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, 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

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


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

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


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.

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

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

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


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.

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

Photo of beaver from Lake George Mirror files.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Wild West: Ned Buntline to Frontier Town

Earl Woodward, a school teacher from Ohio, decided that Warren County would be a good place to situate western style dude ranches. Art Bensen, a telephone company employee from Staten Island, was no less certain that North Hudson was a suitable location for an old west theme park, which he called Frontier Town.

If the relationship between the wild west and the southern Adirondacks strikes you as casual at best, a moment’s reflection will clarify matters.

There is, of course, as little connection between cowboys and the Adirondack native as there is between the guide-boat builder and Santa Claus and Mother Goose, sources of inspiration for other well-known Adirondack attractions. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Remembering Lake George’s Chuck Hawley

When my wife Lisa and I were considering purchasing the Lake George Mirror, among the first people we consulted was Chuck Hawley, the artist, politician and activist who died on March 9 at the age of 86.

Hawley was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He was at my engagement party and my father’s funeral. He was Lake George’s supervisor and a member of the County board when my father published the Warrensburg-Lake George News, and the two developed a mutually useful relationship. He’d tell my father what would happen before it happened – information prized by a weekly newspaper editor when he’s competing with a daily, as I’ve learned for myself.

In 1998, I wrote a profile of Chuck for the Lake George Mirror, which I reproduce here.

About twenty years ago, some hikers on Black Mountain discovered a slab of rockface inscribed: ‘R.Rogers.’ Whether this was in fact the autograph of Robert Rogers, as the hikers believed, is still subject to debate, but there is no doubt that many people around Lake George hoped that it was authentic.

Rogers and his Rangers have always appealed to our imaginations, perhaps because they were the first identifiably American heroes. Chuck Hawley, whose painting of a Ranger is reproduced here, has done more than anyone else in our region to shape the popular image of the Rangers.

The painting was one of a series depicting the Rangers commissioned by Harold Veeder in 1966 for the newly constructed Holiday Inn. They have been republished often in newspapers, magazines and books, and reproductions are best sellers at Fort William Henry and at the Lake George Historical Association’s shop in the old Court House.

Hawley wanted the portraits to be as historically accurate as possible; he spent months in the libraries researching the Rangers’ dress, habits and weapons; he read contemporary accounts and picked the brains of historians like Harrison Bird, the author of numerous books about the era, who served with Hawley on the Lake George Park Commission.

When he began the series, Hawley was Supervisor for the Town of Lake George, and the model for the portrait reproduced here was his colleague on the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Earl Bump, the Supervisor from Horicon. Another model was Howard MacDonald, for many years a member of the Lake George Village Board of Trustees and the founder of Lake George’s Little League.

Despite the fact that he has been both a public official and a painter (as well as a graphic designer and the owner of an advertising agency) Hawley has really had only one career: Lake George. It is a career for which he was in some sense predestined. Stuart Hawley, his father, was Warren County Clerk for twenty-five years; in 1950 he was elected to the New York State Assembly and served through 1958, when he was succeeded by Richard Bartlett. Assemblyman Hawley introduced the legislation authorizing the construction of the Prospect Mountain Highway. Fred Hawley, who was supervisor of Lake George from 1918 through 1921, was Chuck’s grandfather.

Hawley’s deep roots in the area (his own family came to Lake George a few decades after Rogers departed at the end of the French and Indian Wars) may have helped to make him an unusually farsighted public official.

He believed that the health of the tourist economy depended upon the protection of the lake, and the orderly development of the village and the shores. The businessmen who came to make a quick dollar, he has said, “can’t see past August. They’re the shortsighted ones. The visionaries see as far as Labor Day weekend.”

In 1997, Hawley gave up his seat on the Lake George Park Commission, which he had occupied for thirty years, ten of them as chairman.

In the late 1970s, worried that heavy development along the shores would cause the lake to lose its famous translucent clarity, and frustrated by the Park Commission’s lack of authority and funding, Hawley campaigned for the creation of a task force that would study the challenges facing Lake George and suggest approaches for meeting them.

In 1984, the Task Force for the Future of the Lake George Park was organized, with Hawley as a member. Of its 200 recommendations, the most significant were those urging the Governor and the legislature to enhance the Park Commission’s regulatory powers and to provide it with a reliable, independent source of funding. Hawley wrote to Governor Cuomo, “New responsibilities and powers for the Commission are vitally necessary to save Lake George. At this late date there is no alternative.”

