Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wilmington Historical Society Events For 2010

Wilmington Historical Society has announced it’s meeting dates and programs for the remainder of 2010. Regular meetings are held at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center. Open discussion on local historical topics are held from 7 pm-8pm prior to the regular business meeting. Refreshments are served and the public is invited to attend. For further information, contact Karen Peters or Merri Peck at 518-420-8370. Here is the full calendar of open discussion events:

Wednesday, March 3— “Airplanes & Helicopters in Wilmington”

Wednesday, April 7— “The AuSable River & the Owaissa Club”

Wednesday, May 5— “Wilmington Memorials”

Wednesday, June 2— “Races Up Whiteface Mountain”

Wednesday, July 7— “Wilmington & Area Fur Farming”

Wednesday, August 4— “Wilmington Notch”

Wednesday, September 1— “Wilmington Taxes!”

Wednesday, October 6— “Disasters in Wilmington”

Wednesday, November 3— “All Kinds of Snow & Ice in Wilmington”

Note: There is NO Meeting in December.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Trove of Historic LG Photos Donated to Bolton Museum

At the time of her death at the age of 92 in April, 2008, Helen Thatcher Thomson was the steward of thousands of paper and glass negatives of photographs taken by her grandfather Jule Thatcher and her father Fred Thatcher.

From the 1870s to the 1960s, the Thatchers photographed Lake George, documenting events great and small and capturing the changing social, economic and natural landscape. It was natural, therefore, that local historians feared the collections would be dispersed, scattered among hundreds of antique dealers across the country. But thanks to the generosity of Helen Thomson’s children, Fred Thomson and Dr. Patricia Smith, the entire archive will be donated to the Bolton Historical Museum.

“The family has agreed in principle to donate the material to the Bolton Historical Museum,” said Michael Stafford, the attorney representing Thomson and Smith. “We’re now in the process of drafting the necessary papers.”

Fred Thomson said, “We’re very pleased that the collection will be preserved for the benefit of the community. We look forward to working with the Bolton Historical Society to ensure that my family’s legacy will serve to enrich the public’s appreciation of our region.”

Mike Stafford noted, “I spent many hours with Helen Thomson at her kitchen table, and the legacy of the Thatchers and the future of the collection was very much on her mind in her last years. She would be delighted with this first step to ensure the collection’s preservation.”

According to Stafford, the collection also includes cameras used by the Thatchers and well-maintained logs of assignments that can be used to identify almost every photo.

“We’re grateful to the Thomson family for their public spirit and their generosity,” said Ed Scheiber, the president of the Bolton Historical Society. “The preservation of this collection in one place will be a lasting tribute to the Thatchers, Mrs. Thomson, her children and grandchildren.”

According to Scheiber, the museum’s objective is to arrange for the photos to be scanned and catalogued.

Revolving displays will feature large prints of some of the images, the cameras and biographical information about the Thatchers.

At some points, prints may be made and sold and reproduction rights licensed to help fund the preservation of the collection, said Scheiber.

The historical society also hopes to work with a publisher to produce a book of the Thatchers’ photographs, said Scheiber.

“It would be a valuable contribution to the collective knowledge of Lake George’s history and help re-introduce the work of two of our greatest photographers to a wider public,” said Scheiber.

“This collection will be an incredible asset for the Bolton Historical Museum,” said Bill Gates, a historian of Lake George and a member of the museum’s Board of Directors.

Considered as a whole, the work of the two photographers constitutes a unique archive of Lake George history.

Jule Thatcher’s best known photos are of Green Island, of the Sagamore, of wealthy cottagers like John Boulton Simpson and E. Burgess Warren, their houses, their families and their yachts.

Fred Thatcher, whose studio was turned into the Sky Harbor restaurant at the corner of Beach Road and Canada Street, was a pioneering post card photographer, creating thousands of images of the lake, of boats and regattas and of visiting celebrities to be sold to tourists who came to Lake George in the wake of the wealthy cottagers.

