Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Wild West: Ned Buntline to Frontier Town

Earl Woodward, a school teacher from Ohio, decided that Warren County would be a good place to situate western style dude ranches. Art Bensen, a telephone company employee from Staten Island, was no less certain that North Hudson was a suitable location for an old west theme park, which he called Frontier Town.

If the relationship between the wild west and the southern Adirondacks strikes you as casual at best, a moment’s reflection will clarify matters.

There is, of course, as little connection between cowboys and the Adirondack native as there is between the guide-boat builder and Santa Claus and Mother Goose, sources of inspiration for other well-known Adirondack attractions. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Remembering Lake George’s Chuck Hawley

When my wife Lisa and I were considering purchasing the Lake George Mirror, among the first people we consulted was Chuck Hawley, the artist, politician and activist who died on March 9 at the age of 86.

Hawley was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He was at my engagement party and my father’s funeral. He was Lake George’s supervisor and a member of the County board when my father published the Warrensburg-Lake George News, and the two developed a mutually useful relationship. He’d tell my father what would happen before it happened – information prized by a weekly newspaper editor when he’s competing with a daily, as I’ve learned for myself.

In 1998, I wrote a profile of Chuck for the Lake George Mirror, which I reproduce here.

About twenty years ago, some hikers on Black Mountain discovered a slab of rockface inscribed: ‘R.Rogers.’ Whether this was in fact the autograph of Robert Rogers, as the hikers believed, is still subject to debate, but there is no doubt that many people around Lake George hoped that it was authentic.

Rogers and his Rangers have always appealed to our imaginations, perhaps because they were the first identifiably American heroes. Chuck Hawley, whose painting of a Ranger is reproduced here, has done more than anyone else in our region to shape the popular image of the Rangers.

The painting was one of a series depicting the Rangers commissioned by Harold Veeder in 1966 for the newly constructed Holiday Inn. They have been republished often in newspapers, magazines and books, and reproductions are best sellers at Fort William Henry and at the Lake George Historical Association’s shop in the old Court House.

Hawley wanted the portraits to be as historically accurate as possible; he spent months in the libraries researching the Rangers’ dress, habits and weapons; he read contemporary accounts and picked the brains of historians like Harrison Bird, the author of numerous books about the era, who served with Hawley on the Lake George Park Commission.

When he began the series, Hawley was Supervisor for the Town of Lake George, and the model for the portrait reproduced here was his colleague on the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Earl Bump, the Supervisor from Horicon. Another model was Howard MacDonald, for many years a member of the Lake George Village Board of Trustees and the founder of Lake George’s Little League.

Despite the fact that he has been both a public official and a painter (as well as a graphic designer and the owner of an advertising agency) Hawley has really had only one career: Lake George. It is a career for which he was in some sense predestined. Stuart Hawley, his father, was Warren County Clerk for twenty-five years; in 1950 he was elected to the New York State Assembly and served through 1958, when he was succeeded by Richard Bartlett. Assemblyman Hawley introduced the legislation authorizing the construction of the Prospect Mountain Highway. Fred Hawley, who was supervisor of Lake George from 1918 through 1921, was Chuck’s grandfather.

Hawley’s deep roots in the area (his own family came to Lake George a few decades after Rogers departed at the end of the French and Indian Wars) may have helped to make him an unusually farsighted public official.

He believed that the health of the tourist economy depended upon the protection of the lake, and the orderly development of the village and the shores. The businessmen who came to make a quick dollar, he has said, “can’t see past August. They’re the shortsighted ones. The visionaries see as far as Labor Day weekend.”

In 1997, Hawley gave up his seat on the Lake George Park Commission, which he had occupied for thirty years, ten of them as chairman.

In the late 1970s, worried that heavy development along the shores would cause the lake to lose its famous translucent clarity, and frustrated by the Park Commission’s lack of authority and funding, Hawley campaigned for the creation of a task force that would study the challenges facing Lake George and suggest approaches for meeting them.