Former Lake George Park Commission Chairman Carl DeSantis says of Hawley’s tenure: “He wasn’t afraid to take a stand, even if his position wasn’t popular with business. We’ve been good friends since the 1940s, and we both remember when the lake was a lot cleaner. Chuck has dedicated his life to protecting Lake George.”

Although Hawley has retired from official life, his interest in Lake George is undiminished. At his home on Pine Point, the lake is never out of view, and it has survived better than he expected. He’s pleased that the experimental use of sonar is under consideration, having fought to use that means to eradicate milfoil since the late 1980s. In 1971 he wondered aloud to a reporter from the Lake George Mirror why the Lake George business district faced away from the lake; in the late 1950s he and the late Alex Muratori developed a plan to build a boardwalk along the lake. He’s glad that one is underway.

And, of course, he still paints. Hawley’s landscapes of an unspoiled Lake George have been powerful tools for its preservation.

Illustrations:

Chuck Hawley’s painting of Robert Rogers, based on Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Bump.

Hawley receiving Lake George’s Wilbur Dow Award from Dow’s son Bill, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, in 2002.

Two landscape paintings of Lake George by Hawley: “Black Mountain in Spring” and “Down the lake in Spring.”

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


Friday, March 26, 2010

Going Solar:Another Way to Help Save the Adirondacks?

If global warming is ever to be reversed, or even slowed, Americans must consume less of the energy produced by coal fired power plants.

Wind and solar power are among the alternatives New York State is promoting, said Adele Ferranti, a Queensbury resident who’s a project manager at New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

“Every little bit helps,” Ferranti said. “The potential for reducing emissions is tremendous; we can make a significant dent in the consumption of energy.”

More and more people are taking advantage of alternative technologies, Ferranti said.

“They’re doing it because it’s the best thing they can do for the environment,” said Ferranti. “They’re replacing the energy made by burning fossil fuels with clean, natural power.”

Among the Lake George residents reducing carbon footprints are Rebecca and Candida Smith. The daughters of the late sculptor David Smith, they live part time at the home and studio he created in the hills above Bolton Landing.

A few years ago, they contracted with GroSolar, a Vermont company recommended by author-turned-environmental activist Bill McKibben, to install solar energy systems in the property’s three buildings.

“Global warming caused by human activities was a problem I had been aware of for a long time but it was too big, complicated and scary for me to bear thinking about for long,” said Rebecca Smith.

But after recent visits to Australia (“where I was relatively close to the ozone holes in Antarctica and actually felt how much stronger the effect of the sun was down there — it burned into my eyeballs painfully at times”) and Great Britain (“where climate change was an accepted, observable reality that government was starting to do something about”) as well as extensive reading on the subject, Smith said she became “interested and excited about the new technologies and decided to see what could be done at my family’s home in Bolton.”

Smith adds, “One person can’t do much, but there are many, many people out there doing lots of things and I am inspired by being part of that effort.”

According to NYSERDA’s Adele Ferranti, New York State offers financial incentives to homeowners like the Smiths to encourage the use of alternative energy. “Our goal is to build an infrastructure that will not only make solar power more affordable but reduce the consumption of fossil fuels,” Ferrante said.

Eliot Goodwin of GroSolar says that New York State will pay 40 to 50% of the costs of installing a solar energy system in the form of a rebate. “The homeowner is also eligible for a 25% state income tax credit and a 30% federal tax credit,” said Goodwin. “This works out to be about 60 to 65% of the costs paid for by outside sources.”

Nevertheless, the initial investment is expensive. Whether an alternative energy system is cost-effective depends upon how one determines value, groSolar’s Eliot Goodwin suggests.

“Is a car cost effective? Is a marble countertop cost effective? Is a pool cost effective? Is a hot tub cost effective? Is it cost effective to have no mountain tops left from coal mining? Is it cost effective to no longer have clean air to breathe?” he asks.

Still, Goodwin said, “With solar, no matter what, the system will pay for itself in its lifetime. You can usually expect a 7-11% return on your investment and you can also expect the house to increase in value by as much as the system costs.”

Short-term costs are offset by long-term savings, and, of course, by environmental benefits, said Rebecca Smith.

“By my calculations, it will take about 9 years to pay for the solar panels (which are under warranty for 25 years).” said Smith. “I don’t regard this as a money-saving strategy in the short run but as an investment that will pay off in dollars and environmental benefit in the long run. The satisfaction of making a difference is a really great feeling and it inspires me to do more.”

According to Fred Brown, the property’s year-round caretaker, approximately 80 flat solar panels were installed on the roofs of three buildings last spring.

