Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hermits and a millionaire: The story of Lake Lila

Sometime in the later half of the 1810s, hunter, trapper, and hermit David Smith set up his camp on Beaver Lake, far from civilization of any kind.  Beaver Lake is located deep in the wilderness near the western border of the Adirondacks, about half way between Lowville and Tupper Lake, inaccessible by any road.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Goodman Mountain and honoring a legacy

There are taller mountains in the Adirondacks, those that leave a middle aged hiker feeling the effects of time for days after the climb. There are mountains with names that inspire the imaginations of those who plan to add them to their list of alpine accomplishments, names like Hurricane, Skylight, or Giant. Every named peak in the Adirondacks carries a story, stories of local history, stories of New York’s early leaders, or stories of the early woodsmen that first fought their way to the top and placed the rocky summit on the map.

Goodman Mountain outside of Tupper Lake bears a different story with its name, and I was compelled to climb it not because of the bragging rights that come with success, and not because I wanted to test my endurance and the ability to push myself a little past my comfort zone. The 2,176 foot summit offers a very pleasant vista, but not a visit to the dwarf forest that circles the bald crest of many peaks, or the 360 degree view of endless woodlands and lakes that High Peaks regulars crave. I wanted to climb Goodman Mountain BECAUSE of the name, and to find out if I could find some connection with its namesake as I followed the narrow pathway to the top. 

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Herreshoff Manor and the other John Brown

There are two John Browns that are famous in the Adirondacks. The more famous, of course, is John Brown the abolitionist who is buried in North Elba near Lake Placid.

The other John Brown, of Old Forge fame, is of the same family that founded Brown University in Rhode Island, and quite unlike Brown the abolitionist, the Rhode Island Brown vigorously defended slavery while he was a member of Congress in 1799-1801. He was an extremely wealthy man; he owned one of the largest shipping fleets in the world and routinely shipped goods from China to Great Britain and North America.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ticonderoga Historical Society Presents: Fake News and Fisticuffs

The Ticonderoga Historical Society will present “Fake News and Fisticuffs – Nothing New in American Politics,” a free public program to be held on Friday, Sept. 25 6 p.m. at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga.

This program — closing out a recent lecture series — will highlight the history of the fake news and violence that has been present throughout the ages in American politics, and how neither is unique to today’s political environment.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Belfry Mountain – Beyond the Fire Tower

Belfry Mountain is a 1,864-foot peak located in the Town of Moriah in Essex County, just over 0.6 miles south of the Moriah-Elizabethtown town boundary and near the old iron mining communities of Mineville and Witherbee.
This runt of a peak is a popular destination for those working on the Fire Tower Challenge. It is often combined with other hikes in the region given the short, 0.4-mile hike along a gravel road from the trailhead off Dalton Hill Road, in which one ascends an “incredible” … 137 feet! Although there is not much for views from the summit rock itself, the cab of the 47-foot steel tower lets one view a beautiful panorama of the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Champlain Valley, and the High Peaks region.

Much of the history given here is apart from Belfry Mountain’s historical role in fire observation. I discuss the name origin of peak and the people connected with it. Thus, like the trail to the summit, this historical profile is short and sweet. For a well-written, detailed history of the use of Belfry Mountain for fire observation, see Martin Podskoch’s “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts.”

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Monday, September 14, 2020

The Show Must Go On

During this quiet summer, one of the things we are missing is the theater. From Broadway in New York City to Pendragon in Saranac Lake, stages have gone dark. Actors are a lively, irrepressible bunch, and so it’s a testament to the seriousness of the situation that theaters are closed.

In interesting contrast, through the 1918 flu pandemic, Broadway did not shut down. A New York Times article this past July titled, “’Gotham Refuses to Get Scared’: In 1918, Theaters Stayed Open” described how, at the height of the flu epidemic, New York’s health commissioner declined to close performance spaces. Instead, he instituted public health measures such as staggering show times, eliminating standing room tickets, and mandating that anyone with a cough or sneeze be removed from theaters immediately.

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

State Parks office announces historic restoration projects

State Parks Stabilizes Childhood Home of Suffragist Susan B. Anthony

On the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, State Parks and community leaders joined to celebrate a $695,000 stabilization project at the 19th century brick home in Washington County, where suffragist Susan B. Anthony spent part of her childhood.

Work at the deteriorated 1832 two-story brick home on Route 29 in Battenville where Anthony lived from ages 13 to 19 includes repairs to the roof, masonry and drainage, as well as mold remediation and water damage, is expected to be completed this fall.

