The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has introduced the Harry G. Remington Adirondack History Writing Competition. Open to students in grades 9 – 12 in school districts wholly or partially within the Adirondack Park, the competition offers awards for the three best essays about an historical person, place, document, organization, time period, business, event, or location relating to a community or communities within or bordering the Park. The first place winner will receive $500, the second place winner $300, and the third place $200. Essays must be 1500 to 2500 words in length and be the original work of the entrant. Entries must be received by or on March 1, 2009. The essays will be judged on originality of idea, quality of research, and the use of a variety of resources such as books, maps, publications, documents, photographs, oral history interviews, artifacts, or other historical resources.
A panel consisting of two members of the Adirondack Museum’s professional staff and a history teacher from an eligible school will read and judge the essays. The winners of the essay competition will be announced on June 1, 2009. Awards will be presented at the student’s school graduation and at the Adirondack Museum’s annual Harold K. Hochschild Award ceremony in August 2009.
The Adirondack History Writing Competition is dedicated to the memory of Harry G. Remington whose love of the Adirondacks ran deep, nurtured by a lifetime of summers spent at his family camp in Franklin County. Remington’s belief that history matters came from his family’s own rich history. His grandfather, Ashbel Parmelee Fitch, was born in Mooers, N.Y. and became a prominent lawyer and New York City politician who once was challenged to a duel by an impulsive Theodore Roosevelt.
One of Fitch’s grandfathers, Reverend Ashbel Parmelee, was the minister at the First Congregational Church of Malone, N.Y. for thirty-six years, served as a chaplain in the war of 1812 and at Clinton Prison in Dannamora, N.Y. According to local lore, his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Fitch’s other grandfather, Jabez Fitch Jr., was a licensed physician in Mooers who late in life became a physician at Clinton prison. Fitch’s cousin, Morton Parmelee, was a Franklin County lumberman who became an unlikely public advocate for sustainable forestry and the preservation of Adirondack forests during the 1880s and 1890s.
For additional information about the Harry G. Remington Adirondack History Writing Competition, please contact Christine Campeau, School Program Coordinator and Museum Educator at email@example.com.
US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced yesterday that Great Camp Uncas on Mohegan Lake has been selected as a National Historic Landmark.
Camp Uncas is located a few miles south of the hamlet of Raquette Lake, in the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. It is close to the geographic center of the 9,300-square mile Adirondack Park. The camp was built by William West Durant, pre-eminent architect and builder of the Park’s most famous and well-preserve great camps (including the adjacent Great Camp Sagamore, also an Historic Landmark and open to the public for day trips and overnight stays). The designation of Great Camp Uncas marks the third building in the tiny hamlet of Raquette Lake to be awarded National Landmark status. The other two are Great Camp Sagamore and Great Camp Pine Knot, all built by Durant.
Great Camps are compounds of buildings meant as a self-contained (often self-sustaining) seasonal retreat for a wealthy family, mimicking a tiny rural village. Great camp architecture reached its peak around the dawn of 20th Century, as the industrial magnates of the Gilded Age were spending their fortunes on ways to escape the crowded and polluted cites of the Northeast. Each building served a separate purpose, with dining halls, libraries, game rooms, blacksmith shops, boathouses, carriage houses, barns, farms, guest quarters, servants quarters and lounges.
Many great camps fell into disrepair as the wealthy owners passed away or lost their fortunes in the Great Depression. Some were later purchased by scout groups and other institutions that had the means to keep them in order.
Perhaps the two most important features of Durant’s great camps are his use of the landscape to conceal the buildings from view until you are right next to them, and his use of whole logs, rock and bark to create a rustic look that matched the landscape but also provided great comfort within. It was a combination of the American log cabin and the opulent European ski chalet. The style has been widely emulated, serving as the prototype for nearly every major lodge and administrative structure built by the National Park Service, including Yellowstone Lodge in Montana.
While Durant built Great Camp Uncas for himself, he was forced to sell it to pay his debts. New owner J. P. Morgan used it as a wilderness retreat for many years.
For the past 30 years, visitors to Great Camp Sagamore have been given tours of Uncas as well. More than 20 group tours came through just this past summer. Uncas and Sagamore have each hosted the Adirondack Council’s Annual Forever Wild Dinner and Conservationist of the Year Award celebration. This year, Uncas hosted the Adirondack Architectural Heritage organization’s annual meeting as well.
The Sagamore and Uncas roads are designated bike trails, surrounded by Adirondack Forest Preserve lands.
