Almanack Contributor Anthony F. Hall

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.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Lake George Conservancy Seeks to Protect Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”

Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.

“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.

But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”

Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.

According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”

But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”

Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.

Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum. 


Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle.

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, July 2, 2010

Lake George: Upland Development Battle Continues

The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.

The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board.

“The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.

“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”

The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.

“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”

“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Warren County Sheriff Compiling Office’s History

In 1958, at the urging of Sheriff Carl McCoy, Warren County’s Board of Supervisors established a marine division within the Sheriff’s department, one of the first local marine patrols in New York State. The supervisors appropriated $5,661 to pay pay the salaries of deputies and to purchase one boat, a 23 foot Lyman utility, for patrolling Lake George.

A photo of that boat being driven by McCoy, reproduced here, will hang on the wall of Warren County’s new Public Safety building, along with other photos documenting the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Bud York has launched a drive to assemble and display material associated with the Sheriff’s department, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2013.

“I’ve always belonged to law enforcement agencies that valued their history, and the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department deserves to be preserved,” said York.

In 1911, York said, Undersheriff Mac R. Smith compiled photographs of the Sheriffs who had had served during the department’s first century.

“Those photos were hung on the walls of the Sheriffs Office in the court house in Lake George, where they remained until Warren County moved to the new municipal center in Queensbury,” York said.

After that, York said, the photos were stored in boxes. County historian John Austin located them and made them available to the Sheriff’s office, which reproduced them. They now hang in the new Public Safety building.

“Among them are Bert Lamb, a relative of Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover’s wife Kathy, Fred Smith, who founded F.R. Smith and Sons and Carl McCoy, the uncle of Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy,” York said at a press conference to announce the project earlier this week.

Frank McCoy attended the press conference, as did Bill Carboy, the son of Sheriff Bill Carboy, and former Sheriff Fred Lamy.

Because of the number of relatives of former Sheriffs still living in the area, York hopes that the public can help find photos of Sheriffs who are not represented on the wall.

Those former Sheriffs are: Henry Spencer, Jospeh Teft, Artemus Aldrich, James Thurman, Dudley Farin, James Cameron, Luther Brown, King Allen, Stephen Starbuck, Gideon Towsley, William Clothier, Edgar Baker, Truman Thomas and Robert Lilly.

Anyone with any information about any of these Sheriffs should contact Sheriff York at 743-2518.

Photo: Warren County Sheriff’s Department

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, June 18, 2010

Lake George Fears Loss of Millions if Americade Leaves

If you didn’t know Lake George businessmen, you might have been moved, if not embarrassed, by the love they expressed for Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher at a tribute thrown for the motorcycle convention earlier this week. But as someone attending the event remarked to me, “they’re not doing it for Bill, they’re doing it for themselves.”

Here’s how we covered the event in the Lake George Mirror.

“This is a love fest, and I’m loving it,” said Americade founder Bill Dutcher at a luncheon billed as an Americade Appreciation Event, hosted by the Inn at Erlowest on Tuesday, June 16. » Continue Reading.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Lobbyists Gut Phosphorus Fertilizer Legislation

A bill that would have limited the sale of phosphorus-based fertilizers linked to algae blooms has been gutted by lobbyists’ pressures on legislators.

Among other things, the new version of the bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting stronger regulations without the authorization of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“This was a compromise; the industry did not want local governments passing more restrictive laws once a statewide law was enacted,” said a source within the DEC. “The agriculture community is freaking out about the bill as it stands now,” the source added.

Dan Macentee, a spokesman for Betty Little, Lake George’s representative in the State Senate, confirmed that additional amendments were being drafted to address the concerns of the New York State Farm Bureau. Those amendments are likely to weaken the bill even further, a Senate source said. “The bill’s sponsor, Senator Antoine Thompson, is amenable to amending even his own bills,” said the Senate source. A spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau did not return calls seeking comment before press time.

The current version of the bill restricts the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus within twenty feet of a water body, rather than prohibiting the sale of fertilizers with phosphorus throughout the state, as last year’s version of the bill did.

Prohibiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus is a crucial step in protecting Lake George’s water quality, said Peter Bauer, executive director of the Fund for Lake George. “Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. Lake George’s high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, all require clean water,” said Bauer. If the current version of the bill is enacted, New York State’s regulation of phosphorus would be far weaker than a town-wide ban proposed by Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy, said Bauer.

The Town of Lake George will consider the proposal as early as June 14, when it is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ban. If the ordinance is adopted, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step.

Lake George Town officials officials have posted a survey on the Town’s website to solicit comments about the proposal. The survey will be found on the left side of the site under the heading “Give us your opinion,” along with a conceptual description of the proposal. Opinions submitted through the website will be presented at the public hearing, said McCoy.

Illustration courtesy Lawn to Lake, a program of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, June 4, 2010

Warren County Landmark Sold; Demolition Possible

“After Years of Neglect, Bolton Landing Landmark to be Sold.” That’s the headline of a lead story in this week’s issue of the Lake George Mirror, which was written after the 1820s house was sold at an auction held on the steps of the Warren County courthouse last week. We also published an editorial, “Save the John Tanner House.” Since the issue appeared on local news stands earlier this week, it’s become common knowledge that whoever buys the house will probably demolish it. But a committee to save the building headed by Bolton Town Historian Ted Caldwell has already been formed. Below is the story that appeared in the Mirror.

The 19th century Federal home on Bolton Landing’s Main Street that has slowly deteriorated and appears to be all but abandoned will finally be sold.

Following a court-ordered auction, held on May 26 at the Warren County Municipal Center, ownership of the property passed from Northwest Bay Partners to Glenn C. Waehner of Fresno, California.

“It was never Mr. Waehner’s intention to hold the property; his goal is to sell it to someone who will either restore or re-develop the property,” said Justin Heller, an Albany attorney representing Waehner.

McDonald Real Estate Professionals has been retained by Waehner to list the property for $975,000, said Frank McDonald.

“We hope it will become a small, upscale year-round inn,” said McDonald. “That will fill a void at that end of town and in the community itself, which has many types of accommodations but nothing like that.”

The property’s previous owner, Northwest Bay Partners, owes Waehner $1.4 million, said Heller.

Waehner won the property with a bid of $625,000; that amount will be deducted from the $1.4 million owed to him by Northwest Bay Partners’ principal, Michael C. O’Brien Jr. said Heller.

“Mr. Waehner believes the property is worth substantially more than $625,000,” said Heller. No one else placed a bid, although at least three prospective buyers attended the auction.

Northwest Bay Partners purchased the house in 1995 for $650,000, according to Bolton developer Rolf Ronning, who owned the house at the time.

Ronning himself purchased the house in 1982 for $125,000, he said.

Until 1959, the house was part of a farm known as Ryefield that extended eastward to Potter Hill Road and included the whole of Dula Pond.

In 1959, the Myers family sold the property to Canoe Island Lodge owner Bill Busch and Lamb Brothers Marina partner Norm Lamb, who turned the house into a restaurant which they called Evergreen Acres.

The property was later logged, sold and subdivided; carved from the former farm were developments like Mohican Heights and Heritage Village.

The house was built in the 1820s by John Tanner, a native of Hopkinton, Rhode Island who acquired more than 2,200 acres in Bolton, including Green Island.

Converted to Mormonism in 1832, he was baptized in Lake George across the street from his house and moved to Kirtland, Ohio with ten other Bolton families.

According to Pat Babé, the director of the Bolton Historical Society, people visit the museum every summer seeking information about John Tanner and his house.

“They all get so excited when I take them out to the front steps and point across the street to what we call Evergreen Acres and say that that is the original Tanner House,” said Babe.

Babe said the visitors are invariably Mormons researching their genealogy. More than 15,000 people trace their lineage to Tanner.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

Lake George Considers Phosphorus Fertilizer Ban

Lake George’s Supervisor wants his town to become the first within the Lake George watershed to ban the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus.

If the ordinance that Supervisor Frank McCoy has proposed is adopted in June, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step, said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council.