State Parks has a purchase agreement on an adjoining four-acre site that contains a former historic tavern dating to the period when the Anthony family lived next door. Supported by the state Environmental Protection Fund, the $130,500 purchase will allow for future creation of adequate parking for the Anthony home and serve as a staging area for continued phased redevelopment of the building for an as-yet undetermined future use.

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Doctors in the Garden

In a time when compassion and logic often seem in short supply, many of us have a newfound appreciation for doctors and scientists. Saranac Lake’s history is full of professionals in medicine and science who had a passion for learning and an intense curiosity about the natural world.

Our own Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau was a naturalist at heart. He learned an interest in the natural world from his father James, who accompanied his friend John J. Audubon on scientific expeditions. When Edward fell sick with TB, he credited the peace he found in the Adirondack forest for his ability to fight the disease.

Later, that same appreciation for nature inspired Trudeau to pursue the scientific study of  tuberculosis. In 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of the tuberculosis bacterium. Trudeau learned of his study and rushed to replicate Koch’s work, despite never having used a microscope himself. Motivated by his desire to find a cure and his own curiosity, Trudeau demonstrated incredible persistence in the face of adversity. He began his work in a remote, freezing village with no running water, electricity, or train service. As he stated in his autobiography, “One of my great problems was to keep my guinea-pigs alive in winter.” Trudeau worked with improvised laboratory equipment, and even when his first home and home laboratory burned down, he didn’t give up.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

What’s in a name? Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain

I revisited Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain last spring, making it at least four ascents I have done of it, thus far, from both the north and south trails. The views of the Lake Champlain region from the summit never fail. Poke-O-Moonshine, located in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County, just 3/4-mi north of the Town of Lewis
boundary, is a peak on the Fire Tower Challenge and whose east-facing cliffs are popular with rock-climbers.

This write-up is more of a historical “brief” on this peak, as there is a bit more history surrounding it than provided here. For those interested in the history of Poke-O-Moonshine in regards to fire observation and its tower, see Martin Podskoch’s book “Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, The Northern Districts” (2003).

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Friday, September 4, 2020

Ticonderoga Historical Society presents program on Prohibition

The Ticonderoga Historical Society will present a free public program on Friday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga.

The program will be titled “Our Best Endeavors: Temperance and Prohibition in the Champlain Valley” and will be presented by Susan Evans McClure, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

“When you think about Prohibition, most people imagine 1920s gangsters and bootleggers with tommy guns and fancy cars,” says McClure. “But to truly understand federal Prohibition in the Champlain Valley, you have to start earlier than the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1919. Vermont actually had statewide prohibition from 1853-1904.”

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Annual fire tower lighting set for Saturday, 9/5

Labor Day weekend offers a perfect socially distanced outdoor activity – the annual nighttime lighting of Hurricane Fire Tower.
People are invited to hike up and see the lighting at close range, or view it from afar.
A lantern beacon will shine out from the 101-year-old tower at 9 pm on Saturday, Sept. 5, and can be spotted for miles around.

Hurricane Mountain – visible from many spots in Keene and Elizabethtown, to Lake Champlain and Vermont, as well as surrounding smaller peaks – was a key survey peak for legendary Adirondack surveyor Verplanck Colvin.

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Letters and Lemonade

“I discovered that I wanted to stay in touch with a number of friends from my previous healthy existence, and I was soon writing to everyone within reach of the postal service … the mail delivery became the high spot of my day.” — Richard Ray, TB patient.

In times of trouble, some of the most essential workers are the people who deliver the mail. It can get lonely here in the Adirondacks, where there are more trees than people. Mail carriers keep us connected, and post offices in rural hamlets serve as social hubs.

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Historic Saranac Lake awarded IMLS Inspire! grant

Historic Saranac Lake (HSL) announced that it has been awarded an Inspire! Grant for Small Museums through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The $48,300 award will support HSL’s work to catalog and rehouse a portion of its image collections. The project will enable HSL to gain intellectual and physical control over its collection in preparation for a major expansion into the historic Trudeau Building adjacent to the museum. Over two years, HSL will create catalog records for photographs, postcards, and photo albums, and implement long-term archival storage. The project tackles a major next step identified in the museum’s recently completed Collections Preservation Plan, also funded by a grant from IMLS. 

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Ti Historical Society marks suffrage centennial

The Ticonderoga Historical Society will present a free public program on Friday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.  at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga.  “The Suffrage Centennial:  Trial and Triumph” will highlight the struggle to provide women the right to vote.  

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Weekend read: Women’s suffrage

This week marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

For those fighting for women’s suffrage, this victory was hard-won. In honor of the milestone, here are a few stories from the Almanack archive.

Inez Milholland: A fervent fighter for suffrage and Adirondack resident. Born and is buried in Lewis, she died young and never lived to see the fruits of her labor.

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