Here is an excerpt from today’s Department of the Interior news release announcing the new designation for Great Camp Uncas:
* Camp Uncas was developed 1893 to 1895 on Mohegan Lake in what is now the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
* Camp Uncas is one of the best examples of Adirondack camp architecture, which was designed for leisure. It is of exceptional historical and architectural significance as the first Adirondack camp to be planned as a single unit by William West Durant, widely recognized as one of the most important innovators of the property type.
* At Camp Uncas, Durant developed the camp as a single cohesive unit: a “compound plan” for camps that provided for an array of separate buildings, all subordinate to the natural setting. Camp Uncas was built as an ensemble from start to finish.
* The Adirondack camp had a strong and lasting influence on the design of rustic buildings developed for national and state park systems in the 20th century.
On Saturday, October 25 at 4:00pm the Adirondack History Center Museum will host a Supernatural Tour. The tour begins at the museum with cider and donuts. The audience will be introduced to haunted stories surrounding murderer Henry Debosnys, the last man to be hung in Essex County (that is not him at left – I could not find any images of the hanging, that one is from about the same time). The tour will continue to Riverside Cemetery greeted by revelations of prominent citizens. It will then proceed through the woods and into the drawing room of the Hand House where the audience will be treated to theatrical portraits of ghostly characters.
Admission for the tour is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Wear warm clothing, walking shoes and bring umbrellas in case of rain. A Victorian dinner to benefit the museum will follow the tour at 6:00pm at an additional cost. The Adirondack History Center Museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY 12932. For more information contact 518-873-6466.
The Australian Architect and Designer Alexander Michael is conducting tours of his restored Atlas Missile Silo (video) in Lewis, Essex County, NY this Sunday October 26th from 11:00AM to 2:00 PM. This is the first (and perhaps the only) time the silo will be open to the public. The Lewis site is the only known restored missile silo in the United States (and perhaps the world). After over 11 years of restoration the restored command control center is an amazing sight.
The silo is Boquett 556-5, an Atlas-F ICBM silo designated by the US Air Force in 1960 (local report) and also known as Lewis Missile Base.
The Board of Regents and the New York State Archives have selected the Essex County Historical Society | Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown to receive the 2008 Annual Archives Award for Program Excellence in a Historical Records Repository. The award will be presented to Essex County Historical Society Director Margaret Gibbs, Assistant Director Jenifer Kuba, and Museum Educator Lindsay Pontius at a luncheon ceremony at the State Education Building in Albany on October 20, 2008. The award commends Essex County Historical Society for its outstanding archival program that contributes significantly to understanding the region’s history. The award recognizes the historical society for its well organized and managed archives and for its efforts to provide access to the county’s documentary heritage through interesting exhibitions and excellent educational programs for school children.
Previous award winners include Schenectady County Historical Society (2007), Huguenot Historical Society in New Paltz (2006), M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University at Albany (2005), Onondaga Historical Association (2004), Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery (2003), and Hofstra University (2002)
The Adirondack Museum set aside tomorrow (Saturday, October 18, 2008) for a day dedicated to the Town of Indian Lake, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The Adirondack Museum offers free admission to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park in the month of October, and is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The special day will begin with a presentation by Curator Hallie Bond at 11:00 a.m. entitled “The Armchair Canoeist’s Guide to Blue Mountain Lake.” Enjoy the warmth and comfort of dry land as Bond leads a “virtual” canoe trip to some of the historic sites on the shores of the lake.
Known as the “Koh-i-noor of the smaller wilderness gems” in the 1880s, Blue Mountain Lake was the most fashionable highland resort in the northeast. The presentation will include “then” and “now” photographs of landmarks such as the Prospect House, Holland’s Blue Mountain House, the town library, the Episcopal Church, and the mighty steamboat Tuscarora.
Bond will ask the audience to reflect on the meaning of “progress” and the ups and downs of a tourist economy. She will also ask Blue Mountain Lake old-timers to help in the identification of mystery photos in the museum collection, and reminisce about days gone by.
At 1:00 p.m., Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program called “The Indians of Indian Lake.” The presentation will include historic anecdotes, photographs, and family histories of some of the Indians who have made their homes in the village.
Native peoples such as Sabael Benedict, Emma Meade, and the Tahamont family were involved in growing the Adirondack tourism industry, promoting and preserving herbal medicine, and even in developing the image of the Hollywood Indian. According to Bruchac, these highly visible families were not the “last of the Indians” in Indian Lake.
Dr. Marge Bruchac is a preeminent Abenaki historian. She is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Native American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern Native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award.