“The Lake George Park Commission should follow the town’s lead and ban phosphorus in fertilizers everywhere on the lake,” said Sheehan. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Hacker Builds Luxury Boat Factory to Meet Global Demand

The factory was humming, despite the fact that it was Sunday morning.

A busy factory would be an unusual sight almost anywhere in America today, but in the Adirondack Park, where unemployment exceeds 20% and manufacturing has all but disappeared, it’s a true rarity.

The fact that this plant manufactures a Lake George product that is shipped around the globe makes the factory not only a rarity, but unique.

Located in a former palette plant in Ticonderoga, the 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility produces Hacker boats, from start to finish.

“Our former facility, housed in several buildings, was not efficient enough. Our new facility makes it easier for us to build boats with the extraordinary craftsmanship that defines every Hacker,” said Lynn Wagemann, Hacker-Craft’s president and CEO.

According to Wagemann, the new plant has enabled Hacker-Craft to shift every aspect of production to one, central location.

Since opening the new plant in April, Hacker-Craft has hired 12 new employees and expects to hire more workers as orders for the luxury mahaogany boats increase. Hacker-Craft now provides comprehensive health insurance to all qualified employees, said George Badcock, a Hacker-Craft owner.

That kind of investment will enable Hacker-Craft to recruit and retain the employees it needs to become a global company, said Badcock. “Hacker-Craft had to expand its market beyond Lake George, the Adirondacks and even the US if it’s to be the success it deserves to be,” said Badcock, a Lake George summer resident who is also president of an international leasing company.

Among the boats nearing completion was a 26-ft runabout, which, according to Dan Gilman, Hacker’s vice-president for sales, is the first new runabout model to be designed and produced by the company since 1995. “This is on its way to France,” said Badcock, who explained that Hacker has entered into an agreement with a European investment group that will market the boats throughout Europe and Asia. “This group has access to new luxury markets, where the demand for a classic Hacker is only growing,” said Badcock.

Hacker now has similar arrangements with groups in the mid-west and in Canada, said Badcock.
Building a single runabout requires as many as 1,500 hours of labor before it’s completed, said Gilman. “This factory is organized according to the same principles used by John Hacker, Chris Smith and Gar Wood,” said Gilman. “The only difference is that we now have power tools.”
Every successive stage of production is visible through the length of the factory, from framing to planking and finishing.

“The boats are now built completely of mahogany; in the past, oak, spruce and ash were used, which worked less with the most advanced expoxies,” said Gilman. The Honduran mahogany, Gilman said, is also harvested from forests certified as sustainable. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Some employees are specialists, others can do practically any job required to build a boat. “These are master boat builders,” said Gilman. “We’re apprenticing new employees with the experienced builders, trying to make certain that the craft is passed along.”

Approximately 16 boats were under construction at the factory last week. This number will rise to 25 this year; operating at full capacity, the factory can produce as many as 35 or 40 boats a year, said Badcock.

“Lynn Wagemann has put together a great crew; they take tremendous pride in their work,” said Badcock. According to Wagemann, Hacker Boat Company’s Silver Bay location is now used as a boat yard, for administration and as a show room for the company’s boats.
Hacker also has a facility for restoring and repairing boats in downtown Ticonderoga and storage facilities for 240 boats in Hague, Wagemann said.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, May 14, 2010

Tracing Scouting’s Origins to Silver Bay on Lake George

The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller.

That both were launched one hundred years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay, might have remained forgotten were it not for the work of a fifteen year old film maker from Latham.

Blake Cortright’s “First Encampment,” a documentary about the Scouts’ first camp at Silver Bay, will be shown on the Capital District’s WMHT on May 29 and on other public television stations later this year.

In 1910, representatives of boys’ groups from across the country gathered at Silver Bay to create an experimental camp devoted to the teaching of outdoor and leadership skills.

Among them were Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton, both writers, editors and illustrators who were friends of the vigor-worshiping Theodore Roosevelt.

At the end of a trail through the woods, the groups set up camp and built an amphitheater they called the Council Ring, where the Boy Scouts of America came into being around the blazing fires.

