Monday, November 9, 2015

State Plans To Give Lake Placid Train One More Season

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe state will allow Adirondack Scenic Railroad to run its tourist trains for just one more season on the tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, according to a final proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Transportation.

In the proposal, released last week, the departments are sticking with their original plan to remove 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake – the north end of a 119-mile rail corridor owned by the state. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Two North Country Men Linked By Death Coincidence

WalterEMurphyOn January 7, 1933, the lives of two North Country men converged briefly nearly 300 miles from home in the Jamaica section of Queens in the City of New York. By odd coincidence, without ever meeting, they were fatally wounded within a few feet of each other. The older of the two was Walter Murphy of Ausable Forks, who joined the New York City police force in June 1926. The following year, he was cited for bravery after stopping a runaway horse (the cause of many deaths and injuries in those days), and in early 1933 he made headlines for a murder arrest. He frequently visited family in Ausable Forks, and had just left there nine days earlier after spending Christmas in the Adirondacks.

On the fateful day, Murphy was off duty, and with a friend had stopped at a service station for gas and to make some minor repairs to his car. While cleaning up in the washroom, they overheard a commotion outside. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

LaChute Portage: The Greatest Adirondack Trail

Lachute River in Spring (Tony hall Photo)I’ve known of the Champlain Valley’s storied past for a long time. But despite a lifetime association with the Adirondacks, I had never been there. Being reasonably well-read in history is hardly adequate to actually experiencing it, so when I was hired to teach at North Country Community College’s Ticonderoga campus I became excited at the chance to do some exploring. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hotel Saranac Restoration Update Planned

Hotel Saranac postcard, courtesy of Nora BouvierHistoric Saranac Lake’s annual meeting will feature Fred B. Roedel III, Managing Member and CFO of Roedel Companies, who will present an update on the multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Hotel Saranac in the center of Saranac Lake.

“The re-imagined Hotel Saranac will be a historical, upscale, full-service property offering updated guest rooms, a fully restored grand ballroom, full service spa, elegant restaurant and a distinct and unique gift shop,” according to an announcement sent to the press. “The project also includes the construction of a parking structure that will support the Hotel.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rally Planned To Support Keeping Rail Line

ADIX6076-High-Peaks-Aaron-Keller-PhotoGroups working to preserve the historic Adirondack Railroad corridor have announced that a rally will be held on November 7th at noon at the Saranac Lake Union Depot.

The State of New York has proposed an amended Unit Management Plan, calling for the conversion of the Rail Corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid to a 34-mile recreational trail. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Raquette Lake Railway Creation Myths

forge dock 4a11219uWhile researching the Raquette Lake Railway, I found several historical traditions that were repeatedly used by authors in their works regarding the railroad’s origin. Below I examine these traditions and then provide my research on its origin from period correspondence and historical sources, including the rationale from the words of its builder, Collis P. Huntington. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Snowmobile Racing in the Adirondacks

Adirondack Snowmobile RacingIn the motor toboggan era – the time before the advent of the modern snowmobiles we know today – motor sleds had been too slow for racing excitement. As a result they remained strictly utilitarian vehicles racing only occasionally for promotional purposes. Motor toboggan and later snowmobile maker Polaris traveled each year at the end of the 1950s to trapper festivals at The Pas, Manitoba where they helped organize ad hoc races.

“We tried to rig them a little bit so we had a zig-zag effect,” David Johnson said, remembering one of the first informal races, “one guy ahead, and then the other, and so on, at a terrific speed of about 20 miles per hour.” In February 1959, Johnson won the first organized men’s race on an oval at The Pas and in 1960, the first cross-country race was held there. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

John Brown Event: American Martyr, Hero

John Brown by Southworth and Hawes - 1856A lecture titled “American Martyr: Why John Brown Is Thought Of As A Terrorist Instead Of A Hero” will be given by John Brown scholar Louis DeCaro Jr. on Saturday, October 17 from 3:30 until 5 pm at John Brown Farm in Lake Placid.

In December of 1859 John Brown was executed after leading an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War. His body was returned to his farm in North Elba. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

For Matthew Armer, the Prison Gate was a Revolving Door

MatthewArmer1951Delving deeply into the history of Clinton Prison in Dannemora for an upcoming book (already in progress before the recent escape) has led me to profile many criminals who have done time there. Not all of them will make the cut for the book, but what stands out across a wide range of criminals is recidivism. It was not unexpected — Clinton is, after all, New York’s principal home for repeat violent felons and incorrigibles — but it’s often surprising how many people among those who have options choose crime as a way of life.

