Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Adirondack Scenic Byways Site Coming

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) will launch the a new website for the Adirondack North Country Region Scenic Byways program and release the 2008 Scenic Byways Visitors Survey. Both will be formally presented to the public on June 4, 2009 at the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondacks includes 13 designated scenic byways.

During the program, ANCA will introduce what they are calling a “state-of-the-art website that will increase state, national, and international exposure for the 45 towns along the Adirondack Trail, Central Adirondack Trail and Olympic Scenic Byways.” ANCA will also present the results of a comprehensive visitor survey (based on face-to-face interviews) conducted in 2008.

“Comprehensive trip planning information about the area, including community features about arts, history and cultural resources, services, the natural environment, outdoor recreation, and special events will be featured,” the ANCA said in a letter to supporters. “The site will serve as a companion resource to Chamber and tourism websites and will profile Byway communities by promoting the unique experiences and quality of life sought after by leisure travelers.”

Those who would like to attend the June 4th program should complete and return the Reservation Form [doc] by mail, e-mail or fax. There will be a $10.00 registration fee to cover the cost of lunch. At the close of the program, guests will have the option to tour the museum at their leisure and ANCA’s Board will host a director’s meeting.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sliding Sports Museum Proposed For Lake Placid

At the 1932 & 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum Board of Directors’ April meeting, newest member Joe Clain donated $1,000 to kick-off the creation of an International Sliding Sports Museum in Lake Placid. Clain made the donation on behalf of his father Gus Clain and the Linney Family in the hopes that other prominent families in the history of sliding sports will come forward and meet the challenge.

Angus (Gus) Clain was the brakeman for the four-man sled piloted by Robert Linney, which qualified at the 1939 trials in Lake Placid for the 1940 Olympic Winter Games. Because of WWII, the Games were not contested in 1940 or 1944. The family of Gus Clain previously created and donated a very rare exhibit consisting of the sweater and jacket issued to the 1940 Olympic Bobsled team, and which is on permanent display in the Olympic Museum.

The Sliding Sports Museum at Mt. Van Hoevenberg will be an annex to the already existing Olympic Museum – located within the Olympic Center – and as such will come under the same chartering agency, the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York on behalf of the State Education Department. The future museum will share the same 501(c) 3 not-for-profit status making all donations eligible for a tax deduction.

“The next logical step is to create an advisory board of interested community members who share the same passion for preserving, displaying and educating future generations on the rich history of sliding sports in this area,” said Olympic Museum Director Liz De Fazio in a press release issued this week.

For more information on the proposed International Sliding Museum, or to make a donation, contact De Fazio at (518) 523-1655, ext. 226 or [email protected]


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adirondack Museum Opens For Season May 22nd

The Adirondack Museum will open for its 52nd season on Friday, May 22, 2009. The Adirondack Museum once again extends an invitation to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park to visit free of charge in May, June, and October. Through this annual gift to close friends and neighbors, the museum welcomes visitors from all corners of the Park. Proof of residency is required.

The Adirondack Museum is open daily from May 22 through October 18, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Friday, September 4 and Friday, September 18 are exceptions to the schedule, as the museum will be closed to prepare for special events. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.

On Saturday, May 23 the Museum Store will host a book signing from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. as part of the opening weekend festivities. Elizabeth Folwell, Creative Director of Adirondack Life will sign copies of her new book Short Carries – Essays from Adirondack Life. Betsy Folwell joined the staff of Adirondack Life in 1989. Since then she has written scores of articles and essays on the politics, nature, history and culture of the six million acres Adirondack Park. She has won eight writing awards from the International Regional Magazine Association.

The twenty-two exhibits, historic buildings, outstanding collections, lovely gardens, and pristine views that are the Adirondack Museum tell stories of life, work, and play in the Adirondack Park of northern New York State.

“Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts & Comforters” is one of two exhibits to debut in 2009. The exceptionally beautiful exhibition will include historic quilts from the Adirondack Museum’s textile collection, as well as contemporary quilts, comforters, and pieced wall hangings on loan from quilters in communities throughout the region. The exhibit illustrates a vibrant pieced-textile tradition nurtured by the Adirondack region for over a century and a half. From bedcovers, plain or fancy, meant to keep families warm through long Adirondack winters, to stunning art quilts of the twenty-first century, the quilts and comforters of the North Country mirror national trends and also tell a unique story of life in the mountains.

The second new exhibit, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks” will include paintings, maps, prints, and photographs that illuminate the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers. The exhibit will showcase more than forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, and James David Smillie. Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains. A dozen rare and significant maps from the collection of the museum’s research library demonstrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondacks.

“A ‘Wild Unsettled Country'” will feature photographs sold as tourist souvenirs and to “armchair travelers.” The first photographic landscape studies made in the Adirondacks by William James Stillman in 1859 have never been exhibited before. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be included. The exhibit will include special labels and text just for kids in addition to the traditional presentation. The Adirondack Museum encourages parents and children to explore and discover together.

The Adirondack Museum’s 2009 Photobelt exhibition will feature rarely-seen images from the extensive postcard collection. “Wish Your Were Here” will showcase Adirondack views of hotels, campsites, tally-ho rides, scenery, boat trips, restaurants, and roadside attractions – sent home to friends and relatives from 1900 to 1960. Postcards have always been treasured souvenirs and the perfect way to say, “Wish you were here!”

Five newly acquired boats will be displayed in the exhibition “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.” These include a very rare 1918 Moxley launch, a Hickman Sea Sled (forerunner of the Boston Whaler), a Grumman canoe, a Theodore Hanmer guideboat, a Grant Raider, and a 1910 William Vassar guideboat.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Pottersville Fair: Gambling, Races, and Gaslight Village

Those traveling on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) between Exits 26 and 27 probably don’t realize they are passing literally over Pottersville, the northern Warren County hamlet that borders lower Schroon Lake. From the 1870s into the early 1960s the tiny village was home to amusements that drew thousands. The most remarkable of them, the Pottersville Fair, drew 7,000 on a single day in 1913. Later it hosted a large dance hall, roller skating rink, and the Glendale Drive-in, while nearby Under the Maples on Echo Lake was host to circus acts and an amusement park that was a forerunner of Gaslight Village. Today only the long abandoned Drive-in screen remains, a silent sentinel to Pottersville’s past as an amusement Mecca.

It’s no surprise that the tiny hamlet could host such remarkable amusements. The Town of Chester was on the early stage coach road north of Warrensburgh and Caldwell (as Lake George was then known). It was home to two main villages, Chestertown and Pottersville, and several smaller ones (Starbuckville, Darrowsville, Igerna, Riverside – now Riparius, and Haysburg). In the years after the Civil War Chester became a center for summer visitors and hotels and boarding houses sprung up to welcome them. Early travelers made their way from the D & H Railroad to Riverside (where the first suspension bridge across the Hudson River was built) and then by coach to Chestertown, Pottersville, and Schroon Lake. From a dock at the south end of Schroon small steamers plied the lake. Numerous summer camps were established for children and adults in and around Pottersville. Cottages, colonies, and motels were added with the coming of motor transportation – until recently the Wells’ House was a stop on the Adirondack Trailways bus line. It was all ended with the construction of the Adirondack Northway which diverted traffic over the historic hamlet.

Undoubtedly early religious camp meetings were held at the grove where The Pottersville Fair was established by the Faxon family in 1877. The Faxons were the town’s leading industrial family, owner of Chester’s largest employer, a tannery. The fair was immediately popular, not so much for its agricultural exhibits – there generally weren’t any – but for its gambling opportunities. For thirty years gambling was the main attraction at the fair, and horse racing the main event. In 1897, the fair advertised “a fine program of races consisting of trotting and pacing, running, bicycle, and foot races in which liberal purses and prizes are offered.”

By 1906 anti-gambling forces were applying pressure and the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported that year that “The fair in Pottersville drew good crowds, the feature being the horse races. There were no exhibits made.” “It is the purpose of the management,” the paper suggested “to reorganize the Glendale Union Agricultural Society and devote the exhibition entirely to sports, giving large purses for the racing events.”