In 1984, the Task Force for the Future of the Lake George Park was organized, with Hawley as a member. Of its 200 recommendations, the most significant were those urging the Governor and the legislature to enhance the Park Commission’s regulatory powers and to provide it with a reliable, independent source of funding. Hawley wrote to Governor Cuomo, “New responsibilities and powers for the Commission are vitally necessary to save Lake George. At this late date there is no alternative.”

Former Lake George Park Commission Chairman Carl DeSantis says of Hawley’s tenure: “He wasn’t afraid to take a stand, even if his position wasn’t popular with business. We’ve been good friends since the 1940s, and we both remember when the lake was a lot cleaner. Chuck has dedicated his life to protecting Lake George.”

Although Hawley has retired from official life, his interest in Lake George is undiminished. At his home on Pine Point, the lake is never out of view, and it has survived better than he expected. He’s pleased that the experimental use of sonar is under consideration, having fought to use that means to eradicate milfoil since the late 1980s. In 1971 he wondered aloud to a reporter from the Lake George Mirror why the Lake George business district faced away from the lake; in the late 1950s he and the late Alex Muratori developed a plan to build a boardwalk along the lake. He’s glad that one is underway.

And, of course, he still paints. Hawley’s landscapes of an unspoiled Lake George have been powerful tools for its preservation.

Illustrations:

Chuck Hawley’s painting of Robert Rogers, based on Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Bump.

Hawley receiving Lake George’s Wilbur Dow Award from Dow’s son Bill, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, in 2002.

Two landscape paintings of Lake George by Hawley: “Black Mountain in Spring” and “Down the lake in Spring.”

For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Almanack Celebrates Five Years With History And Humor

The month of March marked the fifth year anniversary of Adirondack Almanack. In the past five years the site has grown to include over a dozen regular contributors. We’ve hosted hundreds of discussions (a few of them heated, others enlightening, some even funny), but through it all I think it’s safe to say the Almanack has offered its readers a unique look at life in the Adirondack region from inside the Blue Line.

I thought that on this occasion I’d take a look back at how regional online media has changed in the last five years. You might recall a similar look at the local blogosphere that I did in 2006, and again in 2008. Looking back on the events since Adirondack Almanack was launched in 2005, I think the last few years might be considered the beginning of a new micro-era in local media, one that follows the movement of local media online between 1997 and 2003.

First a little history, setting aside the earlier digital communities like Usenet, GEnie, BiX, CompuServe, e-mail listservers, and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), widespread availability of news and commentary online is now a 15-year-old phenomenon. You can see some great historical moments at the detailed Timeline of New Media History at the Poynter Institute, and a look at early newspaper online failings at Gawker’s Valleywag blog by Nicholas Carlson.

Although Poynter’s timeline cites a Columbus Dispatch deal with CompuServe in 1980 as the first online newspaper, suffice it to say that newspapers and other media outlets began going online in large numbers beginning in the mid to late 1990s. According to Chip Brown in the American Journalism Review, there were just 20 newspapers online worldwide in 1994, and some 5,000 by 2000 (almost 3,000 in the US).

That trend holds true in the Adirondack region as well. According to the Internet Archive (which is probably close to accurate), the Glens Falls Post Star was first out of the box locally when they launched their online site in 1997.

North Country Public Radio went online the following year (1998), just in time for the arrival of Brian Mann, who moved to the area to help start the station’s news bureau.

The Plattsburgh Press Republican didn’t arrive online until 1999.

Apparently the laggard of the local daily news bunch was the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Archived pages of that paper only stretch back to 2003, although it’s possible they had a simple site up before that. [Do let me know if any of these dates are wrong].

Right behind the newspapers were an early corps of online citizen journalists, diarists, and commentators. According to a short history of blogging written by Rebecca Blood, at the beginning of 1999 there were just over 20 known “weblogs” (remember that word?). By the end of 2000, there were thousands of newly dubbed “bloggers” keeping various permutations of online diaries, lists of links, and commentary.

The rise of blogging platforms like Blogger (1999, Pyra Labs; sold to Google in 2003, the same year TypePad was released), and WordPress (released in 2005), helped popularize the idea that anyone with basic internet and computer skills could publish their own content easily. In today’s new media environment everyone can be a producer of online content (print, audio, and video).