At 2:30 p.m. a reception will be held for all in the museum’s Visitor Center. Caroline M. Welsh, Director of the Adirondack Museum, and Barry Hutchins, Supervisor of the Town of Indian Lake, N.Y., will offer remarks. Cake, tea, and coffee will be served.
Artwork created by students at Indian Lake Central School will be displayed in the Visitor Center throughout the day.
The Adirondack Museum tells the story of the Adirondacks through exhibits, special events, classes for schools, and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages. The museum closes for the season on Sunday (October 19).
Mining in the Adirondacks was labor-intensive, dangerous work. More than 250 mines and ore processing sites have operated over time in the region, extracting eleven different minerals. Ores from the Adirondacks fed a national hunger for iron as the country expanded in the late 1800s. Mining is a major Adirondack story, which has been covered in part here at the Adirondack Almanack (and then picked up by NCPR). This week the Adirondack Museum (which closes for the year Sunday FYI) announced that it will re-install its exhibit on Mining in the Adirondacks (expected to open in 2011). According to the Museum, “the extensive new interactive exhibition will tell powerful stories of people and the communities that grew around mines and forges.” As plans for the exhibit progress, the museum has formed a regional advisory committee to serve as a sounding board for curators and museum educators – unfortunately the advisory committee contains no experts on immigration or labor history and it should.
Various immigrant groups, African Americans, and Native Americans have a long history of laboring in Adirondack mines and related industries, and they should be represented in the Adirondack Museum’s planning. Often their stories have been left untold, just as they often went unnamed in local news reports.
In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.
“An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.
The Adirondack Museum has a perfect opportunity to tell the stories of immigrant labor and others who labored in the mines, but they cannot do that properly without including historian of labor and immigration in the process. The museum claims it will convey the “the ebb and flow of a transient population of immigrant workers, work shifts, and company-sponsored social activities set the rhythm of life in mining towns.” The museum’s advisory committee includes a retired GE engineer, a retired mining executive, a retired mining engineer, a mining reclamation specialist, and lots of other bigwigs – but not a single miner; and that’s wrong.
Members of the Mining Advisory Committee include: Dick Merrill, retired General Electric engineer, historian and author from Queensbury, N.Y.; Scott Bombard, Graymont, Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Conrad Sharrow, retired college administrator and Dorothy Sharrow, retired elementary school teacher, Clifton Park, N.Y.; Vincent McLean, retired mining executive, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Gordon Pollard, professor SUNY Plattsburgh, and industrial archeologist; Carol Burke, professor, CAL-Irvine, oral historian, folklorist, and former Tahawus resident, Irvine, Ca.; Bob Meldrum, Slate Valley Museum, Granville, N.Y.; Don Grout, retired mining engineer, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Betsy Lowe, Director, DEC Region 5 and mining reclamation specialist, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Adirondack Museum Board of Trustee members Rhonda Brunner, AuSable Forks, N.Y.; Gilda Wray, Keene Valley, N.Y.; and Glenn Pearsall, Johnsburgh, N.Y.
I asked John Hammond, Executive Director of the Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN), five questions about the library consortium’s efforts to digitize northern New York newspapers. The NNYLN added its millionth page earlier this year. AA: What is the North New York Library Network?
JH: The Northern New York Library Network is a consortium of public, academic, school, and specialized libraries chartered in 1965 to improve library and research service to the people of the North Country. Our service area consists of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, and Oswego counties. In addition to the Northern New York Historical Newspapers project, we support several other initiatives such as an online catalog of all the materials held in all the libraries in the region (ICEPAC) and a regional digital history project (North Country Digital History). All of our projects can be accessed from our main site: www.nnyln.org
AA: How many newspapers / pages do you currently have online?
JH: We currently have thirty-four newspaper titles online, totaling 1.2 million pages. The site has proven to be quite popular – for instance, there were 24,356,486 individual searches conducted on the site in the last twelve months. From the feedback we receive, it appears that researchers from all over the country find the site to be very useful.
AA: What’s the process you use to get the newspapers online?
JH: We use a Mekel automated scanner to scan previously microfilmed newspapers, and then run those results through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. When you enter a search term, you are actually searching the results of the OCRing, but then get to read the digital image of the actual newspaper article you’re interested in….with your search term highlighted on that page. We load both the images of the actual newspapers and the OCR results on servers here in the NNYLN office in Potsdam, NY.
AA: Who pays for the NNYLN Newspaper Project?
JH: Paying for a project of this magnitude is an ongoing challenge. The NNYLN paid the start-up costs from special projects funds, and we have been very fortunate to receive support from many sources, including the Lake Placid Education Fund, the New York State Library, the Friends of the Potsdam Public Museum, the St. Regis Falls Historians Association, the St. Lawrence County Genealogical Society, and many individual researchers who contribute using our online form.
