I am eager to promote a book that has just been published, about Dome Island at Lake George, by Noah Chirnomas, a young man from New Jersey. About two years ago, the then sixteen-year-old contacted me (way down here in North Carolina) to see if I might be willing to help him write a book about John Apperson, Dome Island and Lake George. I am so glad I said “yes!”
During the first decades of the twentieth century, as women first agitated for and then began exercising the right to vote, many became intrigued by the political process and the possibilities for influencing public opinion. One of the topics of great interest and debate concerned the best use of forest lands in the Adirondack Park, and whether to uphold the protections of Article VII, Section 7, the forever wild clause of the New York Constitution. Although little has been written on this subject, I am convinced that women contributed significantly to this debate.
My source of information is a collection of letters saved by John S. Apperson, Jr., an engineer at the General Electric Company in Schenectady. By 1920, he had earned a reputation as a leading preservationist, and was fighting a vigorous campaign to protect the islands at Lake George. His connection to women’s organizations apparently got its start there, as he became friends with Mary Loines, from Brooklyn, New York, who owned land in Northwest Bay. » Continue Reading.
One of the highlights of my recent trip to the Adirondacks was a morning spent at Blue Mountain Lake, at the Adirondack Museum, looking through a folder of papers that had been donated to the collections there more than fifty years ago. They belonged to Warwick S. Carpenter, who had served as a young Secretary of the New York Conservation Commission from 1918 to 1921.
Warwick Carpenter’s name was familiar to me thanks to my research on John Apperson, who in 1920 had already earned a reputation as a leader in the Adirondack preservationist movement by helping to win several legislative battles defending the New York State Constitution’s “Forever Wild” clause. Apperson visited the far reaches of the Forest Preserve, and documented with photos the damage he argued was caused by collusion between the forestry interests and the State Conservation Commission. He shared his work with Warwick Carpenter, and the two collaborated on several publications, including early editions of Conservationist magazine which featured Apperson’s photos. Their work stirred a hornet’s nest of angry denials in Albany and New York City, and among the top officers of elite clubs and organizations. » Continue Reading.
I recently came across an essay by Edmund H. Richard in The Forest Preserve, written during the big conservation battle over the proposed construction of Panther Dam in 1947:
“A citizen may not have title to his home, but he does have an undivided deed to this Adirondack land of solitude and peace and tranquility. To him belong the sparkling lakes tucked away in the deep woods and the cold, pure rivers which thread like quicksilver through lush mountain valleys. His determination to preserve his personal treasure for posterity has been tempered by memories of campfires, and strengthened by pack-laden tramps along wilderness trails and by mountaintop views of his chosen land. To him the South Branch of the Moose is a River of Opportunity, for he has come to regard it as the front line of defense against the commercial invasion of his Forest Preserve.”» Continue Reading.
Although many books are available about the “great and gracious” on Millionaire’s Row at Lake George, few authors have written about the social and political drama that unfolded there, starting around 1920, as automobiles and improved roads began to change the status quo, revealing the tension between commercial interests and those who wished to create a Lake George Park.
Among those in favor of creating a park were several millionaires, including William K. Bixby, who donated land on Tongue Mountain to the state, and George Foster Peabody, who gave land for a campground (Hearthstone) and a park, on Prospect Mountain. Another wealthy landowner, Mrs. Stephen Loines, a widow with three unmarried daughters, contributed significantly to the cause, not only through her gifts of land, but in her efforts to influence public opinion. » Continue Reading.
According to local lore, Robert Moses, secretary of the State Parks Commission, and John Apperson, leading defender of the “forever wild” clause of the NY constitution, had a confrontation of historic proportions, one summer day in August of 1923. Moses, who was already carrying out an ambitious scheme to grab power, had convinced Governor Al Smith that the development of state parks would be a very popular election issue.
As the center-piece of his plan, Moses wanted to build a parkway on the Tongue Mountain peninsula (plus, eventually, gas stations, scenic overlooks, and hotels). Apperson wanted to prevent development altogether. He dreamed of bringing the central portion of the lake (Tongue Mountain, the Narrows, Black Mountain and Paradise Bay) under state ownership, and thus under the protection of the NY constitution.
The battle over the highway at Tongue Mountain happened quietly, behind the scenes, and out of the headlines. In fact, Robert Moses’ biographer, Robert Caro, never mentioned this story, and apparently knew little about the work of John Apperson at Lake George. Fortunately, we can now examine letters and documents long hidden from view that shed considerable light on the politics concerning the creation of a Lake George Park. » Continue Reading.
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