By the time Adirondack Almanack was launched in 2005 there were about 10 million active bloggers (in others words, those still publishing three months after launching their blogs). There was just two local blogs then, Dale Hobson’s Brain Clouds, begun in 2002, and Mark Hobson’s (no relation) Landscapist, begun in 2003. Adirondack Musing began on the same day as the Almanack in March of 2005. Although some purists might differ as to whether or not it qualifies as a blog, Mark Wilson began regular postings of editorial cartoons at EmpireWire.com in 2001.

Today, local media have legions of mostly unread bloggers with NCPR’s The In Box blog, begun last year, being the notable exception.

Blogs have grown in popularity in the last few years in particular with studies showing that about twenty-five percent of Americans now turn to blogs at least weekly.

In 1995 Newsweek ran an article by Clifford Stoll (hat tip to Dick Eastman), on why the internet will fail. It’s a hilarious look at the what the naysayers were offering in the early years of widespread internet access. Here are a few excerpts:

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works…

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure…

That was good, but here’s my favorite:

We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn’t—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

Wonder what Stoll is up to these days? Turns out not much. His 1995 book Silicon Snake Oil is now available for 75 cents plus shipping from Amazon.com.

Here’s a prediction of my own; something I’ve been thinking about lately. Network news and cable TV in general will be dead before newspapers. The reason? The high cost of cable TV service compared to the readily available access to online video from sites like Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix. An increasing number of people are looking for TV programming “outside the box” and that trend is expected to grow dramatically in the coming year.

Another prediction: desktop computers will shift from their current look to the iPad model. Horizontal touch screens will shift our gaze from the monitor to the actual desktop, so sell your traditional computer monitor maker stock now. This shift will also hasten the end of newsprint as consumers shift to these more portable (and more ergonomic) readers.

Nine out of ten Americans now access the internet. Fifteen years from now, the way we encounter media will have been dramatically transformed.

What are your predictions?


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let’s Eat: Prohibition and the Burris Whiskey Jug

In 1918, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, banning “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States …for beverage purposes.”

The new law was widely unpopular. One Adirondack camp owner asserted, “We looked upon Prohibition as a great disaster. There was no sense of guilt in breaking this law. Everyone we knew shared our sentiments.”

During the “dry decade,” some Adirondackers found their isolated homes and camps made perfect spots for defying the ban on alcohol. Rumrunners smuggled booze from Canada through the Adirondack Park, finding it easier to hide from or outrun Federal agents in the woods. Adirondack neighbors looked out for one another, storing contraband and secretly gathering to enjoy a variety of smuggled or home made brews.

Clyde Adelbert Burris (1883-1957) lived on Pleasant Lake. Like many Adirondackers, he engaged in a variety of work to make ends meet. He worked as a painter and carpenter throughout the year. In the winter he cut and stored ice to sell to campers in the summer and made rowboats which he rented for fifty cents a day, on the honor system. During Prohibition, Clyde Burris made alcohol.

He owned and operated two stills near Pleasant Lake in Fulton County. One was located off the present-day East Shore Road “behind a big rock.” He sold whiskey by the gallon or in teacups to neighbors at “tea parties.” His granddaughter, Joyce Ploss, recalled discovering Burris’ hidden liquor bottles: “At the top of the stairs [there] was a panel which covered a secret room under the eaves. The whiskey was stored in this secret room, and we found many gallon jugs there, waiting patiently to be put to use.”

Ploss also discovered some of her grandfather’s handwritten recipes for making beer (in 6 and 20 gallon batches), and Tokay, alder berry, dandelion, and black sherry wines. His recipe for “Elder Blossom Wine”:

1 quart of blossoms with stems picked off and packed down

Pore 1 gallon of boiling water over them, let stand 1 hour then strain

Add 3 pounds sugar and let it boil a few minutes

Skim well and let stand until luke warm or about 70 [degrees]

Then add 1 grated lemmon and ½ yeast cake

Let stand in warm place for 24 hours and strain again

Then bottle but do not cork tight until it is through fermenting or the bottles will break

When it does not work any more it can be corked tight

On March 23, 1933. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which permitted the sale of certain types of alcoholic drinks. In December that year, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition altogether.