The anti-gambling crusade was part of a larger backlash against the free-spirited Gay Nineties. Throughout the country society’s moral guardians railed against the liberties and license of the period and chief among them was drinking and gambling. The heaviest attacks were leveled at the racetracks like the Glendale. Newspapers depicted horse bettors as dupes of a crooked alliance of track management, bookmakers, owners and politicians who continued to allow horse racing. Across the country state after state made tracks like the Glendale illegal. Only Kentucky, Maryland, and New York refused to join them in outlawing the popular sport. That was until the anti-gambling forces secured one of our own local boys Charles Evans Hughes, born in Glens Falls in 1859, as Governor of New York.

Soon after taking office in 1907 Hughes began pushing a bill to eliminate gambling at the state’s racetracks. Although resistance was formidable, the Agnew-Hart Bill [pdf] passed in June 1908 and it became illegal to openly quote odds, solicit gambling, or stand in a fixed place and record bets. Police detectives worked themselves into the crowds at the tracks and arrested those violating the law, the penalty for which was jail. The result was the near death of horse-racing in New York – including at the Pottersville Fair, although gaming and horsebetting continued there underground. In 1914, for example, it was reported to members of the state legislature that the Pottersville Fair “has long been famous… for the great variety of wide open gambling and lottery schemes.” If you want to read how the whole thing affected the horse racing stock, and more about how horseracing survived, take a look at the Thoroughbred TimesRacing Through the Century: 1911-1920.”

As local citizens and summer tourists began fearing arrest and imprisonment for gambling – they weren’t really there for the horses – gate receipts dropped and the Glendale Union Agricultural Society went bankrupt. In 1910, the Pottersville Fair Association took over the fair. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the newly reopened fair grounds of 1910:

The Pottersville Fair, it is frankly admitted, is conducted solely for the amusement of its patrons. The exhibits of products of farm and factory, beautiful specimens of feminine handiwork, art subjects and curios found at other fairs are her conspicuous by their absence. The association makes no effort to get them and does not believe that the majority of people who go to the fair want them. Nobody would want them anyhow, for all over the grounds, in the midway, on the race track, on the stage in front of the grandstand, and in the dance hall, there is every minute something doing to amuse and interest the crowd.

In addition to the racing, gaming, dancing, and carnival and stage acts the renewed fair in 1910 featured “an areoplane flight, which is positively guaranteed, and which will mark the first appearance in these parts of an airship.”

In the 1920s the dance hall at what was then called Glendale Park featured dancing every Thursday, 9 pm to 1 am (later expanded to Friday and Saturday as well). Among the bands who played there were Val Jean and His Orchestra, Domino Orchestra, Guy LaPell’s Orchestra, and the James Healey Band. The park’s skating rink was reported in 1945 to be “almost too crowded to skate.” Eventually a drive-in movie theater would be installed. A neighbor of mine who worked in the kitchen at the Glendale reported that the bar there was staffed by seven bartenders at once.

A legacy of the Pottersville Fair was its stable of acrobats and stage shows. Under The Maples, an emerging resort of sorts on Echo Lake just south of the Wells House, carried on the carnival atmosphere with acrobats and tightrope walkers. General amusements were installed at Echo Lake and the new amusement park operated late into the 1950s, eventually under the name Gaslight Village as it still retained much of its Gay Nineties theme. In about 1958 Charley Woods purchased the whole kit and kaboodle and moved it to Lake George where the 1890s were relived until about 1990 at his own Gaslight Village. You can read about that here.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Madrid, Hammond Newspapers Added to Local Archive

Murderers, slaves and the future of the weekly newspaper. What could these ideas possibly have in common? They were all topics of articles published in St. Lawrence County within a 30-year time span. The Hammond Advertiser and the Madrid Herald are the latest additions to the Northern New York Historical Newspapers website. The Hammond paper has a run from 1886-1947, and the Madrid paper runs from 1904-1918.

These two newspapers join over 40 others with a total of more than 1,366,000 pages on the NNY Historical Newspapers site. There are over 14 newspapers from St. Lawrence County. The site is provided free of charge to the public by the Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN) in Potsdam.

