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.
The Adirondack Museum will host an encampment of American Mountain Men interpreters on August 15 and 16, 2008. The [event is open to the public, but the encampment is by invitation only.
Participants in the museum encampment are from the Brothers of the New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts segment of the national American Mountain Men organization.
While at the Adirondack Museum the group will interpret the lives and times of traditional mountain men with colorful demonstrations and displays of shooting, tomahawk, and knife throwing, furs, fire starting and cooking, clothing of both eastern and western mountain styles, period firearms, and more. This year’s encampment will include blacksmithing and a beaver skinning demonstration. Mountain men are powerful symbols of America’s wild frontier. Legends about the mountain man continue to fascinate because many of the tales are true: the life of the mountain man was rough, and despite an amazing ability to survive in the wilderness, it brought him face to face with death on a regular basis.
All of the American Mountain Men activities and demonstrations are included in the price of regular museum admission.
The American Mountain Men group was founded in 1968. The association researches and studies the history, traditions, tools, and mode of living of the trappers, explorers, and traders known as the mountain men. Members continuously work for mastery of the primitive skills of both the original mountain men and Native Americans. The group prides itself on the accuracy and authenticity of its interpretation and shares the knowledge they have gained with all who are interested.
Hunters, fishermen, and those interested in taxidermy may find my recent post at New York History interesting. The story includes the “world’s largest mounted fish, maybe the largest piece of taxidermy in the world” – a 73-year-old, 32-foot, mounted whale shark caught off Fire Island in 1935 and believed to have weighed about 8 tons (16,000 pounds). It also includes a short history of taxidermy and the covers the role of Carl Akeley whose lifelike creations were installed in dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
There was an interesting story in Sunday’s Press Republican about Gordon Oil in AuSable Forks. The company was founded by Clifford Gordon in 1921 and is now in it’s third generation. Part of the story was a tiny detail at the end that says a lot about our current economic environment:
“Starting out as Standard Oil of New York — or SOCONY, as the sign on top of the display [at Gordon’s main office] states — in the 1920s it became Mobiloil and then, in 1931, Socony-Vacuum.
Following 1955, every decade or so the parent company underwent business transformations, which included Socony Mobil Oil Co., Mobil Oil Corp., Mobil Corp. and, in 1999, ExxonMobil…
Lewis [Gordon, who operated the business with his brother Waxy for 50 years) recalled the big tanks they used to have, which were cut down for steel during World War II.
“There used to be storage in Plattsburgh,” he said. “Big barges would come through Whitehall and unload up there, and we would go get it.
“Now it all has to be trucked in. All the big companies had their tanks there in Plattsburgh. It’s kind of too bad.”
When the company switched to electrically operated pumps years ago it gave it’s older pumps to a local farmer who used them for many years. That’s the kind of localism we’ve lost and it’s to our detriment.
Localism – involvement in local politics, local economies, an understanding of local culture and the environment, underlies much of the Green movement. It’s not just politics and the environment, it’s about supportive communities of neighbors working together to protect each other from the sometimes ravenous capitalist economy (seen most recently in energy and food costs). It’s what was happening when Gordon Oil gave over those pumps to that farmer. It’s what was destroyed when those tanks were taken down and not replaced.
Localism is also the future we face. I was recently talking with a local hardware store owner, part of the True Value chain. He sells lumber, paint, the usual goods (plus his simply built furniture). He was telling me that he needed a special piece of lumber that he didn’t stock. He took his truck to pick it up at the Home Depot in Queensbury; they were out of stock, so he went to the Lowe’s and found what he was looking for. The piece of lumber cost him an additional $30 in gas for the truck, plus about two hours of time away from his shop. That piece of lumber could have been boughten for a fraction of the price not a quarter-mile away – albeit at a competing lumber store.
The story of the fuel oil storage facilities and the local hardware store owner are revealing for local businesses. They once stocked nearly everything a household needed. As corporations took over our world, local supplies (seen on store shelfs and those Plattsburgh tanks) have had to pared down their stocks as consumers have opted to drive long miles to shop at big box stores (or shippers have turned to trucking and on-demand wharehousing).
That is something that we’re going to see come to an end, although it make take a while for our neighbors to break their old habits. Even if the price of oil goes down before the election (as we argued it would), the damage has been done, and Adirondackers have started turning local out of necessity. That necessity is something local greens have been vociferously saying was bound to happen since the late 1980s, even as they argued for serious political efforts toward locally sustained communities.
The trend toward localism has already begun in a number of segments of Adirondack society – especially among small farmers and local wood products producers – but now we are going to see a much more general trend. Already Chestertown, North Creek, Schroon Lake, and surrounding areas have taxis – that’s right, cabs, right here in the North Country above Warrensburg. Not just a single car either, several companies that range widely through the mountains. You don’t need a taxi unless you are going someplace local.
James Kunstler (recently interviewed locally here) has been the most public area voice for localism. His books are a must-read for people interested in what future local economies could look like:
One thing Kunstler makes clear, is that it’s not just about energy – food is as important, and there are several ways to get informed about going local.
