Vast British and American armies struggle for control of the Ticonderoga peninsula and the future of America at Fort Ticonderoga’s Revolutionary War Encampment, Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, from 9:30 am to 5 pm each day. More than 600 re-enactors bring the American Revolutionary War experience to life for visitors during the weekend, highlighting Fort Ticonderoga’s strategic role in the struggle for liberty. A battle takes place each day at 2 pm and is based on an encounter between advanced British and American forces during General John Burgoyne’s successful capture of the fort by the British in July 1777. Visitors will be able to purchase wares from period vendors, thrill at the pageantry of arms, enlist with the Continental soldiers for a bounty, and participate in a Sunday morning Anglican divine service in the fort at 10:30am. Beth Hill, Executive Director of Fort Ticonderoga, said this event “will bring to life the hardship, hope, and victory that defined Fort Ticonderoga’s history in the American Revolution.” Highlighted programs throughout the weekend will include Potent Potables: Drink and Sutling in the American Revolution presentations, cooper demonstrations, building field fortifications, daily life of camp followers, field surgery and much more! According to Hill, the weekend “will be an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to be immersed in a place and time that defined America.”
The historic capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th, 1775, by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys marked America’s first victory of the American Revolution. Fort Ticonderoga remained a strategic stronghold and key to the continent throughout the early years of the war. In 1777, British forces under General Burgoyne successfully recaptured Fort Ticonderoga, forcing American troops to abandon the fort and Mount Independence across Lake Champlain. During the 18th-century, Fort Ticonderoga was attacked six times in the span of twenty years, holding three times and falling three times.
Fort Ticonderoga is a private not-for-profit historical site that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggle, sacrifices, and victories that shaped North America and changed world history. Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, tours, demonstrations and exhibits each day from 9:30am-5pm, May 20th- October 20th. A full schedule and information on events, including the upcoming Revolutionary War Encampment on September 11th and 12th, can be found at www.FortTiconderoga.org.
There is too much to see. We have entered what looks like a fantasy world and it isn’t Disney. Tri-corn hats, fife and drum, cannons and muskets surround us. My children practically spin in a circle unsure what to visit first. Each climbs aboard a cannon while one eagerly points to Lake Champlain. The other is busy protecting us from the unknown enemy. She is protecting us from a raid on Fort Ticonderoga.
I am just trying to keep up. There is a whole schedule of events to attend. I am feeling a bit underdressed. We are surrounded by people in period costume. We go through the museum and try to take in some of the 30,000 objects on display. The West Barracks holds an impressive display of ancient artillery including an engraved sword owned by Alexander Hamilton, the 1st Secretary of the Treasury.
Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French military in the mid-1700s as one of a series of forts used to control Lake Champlain. Originally named Fort Carillon, the fort was built atop the narrows of the La Chute River as the waters enter Lake Champlain to maintain control over the waterway. Its complicated history shows a change of hands between British and American forces.
My son is lobbying for some kind of weapon. The familiar whine of “everyone else here has one” as I look around, does ring true. This has an essence of Ralphie in A Christmas Story all over it. He promises he will always aim over his sister’s head. Now those are words I don’t hear every day. I tell him he is going to have to be content to watch the flag ceremony and musket demonstration. He practically salivates when the drum starts to sound.
I sneak out of the Fife and Drum demonstration for a visit to the chocolate tent. Mars Inc. researched and duplicated an 18th century chocolate recipe. It is not the hot chocolate I am used to but a bittersweet concoction slightly spiced with vanilla, red pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. This dark steaming beverage was the breakfast of the soldier. The demonstrator carefully grates a bar into a chocolate pot and adds water to the shavings. She pours the bitter mixture into sample cups for all to try. This was a staple of the 18th century soldiers, sometimes the only breakfast they would have. My daughter’s squeals of excitement pull me from my chocolate-induced haze. She would like some chocolate. She tosses the mixture down like a warrior, waving off an offer for seconds. She must leave me now to march with the rest of the corps.
This Friday, August 27th, will mark the last of the season’s daily family activities. Throughout the summer children have had the opportunity to complete crafts befitting the revolutionary theme such as make a soldier’s diary, a tri-corn hat or design a power horn.
“By the beginning of September most children are back in school so we focus on other activities such as the Garrison Ghost Tours, “ says Group Tour Coordinator Nancy LaVallie. “We are open until October 20th with our regular programming, guided tours and other special events like seminars and the annual Revolutionary War Encampment. There is plenty to do.”