AA: You must see a lot of newspapers – is there a favorite? Which one?
JH: Each newspaper has its own story to tell….they all did a wonderful job reporting local news over the years. Of course, since we are processing so many materials – some in better shape than others- we like those that are the most legible so that our efforts result in a product of greatest research value.
Although it is apparently, no longer up, two local newspapers have reported (1, 2), that Fort Ticonderoga is asking the public to keep the fort from shutting down. According to Fred Herbst of Denton Publications:
You have probably seen the headlines. Fort Ticonderoga is in a very difficult financial situation. We don’t want to sell assets. We don’t want to lay off staff. We don’t want to curtail our education programs. We don’t want to close. Without the help of our friends and supporters, however, we may be faced with having to take one or more of these measures.
Fort Ticonderoga’s financial troubles began when benefactors Deborah and Forrest Mars Jr. withdrew their support – it’s been covered at length here.
The original statement continues:
Fort Ticonderoga needs its army of defenders now more than ever. The new Mars Education Center is 95 percent paid for. We have raised and borrowed more than $22 million, but we still need $700,000 to settle the outstanding bills and an additional $3.5 million to repay the loans and replenish our endowment fund.
Herbst revealed more about the details of Forrest Mars conflict with Executive Director Nick Westbrook.
“The ride is over,” he wrote in an Email to Westbrook that was provided to the Times of Ti.
The Email said Westbrook would not listen to new ideas and had stopped communicating with Mrs. Mars, when she was president of the fort board of trustees.
“We will not be writing any further checks,” Mr. Mars wrote. “Your performance as a manager is lacking. As a historian and archivist, etc., you excel. You have not given proper supervision and leadership to the staff.”
Mr. Mars said he and his wife paid for most of the Mars Education Center.
“As far as the new center, I would think that besides not communicating with your president (Mrs. Mars) regarding the opening of it, the exhibits to be in it, the budget for operating it and a program for the future use, you might have been nice enough and polite enough to communicate with the major donor (Mr. Mars),” the Email reads. “Not a word from you to either of us. We do not even know if you can fund it.”
The Email also said Mr. Mars had paid for one of Westbrook’s sons to attend a private school and had paid for vacations for Westbrook and his wife.
The Fort is under threat to close next year or sell off some it collections; Westbrook will be resigning. The fort closes for the season October 20th.
“The fort is running through its available endowment funds to pay the Mars Education Center bills, and, in the absence of a major infusion of funds, the fort will be essentially broke by the end of 2008,” Paine said in the memo.
This Saturday, September 27, 2008, nearly 100 museums in New York State will participate in Smithsonian magazine’s fourth annual Museum Day – including some in our Adirondack region. Museum Day is an opportunity for museums and cultural institutions nationwide to open their doors free of charge. A celebration of culture, learning and the dissemination of knowledge, Smithsonian’s Museum Day reflects the spirit of the magazine, and emulates the free-admission policy of the Smithsonian Institution’s Washington, D.C. – based museums.
A complete list of New York museums that are participating is located here.
Museum visitors must present Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day Admission Card to gain free entry to participating institutions. The Museum Day Admission Card is available for free download at Smithsonian.com.
The Adirondack History Center Museum (AHCM,) Essex County Historical Society, and Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will present a cemetery preservation and conservation workshop on Saturday, October 11, 2008. The event will be led by Jon Appell of New England Cemetery Services. The day will include a presentation followed by a hands-on demonstration during which participants will work on gravestones in a local cemetery. Those attending will learn about the origins of gravestone carving in America, various stone types and styles, and the progression of repair techniques from the 1900s to the present. The workshop will also cover basic stone repair techniques and their proper cleaning.
The workshop begins at 9AM and ends at 4PM; the cost is $40 for AARCH, AHCM, and Essex County Historical Society members and $45 for non-members. For more information or to make reservations, call AARCH at 518.834-9328.
Spinning, weaving, knitting, quilting, and a host of talented North Country artisans will take center stage at the Adirondack Museum for a celebration of traditional and contemporary fiber arts at the Adirondack Fabric & Fiber Arts Festival on Saturday, September 13, 2008.
Activities are planned from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the Blue Mountain Lake, New York museum, and will include demonstrations, a lecture, textile appraisal, quilt documentation, displays, vendors, a “knit-in,” and hands-on opportunities. All are included in the price of general museum admission. For centuries Adirondackers have spun, woven, and sewn – making textiles both functional and beautiful. Contemporary fiber artists have taken traditional techniques to new heights as they explore color, texture, and design.
