Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The History of Blackface in the Adirondacks

funs famous fellowsFor a century and a half, white men “blacking up” and performing as blackface minstrels drew eager audiences to Adirondack halls and stages. Writer and independent scholar Amy Godine tracks the long uneasy history of this unabashedly racialized performance style from its antebellum introduction as a big-city circus act to its later revival as a locally-produced nostalgia act in Adirondack towns and cities.

Even into the 1960s, and long after blackface was widely recognized as racist, hometown blackface flourished on Adirondack stages. (Iterations still crop up in North Country college campuses.)

In a presentation coming up Thursday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m., Godine explores the tenacious roots, representations and consequences of this toxic tradition in Adirondack life.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Mapping and Surveying the Adirondacks

The Ticonderoga Historical Society presents a free public program titled “Mapping the Adirondacks” at the Hancock House, 6 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga on Friday, Aug. 21 at 7pm.

“Mapping the Adirondacks” will kick off the museums latest exhibit, which features more than 18 military, political, and romantic maps from its collection, some of which are being shown for the first time.

Pete Nelson, writer, lecturer and history buff will be presenting the program. His articles regularly appear in numerous regional publications (including the Almanack) and he teaches mathematics and history at North Country Community College. Currently he is writing a book on early Adirondack Surveyors, a passion which merges his love for both history and mathematics.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Fresh Air School: Lessons in outdoor education

As autumn approaches, schools are thinking about ways to keep students safe by maximizing time outdoors. The concept of outside instruction is not new. Leading up to WWII, open air schools were built in the United States and Europe to protect children from tuberculosis. Even in Saranac Lake, where temperatures in the winter tend to stay well below freezing, some children attended unheated, open air classrooms.

In the mid-1920s, the Saranac Lake School District built an open air school at River Street, at a cost of $12,000. All Saranac Lake children were weighed periodically and X-rayed annually. Those found to be underweight attended the Fresh Air School. The building, now used for a nursery school, is located behind the former River Street School. In 1937, the Fresh Air School moved to a new six-room addition built at Petrova School. 

Open air education wasn’t just for preventing illness and improving health. It was also widely used in summer camps as a natural extension of the camping experience. At local camps over generations, children have learned skills outdoors, such as arts, crafts, sports, and music.

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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Historic Saranac Lake opens to the public with limited hours

Historic Saranac Lake’s Saranac Laboratory museum is re-open, operating under limited hours and strict guidelines in order to keep their patrons and their staff healthy. The museum is the first laboratory in the nation that was built for the study of tuberculosis, showcasing Saranac Lakes history as a community that built a bustling economy around the response to an infectious disease.

Museum staff expects that visitors will find Saranac Lakes history relevant once again in response to COVID-19. The museum is currently open on Thursdays through Saturdays from 10am or 5pm, and visitors are encouraged to check out historicsaranaclake.org for updates.

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Running Together

A winning sports team, like a beautiful ice palace, grows out of a strong community. It’s no surprise that Saranac Lake has a long tradition of athletic achievements. From team sports like bobsledding, baseball, hockey, football, and curling to individual competitions like speed skating and barrel jumping, Saranac Lake history is full of athletic men and women who left their mark.

Today, Covid-19 is disrupting so many traditions, and sporting events are some of the hardest to give up. The cancellation of competitions is heartbreaking for athletes, and it’s hard for the spectators too. In small towns like Saranac Lake, sport brings generations together to enjoy a brief moment when all that matters is the kids on the field or the ice. No matter how fast or slow, each child shines for a moment. Over time, parents come to know each other’s children, and we cheer for their victories too.

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Monday, July 27, 2020

Long Lake erects sign paying homage to painter Thomas Cole

A New York State Historic Marker was built at the Long Lake Town Beach in order to commemorate Hudson River School founder and painter Thomas Cole, who visited the town in 1846.

This newly installed sign is located at 1258 Main St. and was funded by a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for the New York State Historic Marker Program.

The project was spear headed by Historian and Adjunct Professor at SUNY New Paltz, P. Matthew DeLaMater, who is also a Long Lake part-time resident, as well as the Long Lake Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Director, Alexandra Roalsvig with support of the Long Lake Town Board.

DeLaMater researched and presented a lecture for the Long Lake Historical Society in 2015 that showcased Thomas Cole’s visit to Long Lake in 1846, identifying works which Cole created featuring landscapes reflected in his visits to the town. Thomas Cole is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, and one of the great American artists of the past. The school was part of an art movement that flourished mid 19th century and was known for its realistic and intricate portrayal of American landscapes and wildernesses, heavy with themes of romanticism.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

In the midst of sickness, patients can create a rich inner life

One of my favorite stories in our local history is about a meteor shower over Mount Baker and a tuberculosis patient named Isabel Smith.

Ms. Smith spent 20 years of her life sick in bed at the Trudeau Sanatorium. She wrote a book about her experience titled Wish I Might. Her book touches upon so many aspects of the cure — the importance of routine, diet, friendships, “cousining,” the natural world, reading, and occupational therapy. So many threads of the story are there.

Most intriguing is Isabel’s description of how she changed as a person during her long illness. She endured disfiguring operations and the removal of ribs to deflate her lung. At times, her case seemed hopeless. As the reality of her sickness settled in, Isabel felt anger, sadness, loneliness, and fear. But one night, on her porch overlooking Mount Baker, she stayed up with her porch mate to watch the Leonid meteor shower. For hours, the young women watched the sky, feeling transported from their sick beds to connect with the vast universe. Suddenly, life was very much worth living.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

From the archive: 1995 microburst

Twenty-five years ago, on July 15, 1995, a crazy storm hit the Adirondacks.

