Thursday, November 13, 2008

Adirondack Museum Makes Quilt Selections

In early September, the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake sent out a “Call for Quilts,” searching for exceptional quilts, comforters, or pieced wall hangings made after 1970, used in, inspired by, or depicting the Adirondack region. The goal was to identify outstanding contemporary pieced textiles to be in included in a new exhibit, “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” which will open in May 2009.

Quilters across the North Country responded. The museum received fifty-two quilts for consideration, representing the work of thirty-seven quilters.

A panel of three quilters and quilting scholars selected pieces for the exhibit. They included: Edith Mitchell, quilt maker, quilting teacher, and founding owner of Blue Mountain Designs; Shirley Hewitt Ware, Family and Consumer Science educator and organizer of the Adirondack Park Centennial Quilt Exhibit held in 1992; and Lee Kogan, Curator of Public Programs and Special Exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

Fifteen contemporary quilts or wall hangings will be displayed in the new exhibition. The quilters and their work include: Sherry Matthews, Piseco, N.Y, “Adirondack Fall; “Linda Zila, Chestertown, N.Y., “Change in the Wind;” Rosemary Goliber, Indian Lake, N.Y., “Cedar River;” North Country Crafters, Indian Lake, N.Y., “Indian Lake” (Sesquicentennial); Fifty-six friends of Terry and Diane Perkins, “Housewarming Quilt;” Schroon Lake Central School, “Class of 2008 Group Quilt.”

Also: Louisa Woodworth, Long Lake, N.Y., “A Sight for Sore Eyes;” Kris Gregson Moss, Queensbury, N.Y., “The Wind Embracing the Tree;” Anne Smith, St. Regis Falls, N.Y., “The Mad Fiddler:” Betty Walp, Chestertown, N.Y., “Black Bear;” Nancy DiDonato, Diamond Point, N.Y., “Home, Glorious Home;” Camp Sagamore Quilters, “Camp Sagamore Quilt;” Kathleen Towers, Wells, N.Y., “Giant Mountain, Keene Valley, “In My Mind’s Eye;” Patty Farrell, Long Lake, N.Y., “Adirondack Nostalgia;” and Jacqueline Luke-Hayes, Booneville, N.Y., “Adirondack Fall.”

The remaining quilters who submitted entries have been invited to exhibit their quilts in a special show as part of the Adirondack Museum’s annual Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival to be held on September 12, 2009.

The Adirondack region has nurtured a vibrant pieced-textile tradition 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. “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” will include quilts for the Adirondack Museum’s textile collection that are rarely on display.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Adirondack Museum Student Writing Competition

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 protected]


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Great Camp Uncas Now A National Historic Landmark.

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.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Adirondack History Center Museum Supernatural Tour

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.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Missle Silo Open House in Lewis, NY Sunday

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.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Essex Co Historical Society Wins Archives Award

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)


Friday, October 17, 2008

Adirondack Museum Celebrates Indian Lake

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).


Monday, September 29, 2008

Fort Ticonderoga Appeals to Public for Help

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.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Local Museums Offer Free Admission Saturday

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.

Last year, nearly 100,000 people attended Museum Day. All fifty states plus Puerto Rico were represented by 651 participating museums. Here is a list of local museums that are offering free admission Saturday:

Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake
Adirondack History Center Museum, Elizabethtown
Brookside Museum, Ballston Spa
Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs
Sci-Tech Center of Northern New York, Watertown
Slate Valley Museum, Granville
The Children’s Museum at Saratoga, Saratoga Springs

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.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Cemetery Preservation and Conservation Workshop

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.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fabric and Fiber Arts Fest at Adirondack Museum

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.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

American Mountain Men at the Adirondack Museum

Press release forwarded for your information:

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.


Monday, August 11, 2008

OPINION: Going Local in The Adirondacks

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:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (1994)

Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century (1998)

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2006)

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.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

French and Indian War Orderly Books Online

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.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Northern Forest Institute Announced For Newcomb

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.”

Regular Almanack readers know that Eliot Spitzer’s budget called for $125,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund to be put toward SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s purchase and rehabilitation of the Masten House – that had apparently fallen through, late in the budget process, but was apparently found somewhere in DEC’s budget..

The DEC’s press release notes:

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].



Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!