(Seton, who wrote the Boy Scout Handbook, designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site.)

“I would not have known about the First Encampment had our troop not made a pilgrimage to Silver Bay in 2008 to trace the roots of scouting,” said Cortright, an Eagle Scout himself.

At the very same Council Ring, Silver Bay volunteer and historian Robert James regaled the scouts with the tale of the organization’s birth.

“For forty five minutes, the kids listened with rapt attention,” said Cortright.

That presentation was the germ of the documentary, which relies upon James’ research and features interviews with him at his home in Slingerlands.

Silver Bay’s archives provided many of the early 20th century photos illustrating the narrative, much of it delivered by John Kearny.

Kearny, a Lake George steamboat captain, actor and voice-over artist, was recruited by his son Kyle, a scouting friend of Cortright’s.

Once the documentary was completed, Cortright’s mother Connie made certain that it was seen.

“I made a cold call to WMHT and persuaded the staff to watch it,” said Connie. “They called back a month later and said they were prepared to put it on the air. I didn’t realize at the time how difficult it is to get something broadcast.”

“First Encampment” is Cortright’s first documentary, but unlikely to be his last. He hopes to go film school.

“I learned everything by doing it backwards, but it was a wonderful experience,” said Cortright.

The “First Encampment” DVD may be purchased online at http://www.thefirstencampment.com and at local bookstores.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, May 7, 2010

Lake George Scenery is a Draw, Even in Winter

Nobody comes to Lake George in winter. That’s the conventional wisdom, apparently confirmed by the experience of resorts like The Sagamore, which now closes its doors in November.

But according to a study released by the Warren County Tourism Department in April, people are interested in visiting Lake George and Bolton Landing in the off-season; they even recommend it as a destination to others.

Of the 577 people who completed a Warren County Tourism Department on-line survey, more than a third visited the Lake George region between December and March, said Kate Johnson, Warren County’s director of tourism.

“Almost 90% of the people who visited us at that time of the year rated their experience as either ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent,’” said Johnson. “I’m still gratified by how many people are pleased with their visits to Lake George and will recommend it to others.”

Johnson said 100% of the people surveyed would recommend Lake George to their friends and family.

“It doesn’t matter what the season, people like Lake George,” said Johnson

And they like the same things about Lake George in season and out, Johnson said.

46% of the winter visitors said Lake George’s scenic beauty was a major draw and 22% engaged in outdoor activities.

Summer visitors expressed similar preferences, although an even higher percentage said they came to Lake George for its range of outdoor activities, from golfing and horseback riding to boating and swimming, said Johnson,

According to the survey, the majority of winter visitors stayed two to three nights in Warren County. More than 86% visited Lake George during their stay and roughly 40% visited Bolton Landing. Only 25% visited North Creek, the site of Gore Mountain and assumed by many to be Warren County’s single winter destination.

“This report gives us the kind of feedback we need,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who serves on Warren County’s Tourism Committee. “By promoting our natural resources year-round, we’re doing the right thing.”

Conover added, “The report also reminds us that it’s our lake’s scenic beauty that draws visitors. We have to maintain our tourism infrastructure, such as our beaches and parks.”

Photo: Lake George Mirror

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Lake George: Layers of History From Fort’s Well

In the two centuries that followed the French destruction of Fort William Henry in 1757, the only visible reminder of the fort was the old well on the grounds of the hotel.

“The French,” wrote Seneca Ray Stoddard in his 1873 guide to Lake George, “burned whatever they could not carry off. They could not steal or burn the ‘Old Fort Well’ however, and it still remains, partially filled with stones and rubbish.”

It was rumored that the British hid their gold and silver in the well during the seige of 1757. After the surrender of the fort to the Marquis de Montcalm, the officers’ wives who had been told that they would be granted safe passage to Fort Edward threw their jewelry into the well “having a premonition of disaster,” according to one account.

According to Stoddard’s tale, “On the night of August 9, 1757, as the Indians went about the fort, killing and scalping the sick and wounded, two women were thrown headlong down the well after having been scalped.”

