Sunday, January 3, 2021

It’s a Wonderful Life, Tony Anderson

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives.
When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.”
— It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946


This is a good time of year to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Set in a fictional town in upstate New York called Bedford Falls, the movie tells the story of a man named George Bailey who discovers how much his life matters. The movie brings to mind the wonderful life of Saranac Laker, Alton “Tony” Anderson.

Tony Anderson fell ill with tuberculosis while working as a toolmaker in Southington, Connecticut. As a member of the Masons, he received financial help to come to Saranac Lake for treatment in 1919. “I came here to die,” Tony used to say.

Facing death, Tony received a gift, a chance to imagine the world without him. He made his home here and dedicated his life to giving back. He served as village mayor for nine terms. He worked as the volunteer ambulance driver and as a plane spotter on top of the Hotel Saranac during the war. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Elks Club, the Rotary, the Boat and Waterway Club, the hospital board, and the blood bank.

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Town of Long Lake Receives Grant for Five N.Y.S. Historic Markers

Five New York State Historic Markers were awarded to the Town of Long Lake. They were funded by a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for the New York State Historic Marker Program.

The five signs were awarded to commemorate four locations in Raquette Lake. Including the Raquette Lake Rail Bed, Raquette Lake Hotel, Raquette Lake Train Station and the Raquette Lake General Store and Supply.  The sign in Long Lake will commemorate W.W. Durant’s Buttercup Steamboat which was deliberately sunk in 1885 and recovered in 1959.

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Uncovering the mysteries behind a bridge’s remains

The First Suspension Bridge to Cross the Hudson River – 1871

Eight or ten years ago, when some of the last of the Finch-Pruyn lands were transferred from the Nature Conservancy to the State of New York, my wife and I hiked into Palmer Pond and then bushwhacked down to the Hudson River on the last of their logging roads.  Almost at the edge of the riverbank there was a log-header and just behind he the header was what appeared to be the remains of an old roadway.  We followed the overgrown roadway for approximately a quarter of a mile.  We then turned around, not knowing if we had inadvertently hiked on to private lands.  However that memory of the roadway lingered in my mind.  Where did it go ??

A few years later a friend and I were paddling the Hudson River from Riparius to the Glen and after paddling through “Z rapids” and “Horse Race Rapids” we stopped to rest at the Washburn’s Eddy.  There, my friend pointed out (river left) two iron cables that reached down the rock face and entered the water.  What was this ?   My friend told me that it was the remains of a bridge that had one time crossed the Hudson River.

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Adirondack history website brings museums, orgs together in one place

To say that John Sasso is passionate about Adirondack history would be an understatement.

He’s the founder of the History and Legends of the Adirondacks group on Facebook, which launched five years ago and has since grown to almost 21,000 members. In that forum, Sasso frequently posts his own research into the history of different peaks and the areas that surround them. Some of those historic peak profiles have been published here as well. Click here to see John’s work on the Almanack.

On top of all that, John has been quietly working behind the scenes on a personal project: An interactive map of historical organizations, museums and related landmarks.

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Mount Marcy: The Name, The Climb, The Legacy

The first known ascent of Mount Marcy occurred on August 5, 1837 when a team of New York State Geologists, led by Ebenezer Emmons, spent a glorious five hours on top of the peak.

But it was not Emmons that best described what his team saw that day. Instead, it was his intrepid guide, John Cheney, that historians most often quote. Looking out over the vast range of mountains and lakes below them, Cheney observed, “It makes a man feel what it is to have all creation placed beneath his feet.” What Emmons did make note of on that brilliant August day was the presence of ice patches up to a half-inch thick scattered about the summit. Still, the lead geologist for the New York State Survey could not comprehend the existence of huge boulders, or erratics, that were left behind by glaciers. Emmons thought at the time that they were there as a result of a biblical-type flood.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Coming home to play

“Oh, how cute!”

That was our first impression on seeing the little piano in Linda Kaiser’s basement in Syracuse.

Then we tried to carry it up a flight of stairs.

Linda had called Great Camp Sagamore’s executive director, Emily Martz, to donate the piano that she and her husband Harvey bought at an auction on Sagamore’s Main Lodge lawn in October 1975.

The piano has only 61 keys – the standard is 88. Margaret Emerson probably bought it for her children to play at Sagamore. Her grandson, Alfred Vanderbilt III, remembers playing a piano with “a strange number of keys” when he would visit camp as a young child.

Linda’s generosity reminds us of the extraordinary confluence of institutions, individuals, and events that surrounded that fall weekend in 1975.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

NYS Historic Preservation Board nominates 2 North Country assets

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended 16 varied properties across NYS to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, two of which are located within the North Country Region.

Previous additions to the registry have included things like African American burial grounds, industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s legacy of New York Libraries, a Hudson Valley gold club established to counter anti-Semitism, and more historically significant locations.

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Friday, December 11, 2020

Mose Ginsberg and his Tupper Lake Story

[Author’s note: Much of the research for this story centers around a 1969 Mose Ginsberg interview conducted by Nancy Dymond. The four-hour recording of this interview is housed at the  Goff – Nelson Memorial Library in Tupper Lake and the Adirondack Experience at Blue Mountain Lake.]