The Adirondack Museum will offer a display of rarely seen historic textiles from the collection as part of the Festival, including crazy quilts with silks and embroidery and intricately patterned buff mittens.
Demonstrations will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Members of the Northern Needles Quilting Guild and the Adirondack Regional Artists Alliance will display their work and demonstrate the skills and methods needed to create traditional and art quilts.
The Serendipity Spinners – a “loosely knit” group of women who have been spinning together for many years – will demonstrate the various aspects of wool processing.
Sandi Cirillo is a fiber artist from Corning, N.Y. who specializes in felt making. She will demonstrate the uses of felted wool to create unique pieces, including bowls, jewelry, and books. Cirillo has been felting for over fifteen years. Her work is exhibited locally, throughout the state of New York, and across the nation. Examples of her work may been seen on her web site at www.especially-for-ewe.com
Textile appraiser and historian Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers, Cherry Valley, N.Y. will help visitors discover more about personal antique and collectible fabric pieces. For a small donation to the Adirondack Museum ($5 per piece, three pieces for $10) she will examine vintage textiles and evaluate them for historical importance and value. Only verbal appraisals will be provided.
Goody is a nationally recognized textile historian and expert in the identification of historic textiles. She is the founder, owner, and director of Thistle Hill Weavers, a commercial weaving mill that produces reproduction historic textiles for museums, designers, private homeowners, and the film industry. Textiles created by Thistle Hill have appeared in more than thirty major motion pictures. For more about Thistle Hill Weavers, visit
Dr. Jacqueline Atkins, a textile historian and the Kate Fowler Merle-Smith Curator of Textiles at the Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania will present an illustrated lecture, “The Japan Craze: The Japanese Influence on American Textiles and Art” at 1:00 p.m. Atkins will explore how a “craze” for all things Japanese inspired new textile designs in the late nineteenth century and look at its lasting effect.
The Fabric and Fiber Festival will include an afternoon “Knit-In” in the beautiful Visitor Center from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Folklorist and knitter Jill Breit will host the activity. This will be an opportunity for knitters to work on a project in the company of other knitting enthusiasts, and to exchange tips with participants about how to tackle tricky techniques.
Knitters are encouraged to bring finished projects to display, as well as works in progress. While the group knits, Jill will talk about popular styles of knitting in the Adirondacks, a resurgence of interest in handspun yarn, and the role of knitting groups in this traditional fiber art.
Jill Breit is Executive Director of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, an organization devoted to documentation and presentation of folklife in the North Country. She is the curator of the exhibition “Repeat from Here: Knitting in the North Country” and author of an article Knitting It Together: A Case Study of a Sweater. She will be working on an Aran pullover during the “Knit-In.”
Regional artisans and crafters will offer handmade and specialty items at the Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival in the Marion River Carry Pavilion.
Visitors of all ages can use treadle sewing machines to make a souvenir balsam sachet in the Mark W. Potter Education Center from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
North Country Public Radiois reporting that Fort Ticonderoga’s longtime executive director Nick Westbrook will step down (Post Star says next year). According to the report board president Peter Paine says Westbrook will remain “affiliated with the historic site in a scholarly and advisory capacity” and described the move as “part of a planned transition.”
Ongoing controversy over the loss of the Fort’s most important benefactor has been covered at length on the New York History Blog before. This weekend the New York Timescovered the story:
This summer, the national historic landmark — called Fort Ti for short — began its 100th season as an attraction open to the public with two causes for celebration: the unveiling of a splashy new education center, and an increase in visitors, reversing a long decline.
But instead of celebrating, its caretakers issued an S.O.S., warning that the fort, one of the state’s most important historic sites, was struggling for survival, largely because of a breach between the fort’s greatest benefactor — an heir of the Mars candy fortune — and its executive director.
The problem is money: The fort had a shortfall of $2.5 million for the education center. The president of the board that governs the fort, which is owned by a nonprofit organization, said in an internal memo this summer that the site would be “essentially broke” by the end of the year. The memo proposed a half-dozen solutions, including the sale of artwork from the group’s collection.
This post has been cross-posted to New York History, the blog of Historical News and Views From The Empire State.
In the heart of the Adirondacks is the Town of Newcomb, population about 500. The town was developed as a lumbering and mining community – today tourism and forest and wood products are the dominate way locals make a living. As a result the Essex County town is one of the Adirondacks’ poorer communities ($32,639 median income in 2000). » Continue Reading.
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