Despite that rich history, the well has been excavated only twice; in the 1950s and again in 1997, under the supervision of archeologist David Starbuck.

The well was dug in late 1755, after Sir William Johnson defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George and began building Fort William Henry. Rogers’ Rangers, it is believed, actually dug and built the 40 ft deep stone well.

At least one source has it that the completion of the well was commemorated with a dance and a ration of rum for all.

Approximately one hundred years after the destruction of the fort, the first hotel was built on the site.

“Honeymoon couples would walk by the well and throw silver coins into it, believing that this offering to the legends of the ghosts which have been said to inhabit the walls of the old report, would bring them good luck, and future happiness,” the Lake George Mirror reported in 1955.

When reconstruction of the current replica fort began in 1953, the bottom was only 19 and 1/2 feet from the curb, indicating that that in the intervening years about 20 feet of of dirt and debris had accumulated.

According to David Starbuck, archaeologists were unable to dig deeper than 23 feet before hitting water when excavating the well in 1960. In 1997, Starbuck began a new archaeological dig at the fort, part of which was an excavation of the well. With the aid of sections of steel culvert with which to line the well and prevent it from collapsing, Starbuck himself was able to reach a depth of 30 feet.

“Since 1960 the well had been the center of attention for every school child who visited the fort,” Starbuck wrote in his “Massacre at Fort William Henry.” “They left us with a forty year legacy of tourist memorabilia.”

Starbuck and his assistants found toys, sunglasses and a lot of bubblegum.

At 27 feet from the surface, Starbuck made a discovery that completes our knowledge of the well’s construction. “The well had been lined at its bottom with vertical wood planks, creating a water tight barrel that prevented silt from washing in,” Starbuck reported. “(Each of the planks) was three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. Massive and tightly joined, the boards were waterlogged and swollen, and groundwater could seep into the well only by running over the tops of the planks through knotholes.”

Fort William Henry’s Archaeology Hall includes a full scale recreation of the well, enabling viewers to experience for themselves Starbuck’s sensations as he stood at the bottom of the well, sending up buckets of earth, debris, and the thousands of coins visitors have tossed into the well over the years. (The treasure, we assume, went elsewhere.)

Gerry Bradfield, the fort’s curator at the time, installed a video camera within the well’s shaft and taped the entire process.

The Archaeology Hall and other rooms throughout the Fort contain thousands of artifacts discovered on the grounds of Fort William Henry since the 1950’s, when the reconstruction of the fort began. Recent discoveries, such as pre-historic pottery shards as well as buttons from the uniforms of American soldiers in the War of Independence, suggest that the site was used before and after the fort was burned in 1757.

The exhibits are part of a larger “Living History Program” designed to enable visitors to better understand the history of the colonial era. The program includes tours led by guides in authentic costumes, the firing of 18th century muskets and cannons, recreated scenes of life at the fort and scenes from the events that took place there, as well as visits to dungeons, a powder magazine and a crypt of the victims of Montcalm’s 1757 massacre. Visitors can also view the 1936 film version of Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,” believed by many to be the best and most graphic portrayal of Montcalm’s siege and the ensuing massacre.

The Fort William Henry Museum is open from May through October.

Photo of Old Fort Well, circa 1959, Lake George Mirror files

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Inez Milholland Portrait Restoration Planned

A portrait of Inez Milholland hanging over a mantelpiece in the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington DC will be restored if a committee established in March is able to raise $4,000.

Milholland’s name is known today primarily by historians of the crusade to win for women the right to vote.

That crusade acquired crucial public attention on March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his first term. Women from every state gathered in the capital and staged a great parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Leading the parade on a white charger was Inez Milholland, then 25 years old.

She was, literally and figuratively, a figurehead of the nascent women’s rights movement. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Lake George: Guy Lombardo’s Speed Boat Racing Stunt

Gar Wood and George Reis excepted, Gold Cup racing produced no amateur racer more famous than Guy Lombardo, the director of the dance orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

In the spring of 1949, he paid a visit to Lake George, ostensibly to plan a record-breaking run from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing.