NCPR recently celebrated 10 years of the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers’ Market, and new markets have been established around the region in recent years. Local Harvest does a good job online showing where you can find local farmers and farmers markets in our region, but eating local means more than local farmer’s markets. It means connecting with a local CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) farm, it means growing your own food (alone and in cooperation with your neighbors), and it means shopping locally for locally produced goods.
Speaking of growing your own, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program for beginning framers that has recently expanded on the web. According to NCPR who recently reported the news, the new site:
…guides new farmers, and farmers changing crops or marketing strategy, step by step through starting a farm business: from setting goals and writing a business plan, to evaluating land, to taxes and permits. There’s a frequently asked questions section, worksheets to download, and an ongoing forum. The website is the latest offering from the New York Beginning Farmers Resource Center. The center is based at Cornell, but its roots are in the North Country.
We need to get to know our local farmers. The Wild Center is holding two more “Farmer Market Days 2008” on September 11th, and October 2nd “in celebration and promotion of the wonderful local food producers in the Adirondack Region.” Naturally we can’t live on the mostly fancy foods the Wild Center’s program seems to focus on, but their effort is a good start to introducing local farm operations to the Adirodnack community at large.
Adirondack Harvest is a buy local food group that was started 7 years ago. They recently received a $50,000 grant to expand their program, which they describe on their site:
Since its inception in 2001, Adirondack Harvest has grown to encompass Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties in northeastern New York. These counties contain major sections of the Adirondack Park and the Champlain Valley. Our focus has been on expanding markets for local farm products so that consumers have more choice of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets.
A more direct path to lessening food costs and supporting local farms comes from Adirondack Pork, aka Yellow House Farm and a member of Adirondack Harvest, where you can buy a whole or half locally raised pig (or go in on one with another family). A whole pig serves a family of four for about 6-9 months, depending on your eating habits. They raise a pig for you until it weighs about 200-225 pounds. Your pork is prepared for you by a local butcher – you tell them any special cuts, wrapping, etc., you want. Your meat comes to you wrapped, labeled and frozen. It takes a lot less freezer space then you would imagine, and its cheaper.
The bottom line is the economy is changing and the sooner we accept that it true and end our reliance on the big box stores filled with products from half a world away and their corporate partners. They have a stranglehold on our local economy and it’s time we fought back.
Check out the orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock’s Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War – great primary, albeit difficult, reading [pdf]. Here is a description from the New York State Library, which holds the original volumes:
Orderly books are the companies’ official record of all military orders, and include courts martial, disciplinary actions and promotions. These are the orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock’s Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War. The volumes also provide a record of troop movements in northern New York and Canada, and encampments at Albany, Fort Edward, Lake George, Crown Point and Fort Ontario.
The DEC has officially announced that the historic Masten House (at left), on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of “a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests.” Northern forests is intended to mean the area that “extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”
The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by [Open Space Institute’s] Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.
The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.
Here is some history of the Masten House from DEC:
Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondack at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club…
The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region’s first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot. [Actually, as is noted by a commenter below, Roosevelt already knew McKinley was shot, he thought that the President would be OK and so went to Tahawus].
The mid-1800s Natural History Survey of New York has been posted online at the New York State Library here. According to a recent note from the Library’s staff:
The Natural History Survey of New York, undertaken in the mid-1800s, covered zoology, flora, mineralogy, geology, agriculture and paleontology. The NYS Library has digitized the first three components of the survey so far. » Continue Reading.
The Albany Times Union ran a story this week that is one of the few looks at the really wealthy in our area:
” ‘It boggles my mind when I give a client a monthly bill for $500,000 and they just open their checkbook and write me a check without flinching,’ said Dean Howland. He’s been building high-end custom homes on Lake George for two decades and recalls only a few buyers who took out a mortgage…”
Today’s buyers typically come from the New York metropolitan area and often own their own business or amassed wealth as CEOs and money managers.
They generally refuse to be identified publicly (fear? humility? shame?) but they include this family:
Howland is building the Assembly Point complex for a Westchester County family in the construction business downstate. The owners, who asked that their names not be used, paid more than $1 million for an undistinguished house on a waterfront lot just south of Diamond Point on the lake’s west side. They tore down the old house and paid $500,000 to blast 10 feet into bedrock for a foundation, terrace the steep slope to the lake and truck in tons of gravel for a storm water management system. An adjoining parcel came up for sale. They bought that, too.
The couple’s 21-year-old daughter desired privacy, so they built a cottage with a loft, deck, gourmet kitchen and bath with Italian glass tile.
A partial tally of their lakefront compound reveals: 15 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 18 plasma TVs, eight security cameras, one infinity edge pool, one sauna, one steam room, one boccie ball court, one Hummer, one Corvette, one Harley, two horseshoe pits, five kayaks, three Jet-Skis, two canoes, three golf carts and a boathouse with four motorboats.