From the Albany area was a young man who had options, but typified those who eschew a mainstream lifestyle for a darker path. In the end we’re left straining for a hint of any redeeming value. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 5, 2015

World War Two: Wartime in the Adirondacks

GE-M1RocketLauncherIn August 1939, tanks began rolling toward the border. That short sentence should call to mind the beginnings of World War II, as German tanks headed for Poland. The very same thing was happening here at the very same time: tanks preparing for war were rolling towards New York’s border in August 1939. It was the 66th Infantry’s tank battalion out of Fort Devens, Massachusetts, crossing the Crown Point Bridge from Vermont to Port Henry and heading north to the Plattsburgh area for war maneuvers. Included were more than a hundred trucks and motorcycles and thirty-seven tanks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Marshall McLean, Ardent Conservationist

Marshall McLeanPay a visit to the Adirondack Research Library (ARL, operated by Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center) sometime. The Library is located at the former home of wilderness champion Paul Schaefer, where he and Carolyn Schaefer raised their family beginning in 1934. Reading in that library offers me a healthy reminder of the tight rope walked by former defenders of “forever wild.” When it came to standing up for wild country, our predecessors were often up against a wall, just as we sometimes feel today.

I recently visited the ARL to reacquaint myself with the federal government’s 1942 condemnation of a 100-ft Right of Way “for the rail transportation of strategic materials vital to the successful prosecution of the War” from the soon-to be built mine at Tahawus, Newcomb. In the ARL archives, the name Marshall McLean frequently crops up. He was the attorney representing the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in court in 1942-43. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Snowmobilers Won Their Special Privileges

1966-67 Nick's Lake 2When snowmobiling arrived in the Adirondacks in the mid-1960s, the question of where to ride became the single most important issue faced by both new sled owners and advocates for the protection of the wild character of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

As a result of efforts by the state’s Conservation Department and lobbying by the snowmobile industry, snowmobilers are today wildly over-represented in terms of access to trails. Although they represent less than 1% of the 7-10 million people who visit the Adirondacks each year, there are currently at least 3 to 4 thousand miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park,* compared to about 5,000 miles of roads. How this happened is a story that began 50 years ago with what is known as the Wilm Directive. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Cold War: When Locals Watched The Sky For Russians

01SkywatchRecruitStickerIn the 1950s northern New Yorkers had war on their minds. Thousands of average citizens put television, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Corvettes aside over concerns about World War III. Fresh on everyone’s minds was World War II, but the U.S. was right back into a mess in 1950 in Korea, where a three-year fight became one of the building blocks of the Cold War. On it’s ground floor were the everyday North Country folks who joined Operation Skywatch. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How The Adirondack Forest Preserve Was Motorized

06_10_004557The establishment of the Adirondack Forest Preserve in 1885 was part of growing American appreciation of a back to nature ethic. By the time of World War I, according to historian Paul Sutter: “Americans produced and consumed voluminous literature on natural and wild themes; they built vacation homes and camps; they initiated a wide variety of programs in scouting and woodcraft; they developed a distinctive hunting culture and ethos; they adopted nature study as a prominent hobby; and the embraced the ‘strenuous life’ that could be found only in the ‘great outdoors.’”

Inadvertently, this interest in wild places laid the groundwork for a future flood of visitors to New York State’s “forever wild” lands and the spread of roads and motorized snowmobile trails throughout the Adirondack Park.  For example, in a measure of the influence of the automobile alone in years since World War II, there are today more than 5,000 miles of roads in the Adirondack Park, and nearly everywhere in the Forest Preserve is within three miles of a public road. Indeed, the most remote place in the Adirondack Park, the largest park in the contagious United States, is about five miles from a public road. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Dogs’ Best Friend to the Rescue

MoxhamMt05Plenty has been written about the loyalty of dogs and how they’ve saved or protected people—rescuing children in trouble, barking to rouse people during fires, or protecting their humans from wild animals, tame animals, or other humans. I’ve written on some of those themes here, and was once protected by my own faithful companion, who went above and beyond the call by fending off deer poachers coming after me with a cattle prod. Yikes! Perhaps a story for another time, but I have to say yet again … Good dog! » Continue Reading.


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