According to the Thatcher family, Jule Thatcher was born in Ticonderoga in 1856. He took his first photographs at the age of 11 (at about the same time Mathew Brady was photographing Abraham Lincoln) and at one point worked for Seneca Ray Stoddard. He worked in a store in Lake George that made tintypes and in 1874, he opened a studio in Bolton Landing. That studio was in the Kneeshaw hotel on Main Street. A few years later he opened a studio on the Sagamore Road, near the Green Island Bridge. He died in 1934.

Fred Thatcher, born in 1881, married a Bolton native, Maud Abells, and settled in Lake George.

“He was a very special man,” Helen Thomson recalled in 2002.”He was not only a photographer, he was a builder, a businessman, and so involved in the community. He served as mayor, assessor, justice of the peace, village trustee and treasurer of the fire department.”

Mrs Thomson continued, “He took pictures of so many people: from Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, from famous wrestlers to Madame Sembrich and her students, from Governors and every other notable who visited Lake George to every child in the village.”

And, Mrs Thomson said, he knew everyone, including Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’keeffe. “O’Keefe was very statuesque. Steiglitz was always dressed in black. My father developed film for him. Harry Thaw , he had his portrait made. Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. had a house on West Street. When Alma Gluck was expecting her child, she’d come and rock his baby son to get used to holding a child.”

Thatcher’s first studio was on the corner of Canada Street and McGillis Avenue, the second became Sky Harbor restaurant. Thatcher alao owned a stretch of lakefront property, which he leased to a flying service, later operated by Harry Rogers and George McGowan, Sr. Fred Thatcher died in 1969 at the age of 88.

“The Thatcher photographs are treasures,” said Henry Caldwell, a member of the Bolton Museum’s Board of Directors. Bolton “Lake George has captivated many photographers: Seneca Ray Stoddard, Jesse Wooley, Alfred Steiglitz, Francis Bayle; all of them among the most gifted photographers of their times. The Thatchers belong in that company.”

Photo: Theodore Roosevelt at the Fort William Henry Hotel, Lake George. By Fred Thatcher. (Date unknown)

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


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lake George: Jefferson, Madison, and Prince Taylor

Lake George resident and regular Almanack reader Enid Mastrianni has offered for Black History Month this enlightening piece on a trip by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Jefferson’s enslaved servant James Hemings, to Lake George and their reactions to Prince Taylor, a free black man living just south of Ticonderoga:

Many a booster of the Adirondacks has cited the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 1, 2010

A Short History of Adirondack Avalanches

Photo of Angel Slides on Wright PeakYou can see the Angel Slides from Marcy Dam: two adjoining bedrock scars—one wide, one thin—on the southeastern slopes of Wright Peak. They are a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers.

The slides got their nickname following the death of Toma Vracarich. Ten years ago this month, Vracarich and three other skiers were caught in an avalanche on the wider slide. Vracarich died under the snow. He was twenty-seven. The other skiers were injured.

It remains the only avalanche fatality in the Adirondacks, but it put people on notice that the avalanche risk here is real. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Adirondack History at the NYS Ornithological Association

With a hat tip to the outstanding birding blog The Zen Birdfeeder we point readers to an interesting new online database of 57 years of the New York State Ornithological Association’s (NYSOA) quarterly journal The Kingbird. 229 issues of the journal are currently online, along with 4 ten-year indices; four new issues will be added each year. The journal includes commentary of historic bird lists, natural history field observation reports, an archive of NYSOA development and history, and a lot more.

Here are a few gems I found in the collection – warning – these are all pdfs!

Merriam’s Adirondack List

Stanley Lincoln’s History of the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs

John M.C. Peterson’s Report of the Great 1995 Blowdown from the Bouquet Valley

The Common Loon in New York State


Friday, January 29, 2010

Inside the Adirondack Museum’s Boat Collection

“Hall’s Boat Corporation is not just a center for wooden boat conservation, but a center for wooden boat lovers,” says Steve Lamando, the owner of the historic Lake George marina.

Every month, Reuben Smith, who oversees wooden boat building and restoration at Hall’s, offers free wooden boat clinics, and every summer members of the Antique and Classic Boat Society (based in Clayton) gather at the marina for receptions and banquets.

Hall’s staff reaffirmed its commitment to the preservation of wooden boats and to those who prize them in mid-November, when it hosted a tour of the Adirondack Museum’s boat collections with curator Hallie Bond.

