Wednesday, July 26, 2017

French & Indian War Bayonet Discovered Near Loon Lake

Loon Lake - Johnsburg Area in 1805Last fall a rusted old military bayonet was unearthed on private property just east of Loon Lake in Warren County. It was taken to David Starbuck, a noted local historical and industrial archeologist who has written extensively on Fort William Henry on Lake George.

Coincidentally, on that day Jesse Zuccaro, a student who has focused his studies on early bayonets, happened to be visiting Starbuck. Together they inspected this new find. After careful examination they concluded it was French in design and probably dated between 1728 and the 1740s. Twenty thousand of these bayonets were made and sent to New France prior to the American Revolution. » Continue Reading.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Warrensburg Anti-APA Sign Comes Down, Headed For Museum

anti-APA sign in WarrensburgOn Friday, Adirondack Experience (formally the Adirondack Museum) removed a familiar anti-Adirondack Park Agency sign on Route 9 at the north end of Warrensburg to add to their permanent collections.

The sign, seen by south-bound travelers, was erected by Ted Galusha in 2005 on the side of his house to protest the Adirondack Park Agency.

In a statement sent to the press from the Adirondack Experience, the museum said it was collecting this sign “because it is part of the ongoing conversation among Park residents, second-home owners, vacationers and conservation advocates about the future of the Adirondack Park.” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Walking Tour of Ironville Company Ruins Planned

replica forge in Penfield MuseumThe Adirondack History Museum will host a walking tour of the Crown Point Iron Company ruins on Saturday, July 29.

Local Historian and author Morris Glenn will lead the tour. One of the highlights of the tour will be discussion on the Penfield Forge Project. The projects includes plans to rebuild the replica of the first iron forge in Northern New York that was originally at Frontier Town.

In 2016, the replica forge was moved to the Penfield Museum in Ironville. The five-year project will recreate a facsimile of a working cold-blast iron forge that Major Skene operated in the initial colonial period prior up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The Skene forge was captured by the Colonial forces on Lake Champlain and then used by Benedict Arnold to build the first American Navy. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hotel Saranac Celebrates 90th Year

hotel saranac lobby postcardHotel Saranac was built in 1927, and opened its doors on July 1 of that year. Now celebrating its 90th year, it remains the last of the grand hotels that once populated Saranac Lake. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pete Nelson: Adirondack Experience Gets Diversity Right

adirondack experienceOn July 1st I attended the grand opening of the Adirondack Experience’s new multi-million-dollar exhibit Life in the Adirondacks.  Situated overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, The Adirondack Experience (formerly the Adirondack Museum) is a regional icon with an unparalleled collection of Adirondack historical artifacts.  Their new exhibit, intended to interactively place visitors in the context of the Adirondack Park in all its human dimensions, is located in the former Roads and Rails building.

Life in the Adirondacks is a dramatic change in approach and style for a museum renowned for its depiction of history through objects of every description from the last two centuries of human activity in the region.  I spoke with one of the staff who manages collections and she told me the count of items on display in this exhibit space was down from 3,000 to roughly 500.  Those who know the former exhibit will see a much cleaner, streamlined, modern presentation with a number of new “hands-on” interactive displays.  Life in the Adirondacks is bracketed by two video presentations.  The first is a visually striking short film in a small theater that introduces visitors to the spectrum of human passions concerning the Adirondack Park.  The second, near the exit, is an excellent collection of short interviews with various leaders and advocates in the Park, representing different sides of the difficult questions we debate here, from land use to preservation to local economies. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Montcalm’s Cross Battle Re-enactment July 22-23th

Fort Ticonderoga Recreates the Epic 1758 Battle of Carillon: Montcalm’s Cross On July 22 and 23, Fort Ticonderoga July will host a battle re-enactment highlighting the 1758 Battle of Carillon during the French and Indian War. Visitors will learn how the British amassed the largest army in North American history to date, yet was defeated by a French army a quarter of its size.