“The system is comprised only of solar panels and an inverter,” said Brown. “ The panels produce direct current (DC) electricity which is steered toward the inverter where it’s converted into the Alternating current (AC) electricity, the same kind of power you get from the power grid.”

The power is not stored, but, rather, either used immediately or sent backwards through the meter, creating dollar for dollar credits in a process known as net-metering.

“We send power to the grid and the meter runs backward,” said Brown.

“During the summer solar panels create more energy than the owner can consume and the utility is required by law to buy it from you and credit your account,” said Rebecca Smith. “The power companies now depend on the small percentage of solar owners to feed in a critical extra margin of energy during the peak summer months.”

For Rebecca Smith, the environmental benefits of using alternative energy are local as well as global.

“If warming trends continue, there won’t be maple trees in the Adirondacks for our grandchildren,” she says. “I decided that it was better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.”

Every year, more New Yorkers are adopting that attitude, said Eliot Goodwin.

“We have approximately 75 installations in New York under the current programs. There’s probably another 2-300 installations in the state divided amongst 30 other installers. People care about the world they’re leaving to their children.”

Photo: A solar-powered workshop on the David Smith estate in Bolton Landing.

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


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gaslight Village: County Faces Deadline for Decision

Warren County’s Supervisors may be wavering on whether to preserve or condemn the two buildings that remain standing at Gaslight Village, but the time for a decision is fast approaching.

A $200,000 grant has been awarded to the three environmental organizations that own an easement on all but 2.5 acres of the Lake George property to demolish Charleys Saloon and some smaller structures this summer, and the county must decide whether it wants that grant to also pay for the demolition of Gaslight Village.

“I know there will be unhappy people whichever way we go,” said Supervisor Bill Kenny, who chairs a committee of Supervisors monitoring the project, which will include a park and water pollution controls.

Warren County, the Town and the Village of Lake George have until the end of May to reach a decision, said Warren County attorney Paul Dusek.

By then, Requests for Proposals will have been issued soliciting bids for the demolition of some or all buildings.

If the Calvacade of Cars building and the Opera House are omitted from the bids, they will remain standing.

Should the municipalities decide at a later date that the buildings are too costly to repair (the engineering firm of Clark Patterson told the Supervisors that it would cost at least $1.5 million to restore both buildings) the municipalities will have to pay for the demolition themselves

The Opera House, which Warren County Superintendent of Public Works Bill Lamy characterized as “not safe” and structurally unsound, was expected to be designated for destruction by the Warren County Board of Supervisors at its February meeting.

In fact, a resolution had been drafted for the Supervisors to approve agreeing to the demolition of the Opera House.

Instead, and despite Lamy’s analysis, the Supervisors voted to retain both buildings.

That decision pleased Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy, the director of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce and local businessmen like John Carr, who told the Board, “these buildings are usable.”

The vote dismayed Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais and several Lake George residents and business owners, including Lake George Steamboat Company president Bill Dow, who favor the demolition of the buildings. [Ed. – Read comments from two residents, Betty Spinelli and Joe Stanek, at the Lake George Mirror].

Dow, Fort William Henry Corporation president Bob Flacke and the Lake George Citizens group prefer a plan presented by Mayor Blais at another meeting of county supervisors, held a week later.

Blais argued that both buildings should be demolished.

“Four engineering studies have indicated that the costs to renovate the buildings into usable meeting space is extensive,” he said.

The open space should be used for parking, at least until a study has been undertaken that would identify the best use for the site. If the study recommended the construction of a new building or a pavilion, grants could be sought, said Blais.

Lake George Village has been awarded approximately $4.5 million in grants for similar projects in recent years, Blais said.

Regardless of the county’s decision about the Gaslight Village buildings, demolition of Charley’s Saloon on the parcel south of West Brook will start in mid-June, following the conclusion of Americade.

“New York State’s Department of Transportation will contribute the first $600,00 toward the construction of a storm water treatment complex on the historical wetlands, but the construction schedule has to coincide with work DOT is planning for Route Nine,” explained Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

According to Bauer, the demolition will be completed by mid-summer; construction
of the storm water management complex will begin after the Adirondack Nationals Car Show in early September.

Kenny’s committee held a public hearing on to solicit opinion about the future of the Opera House and the Calvacade of Cars buildings on March 22.

It will meet again on April 12 before making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

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

Photo: Buildings at the former Gaslight Village Property in Lake George Village (John Warren photo).


Friday, March 19, 2010

Court Rules Against Marina in Bolton Property Dispute

Bolton Landing’s F.R. Smith & Sons Marina is not the owner of a 867 square foot strip of land where it has stored fuel tanks for more than five decades, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York State ruled on March 11.