“Reuben Smith, Hallie Bond and I were talking about how we could foster a stronger relationship between Lake George and the Adirondack Museum, and we decided this trip would be a good start,” Lamando said.

Hall’s Boat Corporation views the museum as an educational resource, said Reuben Smith, whose father, boat builder and novelist Mason Smith, is married to Hallie Bond.

“It’s a resource for our customers, for our wooden boat builders, and, as we develop into an educational center, for students,” added Lamando.

According to Hallie Bond, the Adirondack Museum owns “one of the largest, finest collections of inland pleasure craft anywhere. It’s a very nice, representative collection, but we specialize in boats made and used in the Adirondacks. In the 19th century, the Adirondack region was where it was at for small rowing pleasure craft.”

In addition to telling the stories of how people lived, worked, relaxed and made art in the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Museum is, Bond said, an “inland maritime museum,” a fact made evident in the lobby itself, whose focal point is an Idem class sloop, built in the early 1900s for racing on the St. Regis Lakes.

Bond’s tour began in the building housing the museum’s boats and boating collection.

Naturally, the collection is dominated by Adirondack guide-boats, those light-weight, portable boats indigenous to the region, which also happen to be one of the region’s greatest contributions to civilization.

But Adirondack boating is not limited to guide-boats, as Bond’s tour made clear.

The collection includes, for instance, the kayaks and canoes whose near-universal popularity began with the American Canoe Association’s gatherings on Lake George in the 1880s, which the museum highlights in one of its exhibits.

Some thirty or forty canoeists attended the first Canoe Congress on Lake George and virtually every type of modern canoe was represented; canvas, wooden, clinker-built and smooth skinned; some were decked and sailed. There were contests for racing, paddling, sailing, and dumping, the latter being a contest in which the canoeist paddles out to and around a stake boat and on the return, at a given signal, dumps his canoe, rights it, and gets back in.

The prize for winning a race open to canoes of all types was a canoe built by St. Lawrence River boat builder John Henry Rushton.

Rushton saw the Lake George congress as an opportunity to attract new business and develop new ideas. One of those ideas came from Judge Nicholas Longworth, who wanted a better sailing version of Rushton’s Rob Roy, the decked wood canoe whose design was derived from the kayak. The result was the Diana, a Princess type of sailing canoe, commonly regarded as one of Rushton’s most beautiful boats.

The Diana is also on exhibit, in a display called the “Poor Man’s Yacht.” On top of the Diana is a striped, cotton canvas canoe tent, also from Rushton’s shop, demonstrating how the canoes were used not simply for cruising, but as portable camps.

At about the same time that he was building boats for the founders of the American Canoe Association, Rushton built the first of several lightweight canoes for George Washington Sears, whose articles in “Forest Stream” published under the name of “Nessmuk” would popularize both wilderness paddling and Rushton’s own canoes.

The most famous of those canoes, the Sairy Gamp, is also on display.

According to Hallie Bond, Rushton said of the 10.5 pound canoe, “if Nessmuck tired of it as a canoe, he could use it as a soup dish.”

Bond was responsible for persuading author Christine Jerome, who retraced Nessmuck’s route through the Adirondacks in 1990, to use a Kevlar replica of the Sairy Gamp made by local boat builder Pete Hornbeck. That boat, too, is on display.

The group then examined George Reis’s El Lagarto, the Lake George speedboat that won Gold Cups in 1934, 1935 and 1936, before entering the museum’s storage facility.

The museum owns more than 200 boats, only a portion of which can be displayed at any one time. The rest are stored in the Collections Storage and Study Center, located near the museum but difficult to find. “We didn’t want it to be too conspicuous,” said Bond.

The facility contains boats too large to be displayed, such as the beautifully restored 1927, 30 ft Fay and Bowen runabout that once belonged to Camp Echo on Raquette Lake, as well as boats that may never be restored but are preserved for research.

Those boats include a Lake George rowboat built by Henry Durrin and the Hornet, a 28 ft ice boat built on Lake Champlain and brought to Lake George in the 1930s, as well as Merle and Elisabeth Smith’s 23 ft long Yankee class ice boat built by John Alden Beals.