Highlighted programming featured throughout the weekend brings to life the story of the French soldiers that protected their lines of defense. Visitors will meet the British and Provincial soldiers who fought to drive the French from the rocky peninsula and fortress of Carillon, later named Ticonderoga. Recreated French and British armies will maneuver in battle re-enactments each day. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower Marking 100 Years

Poke-O-Moonshine Fire TowerThey started put being paid $60 a month for their half-year, all-weather stints in the fire tower. Overall, there were twenty-one Fire Observers on Poke-O-Moonshine from 1912 through 1988. Most came from nearby Keeseville, and the first three worked in the original wooden tower before the current one was built in 1917.

That makes the fire tower 100 years old. It was part of a crop of standardized steel towers that New York State built in response to the catastrophic forest fires of the early 20th Century. Drought, high winds, lightning, heaps of logging slash, and sparks from lumber-hauling trains had combined to burn almost a million acres of New York forest over two decades. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Gerald Chapman: Clinton Prison Alum, America’s First ‘Super-Crook’

Near the end of his twenty-two-year career, Gerald Chapman’s several reputations came together in headlines touting him as a Spectacular Mail Bandit, Jail Breaker, and Criminal Extraordinaire. But above all, he was most often referred to as a “super-crook,” placing him beyond the level of most American criminals, one whose exploits were followed closely by the public. A worldwide manhunt finally resulted in his capture in 1925, but a decade earlier, he had done hard time at Clinton Prison.

Chapman, whose real name was believed to be George Chartres, or Charters, first ran into trouble in New York in 1908 and served a three-year stint in Sing Sing. After release, he was again arrested for grand larceny, and in January 1912 returned to Sing Sing, this time for ten years. As a brilliant criminal, and a handful to keep track of in any prison, he was sent north to the state’s most secure facility, Clinton Prison at Dannemora, where he quickly assumed a gang leadership position. As the source of many problems for guards and administration, he was finally relegated to an isolation cell, which at Clinton offered a very stark existence. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

A New Critical Edition of ‘The History of the Five Indian Nations’ (1727)

History of the Five Indian NationsCornell University Press has released a new Critical Edition of Cadwallader Colden’s The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America. The Critical Edition includes several essays that consider Colden’s original text across social, cultural, and political contexts.

The History of the Five Indian Nations was originally published in 1727 and revised in 1747. In the book, Colden discusses the religion, manners, customs, laws, and forms of government of the confederacy of tribes composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas (and, later, Tuscaroras), and gives accounts of battles, treaties, and trade up to 1697. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cranberry Lake Dam Marks 150 Years

cranberry lake dam Sesquicentennial patch2017 marks the passage of 150 years since a dam was erected at the outlet of Cranberry Lake on the Oswegatchie River. Originally a much smaller lake, the dam was built to help control the flow of water for downstream communities and their mills.

The groundwork for this was laid in 1865 when the state legislature passed an Act declaring the Oswegatchie River a “public highway.” This lead to the formation of a Board of Commissioners and the construction of the dam, which took place late in 1866. The gates were not closed and the water impounded until the spring of 1867.

According to local historians, the land was not cleared, and as the waters rose through through the trees that first spring, buds opened under water, and trees leafed out with just their tops showing, as the dam raised the lake level by over 11 feet. For decades, dead, dying and decaying trees stood in the water, making the scene somewhat grotesque. State Surveyor Verplanck Colvin wrote in 1873 of the difficulties in getting out onto the water to take measurements and elevations, due to the dead trees standing in the lake. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blue Line Basics: An Adirondack Park History Primer

Map of the Adirondack Plateau showing the position & condition of existing forests 1884Noted land surveyor Verplanck Colvin raised the alarm about threats to Adirondack resources as early as 1868.

In 1884, a state forest commission created this detailed map of remaining timber resources in northern New York.

Later, a 1891 map included an outline of a proposed Adirondack Park, delineated by a line drawn in blue ink. This is considered by historians to be the first map of the Adirondack Park. Over time, the term “blue line”came to represent the actual boundary of the Adirondack Park.

