Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Life in the Graveyard

Graveyards are for the living. It’s something I think about every autumn, when Pine Ridge Cemetery comes alive with children on our annual fifth grade field trip. Ahead of time, the students research a person buried there. As we walk down to the graveyard from school, excitement builds. Upon arrival the kids race around, looking excitedly for their person. It’s like a bizarre version of an Easter egg hunt.

With the help of friendly and unflappable volunteer, Jim Clark, the kids eventually find their gravestones. We stop at the resting places of Charlie Green, Julia Miller, Don Duso, and many others. We notice the memorials for veterans, fire fighters, and children. Jim Clark fills in with stories he remembers. The simple lesson of the day is that our lives matter.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Luxury of Health

Since we first opened our museum doors in 2009, thousands have come to learn about Saranac Lake’s history as a center for tuberculosis research and treatment. Visitors often ask about the cost of care and who was able to afford it. Was Saranac Lake’s fresh air treatment just for rich people? Did people of different ethnic groups and social classes have access to the cure?

These were topics we discussed with a school group this past March. The students were participating in the spring break program of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at SUNY Potsdam. We were days away from the pandemic shutdown, and Saranac Lake’s historic connection to infectious disease felt newly relevant that morning.

In the late 1800s, when Saranac Lake was becoming famous as a health resort, one in seven people in the United States was dying of TB. The disease afflicted people from all walks of life. Public health measures and improved living conditions were beginning to lower the rate of infection in the United States. Still, TB continued to spread. It especially plagued poor people, living and working in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

How to be the life of the (socially distant) party

Spending time at home lately? Maybe it’s an opportunity to pick up a musical instrument.

Good parties need great music, ‘twas always thus. If you can play, you’re the life of the party. Okay, maybe this was truer before the invention of DJs, but it’s still true.

 Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt grew up in the 1880s–1890s hearing superb orchestras play at lavish parties hosted by his parents and others in their social set. Years later, the parties Alfred threw at Sagamore, his Adirondack camp, would not have orchestras, but guests would play the piano.

 And it appears that the host himself had skills. The photo is a little blurry, but just look at Alfred’s smile while he strums his mandolin, sitting on his Main Lodge porch in the summer of 1913. Let’s imagine the scene at the Playhouse that night: “Alfred, where’s your mandolin.” “No, no…well, ok!”

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Calls for Nominations for the AARCH Preservation Awards

The 25th annual AARCH Preservation Awards, which recognize exemplary historic preservation work throughout the Adirondacks, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

Residents of the Adirondack North Country region may submit their nominations of historic buildings in their communities that have been brought back to life.

The 2020 recipients will be honored during an event held at the Grace Memorial Chapel on Sabbath Day Point near Silver Bay on Lake George. Refreshments will be served post gathering. Projects of any size are eligible, and the deadline is June 1 to send in your nominations. To find applications and additional information, go to https://www.aarch.org/preserve/aarch-awards/nominations/.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Finding solace in our furry friends

During these days of solitude, many of us are finding great comfort in our animal friends. Blissfully unaware of troubles in the world, our pets are thrilled that their humans are spending more time at home.

Pets are a source of companionship and joy for us now, just as they were for the TB patients of the past. During the TB years, many patients spent two years or more, mostly in bed. Cut off from family and friends, patients were often lonely, scared, and anxious. Animals provided friendship and distraction from worry. Some wealthy patients rented entire houses for their cure, and they were able to bring their pets with them to Saranac Lake. John Black came from Mansfield, Ohio, with his dog, Buddy. Sadly, John eventually lost his struggle against TB, and the John Black Room Room at the Saranac Laboratory Museum was built in his memory. In this photo, John looks very frail, but you can see how happy he was to be with his dog.

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Adirondack Experience provides a digital experience

From theadkx.org

Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake has launched ADKX@HOME, a range of digital content that focuses on a new pandemic collecting initiative, fun educational activities for the whole family, and making the ADKX’s world-class collections and experts accessible to the public in new ways.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Lessons in Public Health

Today, the planet is taking a crash course on the limitations of modern medicine and the complications of human disease. It is a good time to look back and see what Saranac Lake’s history might teach us about public health.

From our place in the world of modern medicine and science, it can be easy to see healthcare in the past as quackery. Many visitors to the museum skeptically ask, “Was there anything to it? Was there any benefit to the Saranac Lake treatment?”

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Essential Workers in History

Saranac Lake’s tuberculosis economy depended on the labor of many essential workers. In honor of today’s heroes, here are a few favorite stories of brave helpers in local history.

Nurses and doctors risked their own health providing care and companionship to tuberculosis patients far from home. Our museum archive is full of hundreds of photos and stories of these courageous women and men. In her book, Wish I Might, Isabel Smith writes warmly about her doctor, Francis B. Trudeau. He is somewhat overshadowed in history by his famous father, founder of Saranac Lake’s TB industry, Dr. E. L. Trudeau. But Francis was widely respected for his kindness and his fierce dedication to his patients. Ms. Smith described his “inimitable hearty roar of good spirits which, then and always, enveloped me like a blaze of sunlight.”