Bond also showed the group a boat that I’ve waited years to see, less for its aesthetic qualities than its historical interest: a fiberglass guide-boat built in the Adirondacks in the early 1960s.

By the 1960s, it appeared to many that the only way to ensure the survival of the Adirondack guide-boat was to turn to synthetic material.

John Gardner, in many ways the father of the wooden boat-making revival, wrote in the 1963, “The guide boat might seem to be nearly finished, a thing of nostalgic memory and a museum piece were it not for its recrudescence in plastic.”

At the time Gardner was writing (the piece appeared in the Maine Coast Fisherman) the only wooden guide boat maker still working was Willard Hanmer. A year earlier, Tom Bissell opened the Bissell Manufacturing Company in Long Lake to make what he called Adirondack Fiberglass Boats.

He had grown up with guide boats made by one of the region’s most renowned guides and boatbuilders, Warren Cole. His grandfather opened a Long Lake hotel called Endion in 1888 across the lake from Cole’s boat shop; where his father spent hours as a young boy watching Cole work. He still owns one of Cole’s boats purchased by his grandmother in 1900.

Bissell bought the fiberglass boat company from Fox Connor, whose family owned one of the region’s oldest great camps and was who manufacturing them in Ossining at the family-owned Allcock Company, makers of have-a-heart traps. Their model, which Bissell continued to make, was based on a boat designed by Wallace Emerson for fishermen in Connor’s family.

Bissell, now in his seventies, a retired school teacher and former supervisor of Long Lake, left the guide-boat business early, despite support from Gardner and people like Kenneth Durant, who devoted the second half of his life to researching the history of the guide-boat. At the time, Bissell recalled, working with fiberglass posed health hazards.

But his effort kept the guide-boat alive as a functioning vessel rather than just a museum piece, and helped ensure that people were still rowing them when young craftsmen like Reuben Smith’s father, Mason Smith, and his uncle Everett Smith emerged to revitalize wooden boat building.

The Adirondack Museum’s collection of guide-boats played no small role in that renaissance, and according to Reuben Smith, it remains a source of inspiration for builders – and future owners – of boats of all types.

Photo: George Reis driving El Lagarto. Courtesy of Adirondack Museum

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Monday, January 18, 2010

Famous Jerks of the Adirondacks

General James AbercrombyToday we were going to list the Ten Most Influential Adirondackers, based on input from you, the Almanack readers. We’ve decided to keep nominations open for one more week (please make your recommendations here). In the meantime, one of you suggested, “How about the Adirondacks’ ten biggest asshats? . . . [T]hat’s one discussion I’d like to read.”

So, scroll through for a list of ten all-star Adirondack jerks and a-hats, in no particular order. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Panther Mountain House: End of an Era

December 30th marked the end of an era in Chestertown. The Panther Mountain House—The P-House, the P, or Club P to locals—that venerable village watering hole, served its last drink. The closing comes on the heels of the death of M. Thomas Carroll, who with his wife Margaret (Markie), lived in and operated the small hotel with a downstairs bar since 1957.

Tom Carroll was born in Ballybaun, County Limerick, and immigrated to America in 1949. He spent ten years in the hotel business before taking charge of the Panther Mountain House from John “Pops” Wertime. The Wertime family had owned the hotel since 1924 when Cohoes attorney Walter H. Wertime bought the building from Mrs. John Baker Brown. The building was built just after the Civil War by the Faxon family. In 1930, the Wertimes had the brick building across the street built, designed to house a theater and retail space (Chestertown’s first bank was located there).

The Wertimes’ “thoroughly renovated and remodernized” hotel, was just that all through the prohibition years. It served as accommodations for 50 people (it was later expanded to accommodate 100), but it served little else. It was run by the daughter and son-in-law of Walter Wertime, Robert H. “Bob” Nicholson of Elizabethtown. Bob Nicholson’s family were pioneers of Elizabethtown (his great-grandfather was the town’s first postmaster in about 1800), with strong connections to the legal profession. Bob’s Nicholson’s brother was John D. Nicholson, head of the Rouses Point border patrol unit during prohibition. During the dry years, the Panther Mountain House housed border patrol officers, including the head of the Chestertown unit, David Walters.