As it happened, the bandleader never did bring his his boat to Lake George. But never mind. The visit is one more chapter in the annals of boats and boating on Lake George.

Lombardo won the 1946 Gold Cup race on the Detroit River in his Tempo VI, a 1934 hull with an engine that still qualified for Gold Cup racing according to the rules established in 1920. Bolton summer resident Melvin Crook described Lombardo’s victory this way for Yachting magazine: “Lombardo finished by finding a good rhythm and conducted to a fine crescendo, rather like as if he were directing Ravel’s Bolero.” 1946, however, was the last year the old rules applied, and as a consequence, the boats were much faster in 1947 and 1948. Lombardo lost the Gold Cup races in 1947 and 1948, although, with a new engine, he broke a world speed record for the mile in Miami in 1948. Clearly, Lombardo was not ready to retire from racing. He hoped to break a speed record of 141.74 mph set by Sir Malcom Campbell in 1939, which his rival, racer Danny Foster, had tried and failed to do in 1946. To succeed, Lombardo needed a new boat, and a body of water suitable for record breaking speeds, or so he said.

Lombardo was performing with his orchestra in Glens Falls that month; one day, he brought two of his brothers and some members of his band and his racing crew to Lake George to see if it would be a good place to break Campbell’s records. After inspecting water conditions, docking facilities and a probable course (a 10-mile, straight course from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing), Lombardo reportedly pronounced conditions ideal.

Henry Kaiser, who had built hundreds of ships during World War II, was supposedly paying for a new boat capable of great speeds for Lombardo to use to set the new world record. She was to be built by Ventnor Boat Works in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which also built Lombardo’s Tempo VI. Kaiser, who had a summer home in Lake Placid, said that he wanted the record to be broken there. Lombardo claimed that if that was the case, he would bring Tempo VI to Lake George and, at the very least, break Gar Wood’s 1932 record of 124.915 miles per hour.

Lombardo, accompanied by Paul Lukaris and Harry Cohan, went by boat from Lake George Village to Bolton Landing, where they docked at George Reis’s boathouse and where Lombardo, it was reported “matched nautical knowledge and swapped boating information” with Reis.

The photographs taken that day are apparently all that the visit produced. Boat racer and builder Bill Morgan says that to the best of his knowledge, Lombardo never returned, and that he certainly never attempted to break a world’s record on Lake George.

Given the involvement of Paul Lukaris (who later promoted Diane Struble’s swim of Lake George), Harry Cohan (who would become New York’s boxing commissioner) and the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, one can’t help but assume that Lombardo’s visit to the lake that day and his claim that he was considering coming to the lake later in the year to set a world’s record were all part of a publicity stunt, useful for Lake George and for Lombardo himself, whose orchestra still had engagements in Glens Falls.

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Photo: Guy Lombardo with George Reis, inspecting El Lagarto.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Anthony Hall: Timberdoodle Madness!

Lake George is the summer home of many people we never see.

The most reclusive summer resident, however, may not be any particular family but a migratory bird, the woodcock. As one sportsman put it, “The for-centuries extinct dodo bird is sighted about as often and by as many watchers.”

The woodcock (otherwise known as the timberdoodle, bog sucker, mud bat, big eyes, and, in the south, as becasse de nuit, or nightswipe) is a game bird that comes to Lake George in early spring; it stays no longer than six or seven months and departs before the first frost.

Typical of the summer resident, the woodcock returns to the same place every year.

Its preferred habitat is abandoned farmland. The woodcock lives on a diet of worms, which he consumes in amounts equal to his weight every day, and as boys who fish will tell you, moist, poorly drained fields are the best places to find them.

(One obvious harbinger of the woodcock’s arrival is the flock of robins that descends upon the field as soon as the sun’s heat is warm enough to draw worms to the surface.)

The nesting hen also likes the shrubby areas and young groves of oaks and maples that grow up on the edges of old fields.

I would not have known of the woodcock’s existence here had not a friend who is knowledgeable about these things told me that the woodcock’s preferences in food and shelter matched the conditions of the fields between our house and barn, alerting us to its presence.