Come see Clyde Burris’ whiskey jug (2004.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Almanack Welcomes Local Food TraditionsFrom Adirondack Museum Chief Curator Laura Rice

This summer the Adirondack Museum will be offering a special exhibition focused on Adirondack food traditions and stories. I’m happy to report that beginning next week, Almanack readers will be getting a regular taste of the exhibit “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” served up by Laura Rice, the Adirondack Museum’s Chief Curator.

The region has rich food traditions that include fish, game, cheese, apples and maple syrup; old family recipes served at home and camp, at community potlucks and around campfires. Laura Rice will be preparing stories drawn from the exhibit that focus on the region’s history of cooking, brewing, eating and drinking. Look for her entries to begin March 16 and continue every other week into October.

The exhibit, a year in the making, will include a “food trail” around the museum’s campus that will highlight food-related artifacts in other exhibits. The number of artifacts in the exhibit itself is between 200 and 300 including everything from a vegetable chopper and butter churn to a high-style evening gown. There’s a gasoline-fueled camp stove the manufacturer promised “can’t possibly explode”; a poster advertising the Glen Road Inn (“one of the toughest bars-dance halls in Warren County”); an accounting of food expenses from a Great Camp in 1941 that included 2,800 California oranges, 52 pints of clam juice, and 90 pounds of coffee; and an Adirondack-inspired dessert plate designed for a U.S.
President.

Chief Curator Rice along with Laura Cotton, Associate Curator, conducted most of the research and writing for the “Lets Eat!” exhibition. Assistant Curator Angie Snye and Conservator Doreen Alessi helped prepare the object and installation. Micaela Hall, Christine Campeau and Jessica Rubin from the museum’s education department weighed in designed the interactive components. An advisory team was also formed made up of area chefs, educators, and community members and two scholars, Marge Bruchac (University of Connecticut), and Jessamyn Neuhaus (SUNY Plattsburgh) also weighed in.

“Let’s Eat!” is sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities and Adirondack Almanack is happy to have the opportunity to share stories from the exhibit with our readers.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Adirondack Legend Jim Goodwin Turns 100

Jim Goodwin turned a hundred today. It’s an occasion that all who love the Adirondacks should celebrate, for perhaps no one loves these mountains more than he does.

Goodwin first saw Keene Valley when he was nine years old and was smitten at once. At eleven, he began guiding hikers for fifty cents a day. At twelve, he led his first client up Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit.

Have you ever admired the scenery from Pyramid Peak? Thank Jim Goodwin. He cut the trail from Lower Ausable Lake to Pyramid and Gothics in 1966. Many hikers contend that Pyramid has the most spectacular vista in the High Peaks.

Goodwin finished the Pyramid route nearly forty years after cutting his first trail, at fourteen, over Little Porter to Porter Mountain. Several years ago, Jim’s son, Tony, relocated the beginning of the trail and dedicated it to the elder Goodwin. Jim also cut the popular Ridge Trail, the most scenic route up Giant Mountain.

Incidentally, Tony followed in his father’s footsteps as a trail builder and as editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook.

Jim also made his mark as a rock climber. He pioneered early cliff routes in the Adirondacks with the legendary John Case, who went on to become president of the American Alpine Club, and wrote parts of the first Adirondack rock-climbing guidebook. Goodwin took part in several first ascents.

He also was a backcountry skier and ice climber.

Goodwin, who taught at a private school in Connecticut, wrote about his adventures in the Adirondacks and other mountains in And Gladly Guide: Reflections on a Life in the Mountains. Neal Burdick’s review of the memoir appeared in the March/April 2004 issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Click on the PDF files below to read the article.

Jim now lives in a retirement home in Keene Valley. And he still gets outside.

“He likes to take walks and say hello to the people he meets,” Tony Goodwin says.

Photo: Jim Goodwin, age 9, on top of Hopkins Mountain.