On March 22, 1941, the Panther Mountain House was completely destroyed by fire. “Seven occupants of the hotel were forced to flee scantily clad in the blaze which was reportedly the worst in the history of the community,” according to the Ticonderoga Sentinel. Walter Wertime estimated the damage at $70,000, a loss he told the paper that was not completely covered by insurance (despite Wertime being an insurance broker). “Mr. Wertime escaped from the structure only partially clad,” the paper added “he has no plans for rebuilding.”

Nearby homes were scorched and the theater building across the street briefly caught fire. It was quickly put out, but not before serious damage had occurred to the front of the building, particularly the wooden portions. The windows in the A & P store on the first floor were broken by the heat of the fire and the doors were so badly warped that they could not be opened.

Wertime decided he would rebuild the hotel after all, and asked John Clark, an architect of Troy, to design a new building of concrete block and stucco measuring 84 by 42 feet – the building you see today. Construction was begun in the spring of 1941 (using some of the same foundation) and was completed in time for the summer season.

The Carrolls are hoping to sell the hotel. They say there is some interest, but for now the doors are locked.

Photos: The Panther Mountain House in the 1920s, and below, the downstairs bar.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reminder: 10 Most Influential People in Adirondack History

We’re still looking for ideas about who should be included on a list of the Adirondack region’s most influential people. We’ll be offering a list of the people who have had the greatest impact on the Adirondacks on January 18th. Head over to the original post to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Suggestions should reflect the environmental, cultural, and political history of the park, and they need not be residents of the region, provided their impact was significantly felt here.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Online Sources for Adirondack History

Thanks to two new digitization initiatives there are now much larger collections of books online about the Adirondacks. The full text and images of some 140,000 books in the public domain, most published before 1923, are now available at the Internet Archive. The books come from the collections of the Library of Congress and Cornell University – many with Adirondack connections.

The newly available books from Cornell cover a variety of subject areas, from American history, literature, astronomy, food and wine, engineering, science history, home economics, travel and tourism, labor relations, Native American studies, ornithology, veterinary medicine and women’s studies.

The Library of Congress collection covers the period from 1865–1922 and include many difficult to obtain works, including hard-to-find Civil War regimental histories. The oldest work from the Library of Congress is from 1707 and covers the trial of two Presbyterian ministers in New York, but many of the works relate to the Adirondack region.

Among the new Adirondack works now available are:

E.R. Wallace – Descriptive guide to the Adirondacks (1894)

A. L. Byron-Curtiss – The life and adventures of Nat Foster, trapper and hunter of the Adirondacks (1897)

Albert Abraham Kraus – A hemlock bark study in culled forests of the western Adirondacks (1918)

Bob Marshall – The high peaks of the Adirondacks (1922)

Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester – Historical sketches of northern New York and the Adirondac wilderness (1877)

Warwick Stevens Carpenter – The summer paradise in history; a compilation of fact and tradition covering Lake George, Lake Champlain, the Adirondack Mountains, and other sections reached by the rail and steamer lines of the Delaware and Hudson Company (1914)

Henry W. Raymond – The story of Saranac; a chapter in Adirondack history (1909)

Report of the Adirondack Committee, [New York State] Assembly of 1902 (1903)

And a lot more…

Photo: Rusisseaumont Hotel, Lake Placid, c. 1900 from “The eastern slope of the Adirondacks. its mountains, lakes & springs” [1901]. The hotel was built in 1892 by the Lake Placid Improvement Company. It was destroyed by fire on July 2, 1909 and never rebuilt.


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum

Tucked in the small hallway within the Box Office entrance of the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, is the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. The museum is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon examining the unique artifacts and learning more about the amazing Olympic History of Lake Placid.

The Museum was established after the 1980 Olympics, and was originally located in the former Aromaround café. The circular building used to be known as the Austrian House, and proudly displayed Olympic artifacts. In the 1990s, the Museum entered an agreement with the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and stayed in the location where it is today. The goal of the Museum is to celebrate Lake Placid’s unique Olympic heritage while collecting and preserving Olympic artifacts and archival materials associated with Lake Placid’s Olympic history.