The “peent, peent” that we hear every spring evening, it turns out, is part of the male woodcock’s mating ritual. It is the sound that he makes just before he ascends in a widening parabola through the dusk. When he achieves a maximum altitude, or perhaps just as he is about to descend, he lets loose a song that is as beautiful as any birdsong I’m familiar with. It is the only time he sings, according to John Burroughs. The naturalist adds: “Surprising it is to see this stupid-looking mud-prober transformed into an ecstatic song-bird under the influence of the mating instinct. Whoever has witnessed its hurried spiral flight in the March and April twilights, and heard its curious smacking, gurgling notes rain down out of the obscurity of a couple of hundred feet of air, has been present at one of the surprising incidents in the life of this bird.”

Actually, the woodcock does not descend so much as he falls, like a leaf at first, then like a rock dropped to illustrate the principals of gravity. He then returns to the spot from whence he came, and repeats the entire ritual. Now that the hours of daylight have increased, we have had better luck catching sight of him as he flies out of the juniper and circles the field.

There is another curious habit of the woodcock, which I have yet to see and have only read about: “If, in shooting, you meet with a brood of woodcocks, and the young ones cannot fly, the old bird takes them separately between her feet, and flies from the dogs with a moaning cry.” (This from an old sportsman’s guide; the writer is identified only as the author of “Scandinavian Adventures.”)

“All nature is so full that that district produces the most variety that is most examined,” wrote Gilbert White, the 18th century English parson who spent most of his life observing nature in one parish. White would have appreciated the fact that one of nature’s most elusive creatures can be found in our own backyards.

Woodcock illustration from New York State Fish and Game Reports

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

State Politics and New York’s Beavers

Like the Adirondack forest itself, New York’s beaver population had been harvested almost to the point of extinction before Albany took steps to revive it. It’s especially apt, then, that the coalition of groups lobbying to rescue the state’s Environmental Protection Fund from the Governor’s budget cuts has chosen the beaver to be its “spokesman” for the cause.

The beaver, of course, is the official animal of New York State.

A few years ago, I wrote an editorial for the Lake George Mirror about the political history of the state’s official animal. (The level of malfeasance among local governments must have been at an all-time low that week.)

I reproduce it here:

When government throws money at a problem, on occasion results ensue. Just not the results government intended.

For the second spring in a row, the state Department of Environmental Conservation extended the trapping season for beavers. As farmers and homeowners know, New York has too many beavers. Less than a century ago, however, the beaver was virtually extinct in New York State, and the legislature voted to finance a program to repatriate them to the Adirondacks. Unlike programs to restock the elk and the moose, this one worked.

In the August 1904 issue of ‘Field & Stream,’ Harry V. Radford reported, “Another measure which the writer caused to be introduced in the last Legislature, and which has just become a law through the Governor’s approval, is what has been known as the Beaver Restoration Bill. It carries an appropriation of $500, with which the Forest Fish and Game Commission is authorized to purchase wild beaver and liberate them in the Adirondacks.”

Radford was the individual most responsible for a program begun three years earlier to restock the Adirondacks with moose. Shortly after his victory on behalf of the beaver, he disappeared, reportedly in the Arctic, killed by his eskimo guides.

The Beaver, however, thrived. In 1905, three pairs were liberated, two in Big Moose Lake, which they quickly abandoned for a river twenty miles to the northeast. That same year, the Fish and Game Commission reported that the remnants of an original colony had been discovered in the marshy waters northwest of Upper Saranac Lake. The combined population of natives and transplants was roughly Forty. By 1914, that population had grown to 1,500 or even 2,000. The 1914 Conservation Commission report trumpeted: “The Adirondacks today are again entitled to their old Iroquois name, for they are rapidly becoming the country of the Beaver.”

The beaver was so successful in re-establishing himself in New York State that in 1975 he became the official state animal. Oregon objected, asserting that it had already claimed the beaver for itself. The editor of The Conservationist Magazine tried to soothe bad tempers on both sides by saying “Thanks to conservation there are enough beavers to provide state mammals for both states.” More than enough, apparently.

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Photo of beaver from Lake George Mirror files.


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