The June 16, 1904 edition of the Madrid Herald had the following notices under its “News of the Week” section:

“Tyson Taken to Auburn – James Tyson, the boy murderer, was taken from Lockport to Auburn State Prison to begin serving a term of twenty years for manslaughter. He was in charge of Under Sheriff Spaulding. Tyson stabbed Joseph Callahan, a waiter, in the Falls View Hotel, on the morning of February 10.”

It also reported, “Old Slave Dies – Henrietta Moore, colored, aged 103 years, died at Binghamton. She was born in slavery in Maryland, but escaped and served as a nurse for the Northern troops during the Civil War.”

A story in the June 15, 1939 edition of the Hammond Advertiser noted the following:

“WEEKLY PAPERS GAIN – The idea that weekly newspapers are on the way out is entirely wrong, according to Professor Bristow Adams of Cornell, who points to figures in the current issue of Ayers’ Newspaper Directory. About 20 years ago there was some pessimism about the future of the country weekly, he says, and much was written about the competition of the daily papers, the difficulty of getting national advertising for small newspapers, and similar drawbacks to success in the weekly field. Time has proved, he says, that the well managed, thoughtfully edited weekly is more of a rival to the daily than the daily is to the weekly, largely because the weekly can and does print strongly localized personal news which the daily paper is unable to get.”

The NNY Library Network is currently working on additional years of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Saranac Lake; and the Press-Republican, Plattsburgh.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roundtable to Discuss Interviewing and Oral History

The Clinton-Essex Counties Roundtable will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at the Northern New York American Canadian Genealogy Society, Keeseville Civic Center, 1802 Main St., Keeseville. The topic will be “Community Scholars Training: Interviewing & Oral History” and will be presented by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) Executive Director Jill Breit.

Breit will share examples of successful oral history projects and demonstrate the many ways interviews can be used for different outcomes. She will focus on how to organize an oral history project, the basics of an oral history interview, the importance of field notes and follow-up interviews, recorders and other equipment for collecting oral history.

There will also be a tour of NNY American Canadian Genealogy Society Library and the Anderson Falls Heritage Society. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $5.00, payable at the roundtable.

The roundtable is provided free of charge to the public on behalf of the Northern New York Library Network, Potsdam, and Documentary Heritage Program. To register for this event contact the NNYLN at 315-265-1119, or sign up on-line at www.nnyln.org and click on “Classes.”


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sweeping New Book About Lake Champlain

To coincide with the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial, Adirondack Life has published Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History, a big beautiful book about a singular expanse of water and the lands that surround it.

Every page of the large-format hardcover tome is rich with maps, illustrations and/or color photographs. The book gives due attention to the glaciers and natural and human history that pre-date the July 1609 arrival of explorer Samuel de Champlain, who fired the starting gun for two centuries of European warfare and upheaval.

The volume is divided into chapters about New York, Vermont and Quebec towns along the shoreline; the lake’s geology and biology; native inhabitants and their displacement; the waterway’s importance in colonial power struggles; its era as a highway for commercial transport; and finally Lake Champlain as a place of recreation.

The 220-page book is $44.95, available at adirondacklife.com and in regional bookstores.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Blue Line Day

On this day in 1891 the first report was issued proposing the Adirondack Park. The map distinguished parkland with a blue border.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Adirondack History Center Museum Events

2009 is the 50th anniversary of the Essex County Historical Society / Adirondack History Center Museum’s Brewster Memorial Library in Elizabethtown. The organization has a variety of exhibitions, tours, and other special events planned for the coming year — take the time to check them out.

Upcoming events:

Inside the Landscape (May 23 – October 31)
An exhibit showcasing contemporary artist Edward Cornell, cultivator of poignant creations which meld art, history and the present life of community. Cornell’s landscape paintings and farming-implement sculptures provide viewers with a deeper appreciation of the past which widens our perspective of the present day landscape.