So who visits the Winter Olympic Museum? Visitors of all ages can find something of interest here, from the sparkly figure skating outfits of yesteryear, to the stuffed Mascots from each Olympic Games, and even the original “Ronnie the Raccoon” Mascot costume from the 1980 Games. As for the amount of visits the museum receives, the number varies. “We can have 1500 people in one week, or we can have 100 visitors in a week”, said Olympic Museum Archivist Allison Haas. “It all depends on the season, holidays, or weather.”

The first medal awarded ever in a Winter Olympics (the gold medal won by Charles Jewtraw, a local speed skater, for the 500 Meter race in the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France) is proudly displayed in the first part of the museum, on loan from the Smithsonian. A complete collection of participant medals from every summer and winter Olympics are displayed, along with over 2 dozen prize medals from Olympic Games, (including a medal from the 2006 Torino Games).

There is also an impressive Olympic torch collection. For fans of the “Miracle on Ice”, the complete video recording of the game is played daily at the Museum, and the actual 1980 hockey goal guarded by Jim Craig, along with his goalie equipment, stands nearby. A newer feature of the “Miracle on Ice” collection are props and costumes used in the making of the Disney movie “Miracle”, based on the famous showdown between the US and Soviet team.

So what makes the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum such an important and interesting part of Lake Placid? “The museum is all about education, to teach the public about the Olympic history of Lake Placid”, said Allison Haas. “We also collect and preserve important artifacts for future generations to appreciate the Olympics.”

The Museum is open every day from 10-5; for more information, check out the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s website or call 518-523-1655, extension 226.


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Almanack’s 10 Most Popular Stories of 2009

Here is our list of the Adirondack Almanack‘s ten most popular stories of 2009, in descending order.

History of Adirondack Airplane Crashes
This year’s tragic death of two in the crash of a Piper Cherokee 140 single engine aircraft en route from Saratoga to Malone spawned this look at the some 30 major plane crashes that have happened in the Adirondacks since 1912. Adirondack danger and disaster stories have always been an Adirondack Almanack reader favorite. I’ve covered thin ice, earthquakes, drownings, bridge collapses, mining, boating, and of course, our 10 Deadliest Accidents in The Adirondack Mountain Region.

New Study: Coy-Wolves Evolved To Hunt Local Deer
A new study by scientists from the New York State Museum showed how local coyotes have evolved to be bigger and stronger over the last 90 years, both expanding their geographic range and becoming the top predator in the Northeast – by interbreeding with wolves. 2009 was also notable at the Almanack for our addition new natural history contributor Ellen Rathbone. Ellen’s regular looks at our natural world have included how feral cats impact wildlife, the joys of macro wildlife photography, local unique trees like the Black Tupelo; she has stuck up for skunks, pondered porcupines, and even gave three cheers for carrion beetles (“nature’s sanitary engineers”).

Kids Enter Big Tupper Ski Area Fight
One of the big stories in the region in 2009 has been the reopening of the Big Tupper Ski Area. Back in March, when reopening the old slopes was still very much tied to a development plan that included 652 high-end home and townhouses, a 60-room hotel, and more, Mary Thill took a look at the movement to enlist kids in the plan to make the development happen. “The project has become a sensitive issue, drawing questions about its scale, financing, tax breaks, new utilities and backcountry building lots,” Mary wrote, “Inside Tupper Lake, there have been shows of political and public support. Some have questioned whether asking kids to wear ski jackets and carry signs shills them into a much larger debate. And to miss a point. Nobody is against skiing.” Indeed, nobody was against skiing, and Tupper Lakers eventually worked diligently, apolitically and successfully to reopen their slopes.

Upper Hudson Rail Trail Planned: North Creek to Tahawus
When the Almanack broke the news in October that there were plans afoot to transform the northern end of the Upper Hudson Railroad into a 29-mile multi-use trail from the North Creek Railroad Station to Tahawus, it sparked a great discussion between supporters and critics of the plan the spilled over into a follow-up post by new Almanack contributor Alan Wechsler. “We already have a paved path from North Creek to Newcomb – it’s called State Route 28N,” the first commenter opined. The ensuing debate covered the history of the rail line, the role of the federal government in seizing Forest Preserve land in war time, and the legal questions surrounding its subsequent abandonment.