Page 1 of book review.

Page 2 of book review.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Epic Stories of the Iroquois" at the Adirondack Museum

The Iroquois people are the original residents of what is now New York State. There were five tribes in the first Confederacy: the Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga. Eventually, a sixth nation, the Tuscarora tribe, joined.

On Sunday, March 14 Mohawk storyteller Darren Bonaparte will recount stories and legends of the Rotinonhsion:ni (Iroquois), including “The Creation Story” and “The Great Peacemaker” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. The program, “Epic Stories of the Iroquois,” is part of the Cabin Fever Sunday series.

Darren Bonaparte is a storyteller, Mohawk historian, artist, teacher, and maker of wampum belts from Akwesasne. He is the author of Creation and Confederation: The Living History of the Iroquois as well as A Lily Among Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Káteri Tekahkwí:tha.

Bonaparte is a also former elected chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. His articles have been published in Aboriginal Voices, Winds of Change, The Nation, and Native American magazine. He is also the creator of “The Wampum Chronicles: Mohawk Territory on the Internet” at www.wampumchronicles.com.

The presentation will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
www.adirondackmuseum.org .

Also on March 14, the Adirondack Museum Education Department will hold an Open House for Educators from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Area teachers are invited to visit the Mark W. Potter Education Center to discover the variety of hands-on programs available for students in Pre-K through grade 12. All are designed to meet curricular needs. Educators can learn about the museum’s School Membership program and enter to win a day of free outreach classes for their school. For more information, contact Christine Campeau at (518) 352-7311, ext. 116 or ccampeau@adkmuseum.org.

Photo: Darren Bonaparte with wampum.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adirondack Winter: Musings on Snow

By the time you read this post, you may be getting sick of snow. We shouldn’t really complain too much, though, for up until this week, we have had very little snowfall in 2010. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had to shovel my driveway before this week. February has been downright dry and snowless, so the windfall of white stuff this week has brought should be a welcome sight, even if we don’t appreciate it until summer, when hot dry days take their toll on available surface and ground water. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inklings of Change: Bushnell Falls, 1969

On the spring equinox of March, 1969, I snowshoed and skied into Bushnell Falls, on the slopes of Mount Marcy, with Sam Lewis and two friends of his from college: Henry, a young English professor, and Doug, who had recently graduated with Sam from Franklin and Marshall. It had been the first of a series of major snowfall winters, and we made our way along the John’s Brook Trail after the usual college kids’ late start in the gloom of another approaching storm. The accumulated snow lay seven feet deep in the pine plantation, as we judged from the height of the telephone line to the ranger cabin that we had to step over periodically as it zigzagged back and forth across the trail. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Marcus Granger: Warren County Fiddler, Poet, Hotelman

Not long after my father purchased the Warrensburg News and its old printing plant in 1958, he found in a box of papers a small booklet entitled “Guide to Schroon Lake and Vicinity,” with Marcus E. Granger listed as the author.

The booklet had been printed in the shop eighty years earlier. Although numerous guidebooks to the Adirondacks had been published before Granger’s, his was unique in two respects. His was probably the first guidebook devoted to Schroon Lake. Dr. Durant’s Adirondack Railroad had been completed in 1872, and the station at Riverside, or Riparius, brought Schroon Lake within reach of tourists for the first time. Second, and even more remarkable, was the fact that it was written entirely in heroic couplets. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wilmington Historical Society Events For 2010

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 5— “Wilmington Memorials”

Wednesday, June 2— “Races Up Whiteface Mountain”

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

Wednesday, August 4— “Wilmington Notch”

Wednesday, September 1— “Wilmington Taxes!”

Wednesday, October 6— “Disasters in Wilmington”

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

Note: There is NO Meeting in December.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Trove of Historic LG Photos Donated to Bolton Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lake George: Jefferson, Madison, and Prince Taylor

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

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


Monday, February 1, 2010

A Short History of Adirondack Avalanches

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

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

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


Monday, February 1, 2010

Adirondack History at the NYS Ornithological Association

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

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

Merriam’s Adirondack List

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

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

The Common Loon in New York State