, the 14 or so buildings of the club are expected to be removed when the leasehold expires in the fall of 2018. The removal or relocation elsewhere of the rustic camp structures are required by a 2012 agreement between the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation (buyer of the Essex Chain) and the Nature Conservancy (the seller).
In 2007, the Nature Conservancy acquired lands used by the Gooley Club, along with others that had been previously owned by Finch, Pruyn. At the time of its purchase, TNC extended the leases of clubs on its land until September, 2018, when the lease will terminate and the lease structures must be removed or relocated. When New York State bought the Essex Chain in 2012, the Gooley Club was given a small area around the structures on Third Lake for their exclusive use, including the right to drive to those structures, until the 2018 deadline.
What was not previously reported in the Almanack was that the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) has officially placed the Inner Gooley Club on the State Register of Historic Places. That’s been decided. According to State Parks staff I spoke with, the decision to officially list the Inner Gooley Club was made on March 16 at a meeting of the State Historical Review Board in Waterford.
The Review Board, as I understand it, is made up of number State agency designees, including one from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The decision to list the Inner (and Outer) Gooley Club sites was unanimous and based on the nomination narrative and other materials that mapped and documented the Gooley Club’s historical significance. The State Parks also forwarded an application to the National Park Service to place the Inner Gooley Club on the National Register of Historic places. That listing is pending.
Prior to my conversation with State Parks staff, I was ignorant of the fact that the future management of structures nominated for the State and National Register of Historic Places is irrelevant to the decision to list a nominated property. Put another way, the fate of the Inner Gooley Club structures scheduled to be removed after the leasehold expires in September, with the lands on which the buildings stood scheduled to be re-vegetated and re-wilded, had no bearing on the March 16 decision to list the club on the State Register or to nominate it to the National Register. The nomination is judged strictly on whether it meets the relevant criteria for listing as an historic place, and whether it is sufficiently well documented.
In reading the nomination of the Inner Gooley Club, prepared by club member Donald McElroy, Steven Englehart of the Adirondack Architectural Heritage and a State Historic Preservation Officer who works for State Parks, I was impressed with the obvious affection the authors have for the club and their extensive knowledge and documentation of its history.
Given the extensive detail and richly documented narrative of the early club history, its present architecture and layout recalling the period 1947-1950, and the interest in preserving 19th and 20th century hunting and fishing club traditions , can see why it met the criteria for a successful nomination. It’s obvious from reading the narrative and looking at the photographs why it tugs on the minds and the heartstrings of the nominators and the many generations of club members, past and present. It’s a tough loss, but one which the members have had more than a decade to prepare for.
What I don’t understand is why the Primitive classification of the State lands and the 2012 agreement, both of which require the club buildings to be removed and the land restored over time to achieve wilderness conditions, aren’t mentioned anywhere in the lengthy nomination document. On page 27, the nomination reads:
“In 2007 when Finch, Pruyn sold its 161,000 acre working forest in the Adirondacks to The Nature Conservancy, the era of the company’s recreational leases gradually began to come to an end. Three years later, the Conservancy sold the land to New York State to become part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The sales affected 33 clubs, including the Gooley Club, whose recreational lease of its land will come to an end in September 2018. With a history of use spanning from 1866 to 2018, the Gooley Club represents the last iteration in the tradition of a camp on Third Lake.”
That’s it. No inclusion, even as an appendix, of the 2012 Agreement which requires the removal or relocation of the structures. No mention, either, of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan Primitive area guidelines which must be followed when the leasehold expires or of the Essex Chain of Lakes Unit management plan, or UMP, approved in 2015 by the DEC and APA which call for the removal of the club buildings. Here is what the approved UMP says:
“The preferred (management) alternative calls for the removal of the Inner Gooley camp buildings. This is due to their remote location in the Primitive area, and the Leasehold Agreement which specifies the requirement for structure removal upon expiration of the lease in 2018. According to APSLMP guidelines for Primitive Areas, ‘non-conforming uses resulting from newly classified primitive area will be removed as rapidly as possible…’ (pg. 27). The Inner Gooley camp buildings are not of an essentially permanent nature, since they are small hunting camps formerly on leased land. The lack of ownership of the land signifies that the camps were not placed and constructed to last in perpetuity.”
Again, I was told these management decisions were irrelevant to State and National Register listing.
When the structures are gone, what happens to the State Register listing, I asked? The answer was that nothing happens. The club will continue to be listed unless the nominators ask that it be delisted. Apparently there are many Listed properties across the county that for a variety of reasons now lack the historically significant buildings or architecture for which they were nominated.
At the back of the Essex Chain of Lakes Unit Management Plan is a letter from the DEC historic preservation officer to the State Parks clarifying that the Inner Gooley club structures had to be removed or relocated based on the area’s legally required management as a Primitive area, but asking for State Parks’ advice how to mitigate that loss. The Agency wrote back supportive of extensive photographic documentation as a mitigating measure. So, State Parks has been aware since the 2015 UMP approval that the club structures would not last.
The tension between preservation of structures and landscapes deemed historically significant and “forever wild” is inevitable and will continue far into the future. NYS Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey struggled with this tension and came up with his successful 1983 legislation mentioned by Peter Bauer. That legislation, Section 9-0109 of the Environmental Conservation Law, was supposed to be the legal justification undergirding the long-term preservation of Camp Santanoni, once also owned by a Pruyn, and also located on “forever wild” Forest Preserve acquired for the public in 1972. Hinchey’s legislation was limited to preserving registered historic structures on those state lands acquired prior to the date of the law in 1983, eliminating its application to structures on Forest Preserve acquired after 1983. Inner Gooley (and Outer Gooley Farmhouse) acquired as state lands in 2012 are ineligible for preservation under this law.
The lesson that was supposed to have been learned after 1983 was that significant historic preservation objectives within lands to be acquired by the state in Forest Preserve counties should be achieved primarily through the use of conservation easements that preserved the structure(s) through agreements with private historic preservation organizations. That was done in the case of the Mount Adams fire tower earlier this century, which otherwise could not be allowed to remain in a classified Wilderness area. That tower is preserved by a conservation easement held by a nonprofit organization and is not part of the High Peaks Wilderness all around it.
Photo: Third Lake with Gooley club hidden along the far shore.