Standing at the corner of Cliff and Park Street in Tupper Lake is the building that housed the longest-running family-owned department store in New York State. With the recent extension of the Northern Adirondack Railroad, Tupper Lake had emerged as the largest producer and supplier of lumber in the state. That, along with its rising reputation as a tourist resort, helped grow Tupper Lake’s population to 3,000 souls by 1900.

In short, Tupper Lake was a boomtown back around the turn of the century. Mose Ginsberg, and his brother-in-law, Morris Goldberg, had founded their store in 1897 and quickly established a solid following among the region’s growing number of logging families, the guides, gardeners and carpenters from Paul Smith’s Hotel, and the influx of summer tourists.

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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Paying a visit to Debar Pond Lodge

Our Covid-19 socially distanced excursion last week took us to the Debar Tract on NYS Route 30, north of Paul Smith’s College and south of Malone. I wanted to see this area for myself after reading about the controversy over removal of the historic buildings on the shore of Debar Pond. (Click here for the latest article from Adirondack Explorer.)

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Saturday, December 5, 2020

History Matters: Bartók’s Birds

“I have been so upset by world events that my mind has been almost completely paralyzed.”  — Béla Bartók

In the midst of the dark days of World War II, a frail man named Béla Bartók came to Saranac Lake for his health. Although he was one of the greatest composers in human history, many Saranac Lakers might have seen him as just another invalid, tiny and pale, wrapped in his dark cape against the cold Adirondack weather.
Bartók and his second wife Ditta fled their native Hungary eighty years ago, as fascism and antisemitism swept across Europe. He had dedicated his life not only to composing, but also collecting and arranging the folk music of Eastern Europe. Nazi Germany was threatening to erase the cultures of the Roma and other peasant peoples of the region. In the face of such terror, Bartók was depressed, impoverished, and sick with a form of leukemia that acted like tuberculosis. He and his wife moved from one cramped, loud, New York City apartment to another. He had ceased composing.

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

An infamous librarian, the Lake Placid Club and the making of a winter sports hub

For nearly a century the Lake Placid Club Resort complex occupied the eastern shore of Mirror Lake. It began in 1895, when Melville and Annie Dewey leased a farmhouse called Bonniblink on a five-acre parcel of land that he referred to as ‘Morningside.’ They chose this site as a place where they could establish contact with nature, find relief from their allergies, and to foster a model community that would provide for recreation and rest for professional people, specifically, educators and librarians. Dewey and his wife felt that occupations involving “brain work put people at higher risk of nervous prostration that, if not checked, would lead to fatigue and even death”

Melville Dewey was born on December 10, 1851 in Adams Center, Jefferson County, NY. At the age of 21, while attending Amherst College in Massachusetts, he invented the Dewey Decimal System. He then went on to become chief librarian at Columbia College (now University), secretary of the Regents of the University of New York State and state librarian. Dewey was also one of the founding members of the American Library Association (ALA), whose aim was “to enable librarians to do their present work more easily and at less expense.” In 1884, Dewey founded the School of Library Economy, the first institution for the instruction of librarians ever organized.

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Revolutionary War remains on Lake George

digMy first newspaper job was at The Citizen in Auburn, New York. We got a tip one day that said someone had dug up human bones in their backyard, along with the address. My editor asked if I could go check it out.

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

HISTORICAL PROFILE: Coon Mountain of Westport

Continuing my hikes and bushwhacks to various peaks in the Adirondacks and exploring their history,  I paid a visit to Coon Mountain in the Town of Westport, Essex County. From the trailhead located off a dirt road called Halds Road, I made the short, 0.7-mile hike along the leaf-littered trail to the bare-rock lookout point. From the lookout, I found a nice view of Lake Champlain and North West Bay (below), and the Green Mountains of Vermont across the lake. I should note that the true summit of Coon Mountain is about 0.25-miles north-northwest of the lookout point and requires a bushwhack to get to.

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Although it is historic, Debar Lodge can’t stay

The Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed that the ultimate removal of Debar Lodge from the Debar Mountain Wild Forest in Duane will require a full Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. The scope of that EIS has been out for public comment on the Adirondack Park Agency’s website.

DEC considers the following proposed mitigation for the Lodge’s removal: reclassification of 41-acres where the Lodge is located from Wild Forest to an Intensive Use Day Use Area to become a “recreation hub” involving expanded parking; pavilions; picnicking; bathrooms; trail development; and exhibits.  DEC appears to believe that the more intensive the recreational use allowed at the former Lodge location, the faster folks will forget that the Lodge ever existed. I doubt that is the case.

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

The moving of a monument

By Diane Parmeter Wills, vice regent of the Saranac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)

As of 10:15 this morning, November 17, 2020, the Battle of Valcour-Benedict Arnold monument on Route 9 south of Plattsburgh, erected in 1928 by the Saranac Chapter of the DAR, is in the protective hands of Doug McCabe of the DEC and CCHA Past President Roger Harwood waiting for reinstallation at the Peru Dock as the centerpiece of the historic half ship’s wheel designed by the DEC.

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