In and Around Essex (May 23 – September 20)
An exhibition of thirty-one color photographs taken by photographer Betsy Tisdale in 1972 and originally showcased in the early 1980’s. The exhibit has been revitalized for 2009 to convey how the human landscape of Essex, New York has changed over the past twenty-seven years.

From Dusty Shelves to Intellectual Access (June 13 – October 31)
2009 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the museum’s research library, the Brewster Memorial Library. The exhibit examines 50 years of collecting, preserving and providing access to Essex County’s cultural history. It illuminates Essex County history by embracing its people, places, and events and honors 50 years of dedicated patronage by researchers, educators and the community.

Race, Gender and Class: Architecture & Society in Essex County (May 23 – October 31)
Race, gender, and class are explored in this exhibit by examining Essex County’s industrial, religious, and educational past through architecture using historic and contemporary photographs.

ANCA Cover Art Show (September 22 – October 31)

The 22nd year of the Arts Council for the Northern Adirondacks (ACNA) Cover Art Show featuring local artists. The Cover Art winner this year is Ray Jenkins of Tupper Lake with his watercolor “Sailboat Race- One Minute to Start” to be raffled at “Field, Forest and Stream Day” on September 26th, 2009. Thirty donated artworks for a Silent Auction are included in the exhibition.

Ways of the Woods: People and the Land in the Northern Forest (September 26)
As part of this year’s Field Forest and Stream Day, the Northern Forest Center’s mobile museum, Ways of the Woods, come to the museum grounds. Visitors step into the back of a 53 foot tractor-trailer to enjoy this exciting, innovative exhibit which illuminates the “changing relationships among people” through interactive displays, live performance and demonstration.

Architectural Heritage Tour of Elizabethtown with Adirondack Architectural Heritage (May 23, 9 a.m. & 1 p.m.)
As part of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is presenting a new tour series, Architecture of the Champlain Valley. Together with the Adirondack History Center Museum, come explore the architecture and rich cultural heritage of Elizabethtown on a half day walking tour led by professional guides. Please contact AARCH for reservations @ 518-834-9328

Boquet River Cemetery Tour (June 14, 3p.m.)
Margaret Bartley leads a walking tour of the Boquet River Cemetery in New Russia as another project of the popular New Russia History Project. The tour will locate and identify the tombstones of early settlers to the area.

Architecture and Society in Essex County (July 12, 4 p.m.)
A lecture offered by Ellen Ryan, Community Outreach Director with Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) to correspond with this season’s exhibit “Race, Gender, And Class: Architecture and Society in Essex County”. The lecture focuses on the question “What can we learn about people and their environment by looking at architecture?”

Bits and Pieces Performance Tour: From the Center of the World, A Celebration of Lake Champlain (Fridays: July 17, 24, 31 @ 11 a.m. Sundays: July 19, 26, and August 2 @4 p.m.)
A theatrical exploration of the changing landscape and the curious process of human “discovery” related to the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s journey on the lake that bears his name.

Historic Elizabethtown Slide Show (July 19, 3 p.m.)
Margaret Bartley conducts a slide show on Elizabethtown’s history as part of the Etown Day celebration. The lecture discusses the evolution of Elizabethtown by examining the various sections of town.

Settlers and Settlements (August 20, 4 p.m.)
Shirley LaForest, Essex Town Historian, offers a PowerPoint slide show and lecture depicting the life of successful local farmers in the 19th century. The lecture shows the commercial and social advantages of settlement in the Champlain Valley and northern Adirondack region.

Field Forest & Stream (September 26, 10 a.m. — 4:30 p.m.)
A harvest festival featuring demonstrations and exhibits by regional craftspeople, antique dealers with storytellers and musical performances.

Walking Tour of the Supernatural (October 24 & 31)
Gather at the Museum for cider & donuts and a ghostly beginning. Walk to the Riverside Cemetery for graveside revelations, and then through the woods to the Hand House for a haunting drawing room performance.

John Brown Commemorative (December 6)
Event commemorating the 150th anniversary of John Brown death at Harper’s Ferry and the return of the body for burial at his farm in North Elba.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Verplanck Colvin Reports & Surveys Going Online

The New York State Library has been digitizing significant parts of its extensive collection, and some of the new online records pertain to our own Adirondack region.