We posted this 2011 story from the Almanack archive on the anniversary of the microburst on Wednesday, and readers chimed in with their own memories of the storm: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2011/07/extreme-adirondacks-surviving-the-1995-microburst.html.

Here’s another one from 2009 about the storm, also known as the Great Adirondack Blowdown: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2009/07/anniversary-of-the-great-adirondack-blowdown-of-1995.html

 


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Hunting for Health

In recent months, as the coronavirus jumped from bats to people and spread around the globe, the world suddenly seems much smaller. The situation reminds us of our connectedness to the animal world and to each other. Such an awareness of nature is deeply rooted in the Adirondack traditions of hunting and fishing.

The practice of hunting in the Adirondacks stretches back thousands of years. For countless generations, Native American peoples lived in balance with the natural environment, taking only resources needed for survival, and making use of medicinal plants.

From the mid-1800s, growing numbers of tourists came to the Adirondacks to experience the wilderness. They relied on Adirondack guides’ deep knowledge of the woods and waters to explore the wilderness in comfort and safety.

 

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Uncovering a former scout camp at Chestertown’s Palmer Pond

One of the hikes of the Chester Challenge is the hike around Palmer Pond.  This Palmer Pond is west of Chestertown, about a mile before the Hudson River, up a dirt road, called oddly enough, Palmer Pond Road. (Not to be confused with the Palmer Pond near exit 28 of the Northway near what was formerly Frontier Town.)  The drive up Palmer Pond Road from Rt. 8 is approximately one mile on an increasingly narrower and rougher dirt road that ends in a DEC maintained parking lot. 

Palmer Pond is part of the Lake George Wild Forest. This State owned property has increased in size over the years due to the addition of Finch – Pruyn lands acquired by the State in 2013.  The enlarged parcel actually extends from Palmer Pond (westward) down to the Hudson River (Another story for a different time).

 

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Love during a pandemic

“The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” — W. Somerset Maugham.

Before antibiotics, one of the most powerful medicines against tuberculosis was love. Happy patients tended to be more successful in overcoming the disease, so health care providers took every step to improve patients’ state of mind. Patients stayed busy with occupational therapy and social activities. Cure porches were oriented toward the best views to boost patients’ spirits with natural beauty. And then there was cousining — a term for informal romances that developed between patients.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

In the Company of Graduates

This June, the graduates of the class of 2020 have walked through Saranac Lake High School one at a time, to receive their diplomas with no other classmates beside them. It might be comforting to know that this is not Saranac Lake’s first lonely graduation ceremony. At the high school’s first graduation in 1896, there was only one graduate, Francis H. Slater.

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Fort Ticonderoga Reopens for 2020 Summer Season

After its usual opening date was put on hold due to COVID-19, Fort Ticonderoga will open for the 2020 season on June 30. The admission capacity this summer will be capped at 400 visitors at a time (unless otherwise announced) and advanced on-line ticketing will be required. You may purchase online tickets at www.fortticonderoga.org. The first initial opening phase will only allow visitors access to the exterior spaces during Tuesday through Sunday, from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm. The last ticket for the day will be sold at 4:30 pm.

 

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Monday, June 22, 2020

‘A Woman’s Place’ virtual book reading

finding a womans placeAuthor (and Almanack contributor) Lorraine Duvall will read from her latest book, Finding A Woman’s Place: The Story of a 1970s Feminist Collective in the Adirondacks in a virtual event taking place from 5-6 p.m. Wednesday via Zoom. The event is sponsored by the Caldwell-Lake George Library and the Richards Library in Warrensburg. (Click here for an Adirondack Explorer article about the book)

Duvall will share the fascinating history of a women’s community in Athol, NY (Warren County) which served as a safe harbor for hundreds of women during the tumultuous times of the second wave of feminism in the 1970s. 

Forty-six years ago, seven women left behind the lives they knew and created this commune deep in the Adirondack Mountains that they called “A Woman’s Place.” From 1974 to 1982 A Woman’s Place served as a refuge for self-discovery that changed the lives of hundreds of women.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

HISTORICAL PROFILE: Treadway Mountain of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness

Treadway Mountain is a 2,244-foot peak located in the Town of Ticonderoga in Essex County, about two miles west of Putnam Pond. Although not as popular a hiking destination as its big brother to the southwest, Pharaoh Mountain, I consider it a gem of the Adirondack wilderness which offers a big bang for the effort to reach the summit.

A portion of the 2019 U.S.G.S. Graphite, N.Y. quadrangle map showing Treadway Mountain and Putnam Pond.

Although there are three routes up to the peak, I have always started from the Putnam Pond Campground on the trail which heads towards Clear Pond. The hike along the open sections rock and moss, marked with cairns, is an enjoyable one, especially in the fall and winter. You will climb over stretches of beautiful rose quartz as you approach the summit. From the well-open summit, you can venture around and check out a panorama which exhibits the High Peaks, Pharaoh Lake, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

This historical profile presents the first in-depth discussion of the history surrounding Treadway Mountain, primarily the origin of its name. I also discuss the gentlemen from Ticonderoga for whom it was named and their involvement in the affairs of the town.

» Continue Reading.



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