On May 20, 1892, New York Governor Roswell P. Flower signed a law creating a 2.8 million-acre Adirondack Park. Today, the park offers an array of outdoor recreation opportunities, including more than 1,800 miles of trails and thousands of camping spots. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Colvin Documentary Screening at Adirondack History Museum

Colvin HeadshotThe Adirondack History Museum will present a special screening of “Colvin: Hero of the North Woods” on Thursday, July 6 at 7 pm. Film director Bill Killon will be on hand to introduce his new 45-minute documentary.

The film tells the story of Verplanck Colvin, who explored, surveyed and mapped the northern reaches of Upstate New York from 1872 to 1900. To protect the forest and watersheds, at a time when the idea of conservation was in its infancy, he proposed a state park for the Adirondack region of New York. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Neil Litchfield, Lewis County’s Master Comedian (Part 3)

In early 1897, Neil and Stella Litchfield continued touring in the North Country, appearing at Canton, Chase Mills, Edwards, Lisbon Center, Oxbow, Massena, Morristown, Ogdensburg, Waddington, and other sites. For the next two years, they toured and performed while developing a new act for the future, a comedy sketch titled Down at Brook Farm. Ostensibly, it was loosely based on Brook Farm, a failed Utopian community founded in 1841 in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The most popular characters Neil had portrayed during the past two decades — uneducated, pure-hearted rural folks — became the nucleus of the new act. Down at Brook Farm was inspired by the popularity of other plays and sketches with “uncle” characters in the title — usually Uncle Josh, at the time featured in shows as Uncle Josh Jenkins, Uncle Josh Simpkins, and Uncle Josh Weathersby. Neil himself gained great praise for portraying the lead role in Uncle Josh Spruceby, playing alongside Stella, who nabbed the second-leading role of Aunt Jerutha. Together they made the show a top hit while touring theaters and opera houses in New York City, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Sometimes they covered a venue for three consecutive nights, and at other times appeared in three or four different towns or cities during the same week. It was an exhausting schedule but provided great publicity, and allowed time to refine the rural characters for the new act. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Neil Litchfield, Lewis County’s Master Comedian (Part 2)

By 1893, Neil Litchfield and his wife Hattie had resumed touring with other companies that billed Neil as “The Man of Many Faces.” After spending the year with the Vivian De Monto Company, they joined the Reno and Ford Company for the first half of 1894. In August they began touring the eastern and midwestern states with the Prima Donna Company, during which time Neil began to stand out noticeably from his fellow performers. Reviews in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania agreed with the Syracuse Evening Herald’s assessment that, despite great work by the show’s star, Eva Mecusker, “The most enjoyable thing of the evening was the recitation work of Neil Litchfield, whose ability as a comedian is large and could be employed more than it is with advantage.” A reporter for the Youngstown Daily Telegram wrote, “Neil Litchfield, as the ruralist, was the star of the show. His work was clever, and the reception he got was deserved.”

Late in the year, he performed with James B. Mackie’s company, The Side Show, and received rave reviews. As a budding star, he no longer needed to jump at the next offer, and instead began advertising his services to the highest bidder. In 1895, Litchfield announced his availability in major trade magazines and the entertainment sections of New York City newspapers. That summer, he toured coast to coast with Heywood’s Celebrities company, which provided ample opportunity to test new characters and refine other bits. A few months later, he joined another group, the Alhambra Vaudevilles. As reported in the New York Dramatic Mirror, “Carter, the magician, and Neil Litchfield, the character impersonator, are the leading people in the company.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Evening Programs at Fort Ticonderoga

defend the fortThis summer, Fort Ticonderoga will host a new behind-the-scenes evening program “Defend the Fort!” During this program, visitors will explore areas of Fort Ticonderoga off-limits to daily visitation. Curator Matthew Keagle will explain how the fort’s garrison prepared for sudden attack, bombardment, and a siege.

Other special tour opportunities include Guns by Night, Sunset Boat Cruises, and Beyond Bullets and Blades. Guns by Night offers a unique tour and a nighttime firing of weapons. Sunset Cruises aboard the Carillon include a narrated tour of some of the most archaeologically rich waters in North America. Beyond Bullets and Blades provides an opportunity to examine and handle original 18th-century weapons with the supervision of Fort Ticonderoga’s museum staff. » Continue Reading.


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