Adirondack Park Agency Releases 2009 Land Use Plan Map
The release of the Adirondack Park Agency’s 2009 Adirondack Park Official Map was a very popular post this year. The new map (the first since 2003) includes recent state land acquisitions and the overall framework for protection of the Adirondack Park’s public and private land resources. More than a dozen times our contributors wrote about maps and geography this past year. The Almanack looked at the digitization of the reports and surveys of Verplanck Colvin, the disappearance, and then reappearance of the Adirondack Park on Google Maps, the longest Adirondack rivers, and lakes and ponds of the Forest Preserve. Two highlights came from our resident paddling guru and regular Almanack contributor Don Morris who offered Adirondack Waterbody Trivia, and a geographic look at the Adirondack eskers paddlers often see in their travels.

Adirondack Trout And Salmon Season Opener Tips
One of the great things I love about the Almanack is the variety of readers we have. Readers from all walks of life. Hunters, trappers, and fishermen and women, are right there with vegans, animal rights activists, and just plain folks who appreciate wildlife too much to kill and eat it. Mary Thill’s report on a Bald Eagle’s awful encounter with a leg hold trap brought out both sides, and the wife of the man who set the trap. We considered the near extinction and reintroduction of beaver, the battle (some success, some distress) over reducing mercury pollution in fish, and a major crackdown on deer poaching.

Adirondack Fall Foliage Seen from Space
Sometimes short and simple, fun and interesting, are just the ticket. Our discovery of a NASA satellite photo of the Northern Forest and parts of southeastern Canada taken several years ago at the peak of fall color was hugely popular.

Opinion: Hiking, Drinking and News at Adirondack Papers
Mary Thill struck a nerve with local media folks (and even sparked some hate mail) when she questioned the wisdom of two new publications by local newspapers, including the Post-Star‘s leap into the weekly entertainment rag business, what she called a “crayon-font attempt to take ad share away from the excellent but shoestring real community newspaper.” The post inspired a collaboration with the Lake George Mirror‘s publisher and editor Tony Hall. Hall has offered some enlightening insight into the origins of the APA, the question over whether State Senator Ron Stafford was really an environmentalist, and some great expanded coverage of Lake George. The partnership with the Lake George Mirror opened the door for a similar weekly contribution from Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown, who has come forward with a return to the Battle of Crane Pond Road, some insight into Clarence Petty, and when it’s alright to call it a day. The jury is still out on the Adirondack Daily Enterprise better-designed hikey new outdoor-recreation publication as a business decision, but the bimonthly, called Embark, is gradually growing a low ad percentage; it appears to be helping keep at least one reporter employed, so we wish it well in 2010.

Canton Eddie: Turn-of-the-Century Safecracker
Adirondack history has always been a forte of the Almanack. When someone robbed a Tupper Lake bank it inspired a look at one of the region’s most infamous thieves. Canton Eddie was the perpetrator of a string of at least 30 robberies in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Another highlight of 2009 at the Almanack was the publication of Historic Tales from the Adirondack Almanack, which included Canton Eddie’s story, and a whole lot more Adirondack history.

The Adirondacks: Gateway for Quebec Hydroponic Marijuana
Whether a measure of what Adirondackers are really doing behind closed doors, or a testament to our fascination with crime drama, when Mary Thill (clearly the winner of this years “readers’ choice” award!) covered the July story of the largest border drug bust ever, readership went off the charts. “A billion dollars worth of this weed funnels through Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence counties annually, according to Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne,” Mary wrote. “A look at the map is all it takes to see that much of it travels through the Adirondack Park on its way to Albany, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and as far south as Florida.” The news was a fascinating inside look at where some American marijuana comes from, but probably no surprise to those who were following the other big drug story of the year: the discovery of some 800 marijuana plants growing in Essex County.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Early Film of an Adirondack Log Drive

In the early 1900s the Ford Company sent an early film camera crew to the Adirondacks to record the life and work of the region’s loggers. The footage they shot shows the logging camps, the icing of roadways for skidding, the interior of a sawmill, loading and hauling logs, and more.