We noted last August the availability of orderly books of Captain Amos Hitchcock’s Connecticut provincial companies during the French and Indian War.

Now the library has a new blog, and it reported yesterday that staff are in the process of digitizing the Reports and Surveys of the Adirondack Mountains compiled by Verplanck Colvin. When they are done, the collection will include 17 books and hundreds of rare 19th century Adirondack maps and plates, like the one above of Lower Saranac Lake and its environs in Townships 21 and 24 (Macomb’s Purchase). It will be an outstanding collection of local maps. When it’s finally online we’ll let you know and add it to our Adirondack Map Round-Up.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Lake Placid Tour Boat Doris II Retired From Service

Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.

Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.

Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, “A Wild, Unsettled Country: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” which will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22 — meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora and fauna. These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted the Great Adirondack Pass “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs — stereo views and albumen prints — sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition, in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract . . . covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

A Wild, Unsettled Country will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center — a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch-screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

A Wild, Unsettled Country is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children, a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide, a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Essential Literature: The Adirondack Reader

For 45 years the cornerstone of any Adirondack library has been The Adirondack Reader, compiled and edited by Paul Jamieson. The anthology, published by Macmillan in 1964, collected pivotal and perceptive accounts of how people have experienced these woods since the arrival of Europeans 400 years ago.

Any true Adirondack geek already has a copy of the Reader, but now you need another. The Adirondack Mountain Club last month published a third edition that adds 30 entries written since the second edition came out in 1982.

Another reason to covet this update: pictures! A 32-page color insert of drawings, photographs, engravings and paintings spans Adirondack history, from William James Stillman and Winslow Homer to contemporary painters Laura von Rosk and Lynn Benevento. The original Reader had some black-and-white plates; the second edition had none.

It’s a hefty 544-page tome, but any book that attempts to get at the essence of the Adirondacks is going to be epic. Holdovers from earlier editions (six entries had to be cut to make room) include many “there I was” accounts, starting with Father Isaac Jogues’s 1642 description of having his fingernails bitten off by Mohawk captors (“our wounds — which for not being dressed, became putrid even to the extent of breeding worms”) and becoming the first white man to see the Adirondack interior — the first to live to tell anyway. Hard to top that kind of journey narrative, but almost every piece in the Reader commands attention. Entries weave back and forth between fiction, history, essay and poetry organized into ten subject categories Jamieson established nearly a half century ago.

Mixed in with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Francis Parkman, Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodore Dreiser and Verplanck Colvin are present-day writers Christopher Shaw, Christine Jerome, Sue Halpern, Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Folwell, Amy Godine and Philip Terrie, among others. Neal Burdick contributes an essay on the century-old silence still surrounding the question “Who Shot Orrando P. Dexter?,” a land baron hated by the locals in Santa Clara. Burdick also served as the book’s co-editor, assisting Jamieson, who died in 2006 at age 103.

“It’s still Paul’s book,” Burdick says. “I did the legwork. His name is more prominent on the cover at my request.” Jamieson approved each new writing, and many excerpts and articles were included on recommendations by other writers, Burdick adds. Burdick is editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondac magazine as well as a writer and poet in his own right.

More than any other book, this collection comes closest to defining the Adirondack sense of place we all feel but few can articulate. It’s as much a pleasure to read as an education, and Jamieson’s introductory sections feel prescient. He still seems very much the dean of Adirondack letters (a new edition of his classic Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow is also in the pipeline). Jamieson was an author, professor of English at St. Lawrence University, an advocate for Adirondack land preservation and canoe access, and an explorer of this region’s topography as well as literature.

The book is beautiful but alas blemished; sloppy proofreading has allowed typos to creep into the text, in both the older material and new additions. Further printings are planned, perhaps a paperback edition. We hope the copyediting will be brought up to the standards of the writers represented.

The Reader is $39.95 at book and outdoor supply stores, by calling 800-395-8080, or online at www.adk.org.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Conservation Easements And The Adirondack Forest

I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:

When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.



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