Stephen Serlin, Glens Falls obstetrician / gynecologist is owner of the 1895 Tudor revival Wikiosco, built for Royal C. Peabody in 1895 (that’s it at left). Peabody was founder of the Brooklyn Edison Co. – one of the country’s oldest electric companies and one that was charged with bilking its customers in 1920. It’s 11,000 sq-ft located just south of the Hearthstone Point, has “seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, staff quarters, a guest cottage and a 20-car garage. The asking price is $17.9 million.”
Phillip H. Morse, vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox, who got rich developing cardiac catheters, owns a newly built compound on the northern tip of Assembly Point estimated to be worth more than $20 million. The main house is over 10,000 sq-ft.
One wonders large a house it would take to cover the 2.6 million people in New York State without health insurance.
The Adirondack Museum will once again offer the “Dog Days of Summer” on August 2, 2008 featuring canine demonstrations, programs, and activities. One highlight is demonstrations of Skijoring dry land training, but there will also be a pooch parade and history presentations reflecting the role of dogs in the Adirondacks. Here are the details from the Museum’s press office:
The event will include a few simple rules and regulations for doggies and their people: dogs must be leashed at all times; owners must clean up after their pets – special bags will be available; dogs will only be allowed on the grounds – not in the exhibit buildings; Doggie Day Care will be available throughout the day at no charge, with the understanding that dogs cannot be left for more than an hour; poorly behaved or aggressive dogs will be asked to leave the museum grounds with their owners. Curator Hallie Bond will offer a richly illustrated program, “Dog Days in the Adirondacks” in the museum’s Auditorium at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Bond will share the adventures and exploits of Scotty, Gardie, Dandy, Fritz, Jack and Lucy – historic Adirondack characters whose stories have never been told – because they were dogs.
“Dog Days” demonstrations will include “Agility” at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon featuring a variety of dogs going through their paces on an agility/obstacle course featuring hurdles, weave poles, and tunnels. “Dry Land Training for Skijoring” will be demonstrated at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Skijoring is a winter dog- or horse-powered sport popularized in North America and derived from the Scandinavian sport of pulka. It involves a horse or from one to three dogs hitched directly to a human being on skis. Skijoring was a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics.
While skijoring behind a dog, the person wears a hip harness with a clip for attaching a lead, which is attached to the harness worn by the animal. The dog provides extra power to the skier who uses either a classic cross-country technique, or the faster skate skiing technique.
Any dog over the age of one year and in general good health can pull a skijorer, assuming they are physically able to do so. The classic northern breeds, such as Siberian and Alaskan Huskies, Malamutes, or Inuit dogs take to skijoring with glee. However, any pet dog is capable of enjoying this and many cross-breeds are seen in harness.
The dogs are taught the classic “mushing” commands to start running (hike), turn (gee and haw), and stop. Training is best done on foot, before the person straps on their skis, to avoid being pulled into objects, like trees or half-frozen creeks!
The “Dog Days” dry-land demonstrations will include: Bikejoring – dogs and a bicyclist working together; Canicross – dogs and a runner working together; and Cart or Scooter – dogs pulling a two or three-wheeled rig. Betsy McGettigan, Grace McDonnell, and Amelia and Royal McDonnell (two up-and-coming young skijorers) will be the presenters.
Museum visitors and their pets are invited to participate in the Rustic Agility Course from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and join the gala narrated Pooch Parade at 2:00 p.m. The 2007 parade featured a who’s who of dog breeds. Not to be missed!
Fort Ticonderoga President Peter S. Paine Jr. has suggested in a memo forwarded to the Plattsburgh Press Republican that the historic site (a veteran of the French and Indian and American Revolutionary wars as well as the War of 1812) has seven options to avoid permanent closure, none of them good.
Paine wrote in the memo that “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.” » Continue Reading.
On July 5, 1870, the New York Daily Tribune reported that “nature tourists” were flooding to the Adirondack Mountains. “Last summer, Mr. Murray’s book drew a throng of pleasure-seekers into the lake region,” the paper noted.
“Mr. Murray” was the Reverend William H.H. Murray, a New England clergyman, author of Adventures in the Wilderness: or Camp-life in the Adirondacks, and one of the all-time most passionate boosters of the outdoor life in the North Country.
On Monday, July 21, 2008, Dr. Terrance Young will offer an illustrated program entitled “Into the Wild: William H.H. Murray and the Beginning of Camping in America” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the illustrated presentation will be held in the museum’s auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $4.00 for non-members.
Dr. Young will explain how Reverend Murray’s book was the first to present Adirondack camping as a form of pilgrimage to wild nature. Every tourist and would-be camper who came to the Adirondacks in the summers of 1869 and 1870 had a copy of Adventures in the Wilderness tucked into his carpetbag, rucksack, or bundle. The result was the transformation of this previously remote and quiet region into an accessible, bustling destination.
Young is an Associate Professor of Geography at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Ca. He teaches and writes about the historical geography of American recreation, and its relationship to the natural environment. He is the author of Building San Francisco’s Parks, 1850 – 1930, a book about the city’s municipal park system.
Dr. Young is currently working on a book about the history and meaning of American recreational camping entitled Heading Out: American Camping Since 1869.