The original footage is held in the National Archives, but I’ve posted a short clip of a group of river drivers working a small log jam at our YouTube page along with a clip form the PBS documentary The Adirondacks that shows similar color footage. Check it out here.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Lights: Wanakena’s Star of Wonder

A star rises above the black spruce flats of the northwestern Adirondacks during the darkest time of year. It’s one of the simplest yet most startling holiday displays in the Adirondack Park for the utter lack of any other light.

Wanakena residents Ron Caton and Ken Maxwell first strung Christmas lights on a fire tower belonging to the SUNY-ESF Ranger School there eight years ago as a joke. “We weren’t sure how it would go over,” Ron says. He remembers Army helicopters from Fort Drum circling the first night the tower was lit and wondering if he was going to get in trouble. But the beacon over Route 3 was a hit, and he and Maxwell have decorated the 43-foot-tall structure every year since. The lights go on in early December and are turned off New Year’s Day. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Lake George Mirror: An Adirondack Insitution

The Lake George Mirror has finally found a spot on the web and has begun posting occasional selections from his archive. The paper, which holds the title of longest running resort newspaper in America, was founded in 1880 by Alfred Merrick (later Lake George’s oldest living resident). Originally the paper was published to serve the village of Lake George and had a temperance bent, a somewhat strange approach for a resort town.

Not long after founding the paper, Merrick gave it up for interest in a bowling alley, and it struggled until W.H. Tippetts came along. Tippets published the paper in order to promote Lake George as a summer resort. When he abandoned the Mirror in 1900 it was purchased by several local businessmen who turned it over to Edward Knight, editor of the Essex County News. The Knight family edited the paper into the 1960s.

A short history on the paper’s new website offers a glimpse of what the paper was like under the leadership of the Knight family:

While it chronicled the changes on Lake George – the rise and fall of the great resort hotels, the destruction of the mansions along Lake Shore Drive, and the proliferation of motels and tourist cabins – the Mirror itself changed little. For the families who returned each summer, the Mirror was the newspaper of record. It announced the arrivals and departures of their neighbors, publicized their activities, and performed all the offices of a country paper: heralding births, celebrating weddings, saying a few final words over the deceased in the editorial and obituary columns. The Mirror did not, however, neglect the year round residents – the homefolks. It championed projects that would enhance daily life in the villages and towns, such as the road over Tongue Mountain, the Million Dollar Beach and the expansion of Shepard Park. As long-time editor Art Knight recalled in 1970, “Many of the improvements we have advocated over the years have become realities and we like to think that perhaps in some small way we have been responsible for their ultimate adoption.”

Except on rare occasions, the Mirror had little interest in political controversy. It was, however, a fierce advocate for the protection of Lake George. During World War II, for instance, Art Knight editorialized: “There is one battle in which there can be no armistice …the battle of Lake George. The enemy are those thoughtless and selfish people who, with only their immediate profit in view, will take advantage of any laxity in our guards in order to save themselves a dollar.” Art Knight recognized that the lake’s shores would continue to be developed. But he also recognized that care would have to be taken if the development was to enhance and not detract from the lake’s beauty. “If we fail, then our detractions from the natural beauties… will earn for all of us the antipathy of future generations.”

Robert Hall took over the Lake George Mirror in the late 1950s. Hall had been a Washington and European correspondent for the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker and its Sunday edition editor. During a time when the FBI was conducting illegal operations against suspected leftist (including burglaries, opening mail, and illegal wiretaps) Hall grew tired of radical politics and moved his family to the Adirondacks where he eventually purchased the Warrensburg News, the Corinthian, the Indian Lake Bulletin and the Hamilton Country News. He established Adirondack Life magazine as a supplement to his his weekly papers in 1962.

In 1968, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed Hall to the Temporary Commission to Study the Future of the Adirondacks, whose recommendations led to the establishment of the APA. Hall later sold the Mirror, and his other weeklies, to Denton Publications and took a job as editor of the New York State’s Conservationist magazine.

The Mirror went from owner to owner until Tony Hall, Robert Hall’s son who was raised in Warrensburg, bought the paper with his wife Lisa in 1998. Of course regular readers of the Adirondack Almanack will also recognize Tony’s name on our list of contributors.



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