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Victory Gardens – An Old Idea Becomes New Again

Grow-it-yourself food. During this time of pandemic it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Especially if you’re, like me, extremely apprehensive about the possibility of becoming exposed to Covid-19 while grocery shopping. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to avoid going out in public, while securing nutritious food, than growing your own.

The majority of Americans have become accustomed to having abundant supplies of relatively inexpensive food readily available at neighborhood grocery stores and supermarkets. And we’ve become so, even as a greater and greater number of our neighbors have grown increasingly more reliant on food banks and pantries for some, if not all, of their food. That number now includes many of the nearly 17-million Americans who applied for unemployment insurance in April, and numerous others who have (or had) jobs without unemployment insurance (e.g. freelancers, contractors, gig workers). Poverty, which has already been a reality for many in our communities, could become so for many more.

And, concerns about food supply chains are growing as well, as the pandemic impacts food storage, processing, and transportation. Are farm workers going to be able to work? And if so, how will those crops get to retail markets? Food security has never been more of an issue.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Fort Ticonderoga embarks on 2020 Digital Campaign

Due to their delayed 2020 summer opening, Fort Ticonderoga is launching a virtual campus.

The “2020 Digital Campaign” features a series of lectures, interactive programming, and a preview of what will be onsite come the Fort’s re-opening to the public later this year.

A schedule of the digital offerings is as follows:

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Good Ole Route 28: A trip that used to be a journey

raquette lake

 

We take roads for granted. I sure did as a kid riding from Syracuse up to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Blue Mountain Lake. We drove on Friday nights with my parents and eight brothers and sisters, all stuffed into a station wagon (they were like minivans in 1960s and 70s). My grandfather told us stories about when he was a kid and Route 28 did not exist!

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Local history project marks 160 audio stories

Adirondack storytellers have recorded 160 first-person accounts about life in the Town of Keene, yesterday and today, and there are opportunities for all to participate in this Keene Valley Library project, even while staying home.

Adirondack Community: Capturing, Retaining, and Communicating the Stories of Who We Are, is a multi-year local history project that collects and organizes three to five minute audio stories and related photographs from Town of Keene community members through an online platform to share the rich social and cultural history of this community located in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains.

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Saturday, May 2, 2020

History of Arab Mountain – Beyond the Fire Tower

Arab Mountain (or, more often, Mount Arab) is a 2,539-foot peak located in the Town of Piercefield in St. Lawrence County, almost five miles west of Tupper Lake and nine miles east of Cranberry Lake.
The hike to the summit is relatively easy and short (a two mile round-trip), and one can climb the steel, 35-foot Aermotor fire tower (built in 1918) and enjoy the beautiful panorama of the Adirondacks from the cab. Just across from the fire tower is the old observer’s cabin which has been restored and turned into a museum. The museum, established by the Friends of Mt Arab (FoMA), contains a wealth of information on the use of Arab Mountain for fire observation. The cabin is open when the summit steward is on duty, from the late spring to early fall. In regard to peak-bagging challenges, it is part of the Fire Tower Challenge and the Tupper Lake Triad. (Editor’s note, fire towers are currently closed due to COVID-19, and the Fire Tower Challenge is temporarily suspended
Much of the history given here is prior to Arab Mountain being established for fire observation in 1911. I delve into the history of its name, appearance on nineteenth-century maps, and use in early surveys. I also briefly discuss a nearby peak that is virtually unheard of and is unmapped: Gull Pond Mountain.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Environmental Champion Bernard C. Smith

Marking 50 years of Earth Day (1970-2020) should not pass without paying tribute to the late New York State Senator Bernard C. Smith.  The late State Senator and chair of the Senate’s environmental conservation committee combined a strong moral and ethical compass with political talent and negotiating skill to protect and conserve our state’s wild lands, wild rivers and natural resources from 1965-1978. He was a steadfast and very influential Republican proponent for the environment precisely when such a Republican was needed in Albany. He worked his political skills at the State Capitol, but his love for fishing and the outdoors was expressed at his home on Long Island and in the streams and rivers of the Catskills, where he had a camp near the Esopus Creek, and on the upper Hudson River in the Adirondacks.

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Joy (and Importance) of Exercise

The old neighborhoods of Saranac Lake are lively these days, as people of all ages take a break from solitude to go out walking at all hours. Like the TB patients of the past, we are eager to stretch our legs, breathe some fresh air, and wave to a friendly face across the street.

Moderate exercise was a key part of the treatment in Saranac Lake. Doctors recognized that exercise could boost the immune system by strengthening the body and improving mental health. Not all TB patients were bedridden, and those who were well enough to get out of bed went walking on their doctors’ orders.

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