Rather, the property belongs to the marina’s neighbor, the Boathouse Bed and Breakfast, which is owned by Joe and Patti Silipigno.

The courts have yet to decide whether an existing tank must be removed immediately, an expensive and time-consuming procedure that could disrupt the sale of gasoline to boaters later this spring.

“We acknowledge that the Appellate Court has ruled against us, and we are considering our options,” said Richard Bartlett, whose firm, Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, represented F.R. Smith & Sons.

Attorneys for F.R. Smith & Sons argued that the marina acquired the land by adverse possession before 1997, when marina owner Fred Smith and Joe Silipigno signed an agreement allowing F.R. Smith to make use of the land in return for discounts on marine services and fuel.

“I wanted to be a good neighbor to Freddy, so I agreed to allow him to continue to use the property, and he was elated,” said Silipigno, who bought the Boathouse in 1996.

“Smith’s offered to plow my driveways in winter and service my boat at a 20 percent discount, offers I didn’t take advantage of. All I asked was that I be sold gas at a set price.”

According to Silipigno, that price was $1.73 per gallon, a price he continued to receive until 2001, two years after the death of Fred Smith.

In 2001, court papers state, Smith’s staff increased the price of gasoline and informed Silipigno that the marina was not bound by his agreement with Fred Smith.

Silipigno then brought a suit against the marina in the hope of having his title to the property affirmed, a move which he said caused ill-will among some residents of Bolton Landing.

“I was told, ‘neighbors don’t sue neighbors,’ but I didn’t initiate this. I think there was feeling against me because I’m a flatlander, an outsider, and the Smiths have been here for more than a hundred years,” Silipigno said.

Silipigno said that he was also attempting to protect the integrity of the Boathouse property.

Built in the early 1900s, the boat house was owned by speed boat racer George Reis, who won the Gold Cup in 1933, 1934 and 1935.

Until his death in 1962, Reis stored El Lagarto, his prize winning boat, at the boat house. El Lagarto is now on display at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.

“This is a historic property which shouldn’t be jeopardized,” said Silipigno.

The New York State Supreme Court found that F.R. Smith & Sons failed to prove that it had established title to the strip of land by adverse possession, a ruling that was upheld by the Apellate court in its March 11 decision.

Silipigno said that he did not yet know whether F.R. Smith & Sons would be required to reimburse him for his legal fees, which he estimated to be in thousands of dollars.

Photo: Boathouse Bed and Breakfast; from Lake George Mirror files.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Conservationist Picked for Lake George Park Commission

Dr. Dean Cook, a Ticonderoga dentist, has been selected by New York State Governor David Paterson to become the newest member of the Lake George Park Commission.

If confirmed by the State Senate, Cook will replace Tom Morehouse, also of Essex County, whose term has expired.

The Senate’s Committee on Environmental Conservation voted on February 24 to forward Cook’s nomination to the Senate Finance Committee, which must also approve the Governor’s choice before it is brought before the Senate as a whole.

“I’ve devoted forty years to the protection of Lake George and serving as a member of the Lake George Park Commission is an opportunity to continue that work,” said Cook.

“I’ve been heartened by the Commission’s efforts to tackle such important issues as stream corridor protections, and I know it has a great potential to contribute to the health of the lake,” he added.

Cook’s family is one of the oldest on northern Lake George. An ancestor settled in the area in 1796 and the family’s property once extended from Baldwin to Hague.

Today, Cook helps maintain the family’s 250 acres near Heart Bay that were until recently part of a working farm.

That property, which includes eight guest cottages, has been hailed as a model of sustainable development.

Since returning to Lake George to join his father’s dental practice in the 1970s, Cook has served on the boards of the Adirondack Council, the High Peaks Audubon Society, the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“Dean Cook will be an excellent addition to the Lake George Park Commission,” said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George. “He holds Lake George and its communities near and dear to him.”

Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association, noted, “Dean Cook will be a passionate member of the Lake George Park Commission. He’s a dogged steward of the lake.”

Cook is a 1962 graduate of Ticonderoga Central School. He attended the State University of New York at Buffalo and Seton Hall before entering the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received his degree in Dental Medicine in 1971. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

The Lake George Park Commission is composed of nine members from each of the three counties in the Lake George basin and a representative of the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.

If his appointment is approved by the Senate, Cook will serve a term that ends in 2017.

Photo: Dr Dean Cook and Terrina Russell-Cook courtesy of the Lake George Land Conservancy.

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