Built in 1755 by the French, Fort Ticonderoga is the site of the first American victory of the American Revolution. For more information regarding history of the fort, chocolate and hours of operation please contact 518-585-2821. For those interested in a discount, check out the online coupon for 10% savings on a visit.
The terms “North Country” and “world premiere” haven’t mingled very often, but May 8, 1953 was one notable exception. It all had to do with Fort Ti, but not the one we’re all familiar with. This was Fort Ti, the movie, and it was special for several reasons.
Since the earliest days of movie-making, film crews have used dozens of locations across the region, but this particular movie had a significant impact both locally and nationally. The fact that Ticonderoga hosted a world premiere is itself impressive. It carries added importance that the historic State Theatre hosted the event. Ticonderoga’s Union Opera House had been a center of culture in the village for more than two decades, but when it burned in 1916, it was replaced with a theatre, The Playhouse. Culturally, the town didn’t miss a beat, as The Playhouse hosted violinists, pianists, lecturers, movies, bands, vaudeville shows, magicians, and myriad other performers for the next twenty years.
In 1937, owner Alfred Barton leased the building to a company that owned 140 theaters in the northeast. An intense remodeling ensued, and the changes were dramatic: a new domed ceiling; new lighting; drapes and curtains added to the stage; new plush carpeting; air conditioning; a large marquee sign; capacity expanded to 800; and newly upholstered and roomy seating, staggered for easy viewing from any location.
A month later, the building reopened as the State Theatre, receiving glowing reviews from all, and calling to mind one word: magnificent. A variety of events were held there, but it was primarily a movie theater, and when the time came to select a site for the premiere of Fort Ti, the State Theater was the obvious choice.
This wasn’t just any movie. Though most modern reviewers still give it two stars out of four, Fort Ti was important for another reason. Television was a new and growing medium, and its effects were felt throughout the movie industry. People were staying home evenings to watch TV, and something new was needed to bring viewers back to the theaters. In the 1950s, 3-D movies were the solution.
Fox, MGM, Paramount, and Warner Brothers all rushed to produce movies in 3-D format. Columbia employed the Natural Vision System, the same technology used by a few of its competitors. Fort Ti was to be Columbia’s showcase offering, and movie attendees had to wear polarized glasses to enjoy the intended effect. One lens was red and the other blue, and in general, the idea was to merge two visual impressions into one. The result? Objects looked like they were jumping out from the screen, right at the viewer.
The launch at the State Theater was accompanied by a pageant portraying events surrounding the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen on May 10, 1755. The premiere date of May 8 was chosen for its proximity to that anniversary. Media from the entertainment world were on hand, including representatives from magazines, newspaper, and radio. (What, no TV?)
After all the hype, it was time to watch the movie. Was all this 3-D stuff for real? Fort Ti producer Sam Katzman and director William Castle certainly thought so. In an unusual move, Columbia had employed Katzman for the project, a man who LIFE magazine called “the only independent producer whose films—though all despised by critics—have never lost money.” It didn’t matter much that he was often known as a “schlock” producer: for forty years, he made money for the studios, and that was what counted.
Since Katzman was the producer, what better choice could there have been than William Castle as director? Here was a man who made a career out of movie gimmickry, and 3-D certainly looked like a gimmick. As usual, Castle made it work to great effect. Reviewer Donald Kirkley said after watching Fort Ti, “Many times moviegoers were observed to duck as things seemed to come their way, breaking through the screen barrier.”
Others referred to it as “the throwingest picture yet,” a reference to the many objects sent flying towards viewers. How was it done so effectively? In his autobiography, Castle later revealed some of his secrets: “Every evening I took a large pot and practiced throwing things into it: knives, forks, spoons … anything I could lay my hands on. My wife thought I was crazy, but my aim was becoming perfect.”
Castle was clearly pleased with the results, adding, “I attended the preview of Fort Ti. The audience, with glasses perched on their noses, ducked constantly. Tomahawks, balls of fire, arrows, and cannonballs seemed to fly out of the screen. Smiling, I said to my wife, ‘I’m not a director—I’m a great pitcher.’ ”
The movie is only rated average, but “unrated” components conferred cult status on it. Though Ticonderoga is nearly on the East Coast, Fort Ti is generally categorized as a Western. Some movie historians include it on their lists of the most important Western films of all time, not for the story, but for the new 3-D format and the effect it had on viewers.
For the record, the film included many Hollywood embellishments, and dealt with a story of Rogers Rangers, Jeffrey Amherst, and several other players, with a romance built in, and plenty of fighting action (offering ample opportunities for throwing things at the audience). George Montgomery played the leading role as Captain Jed Horn, while young Joan Vohs (a former Rockette) played his love interest, Fortune Mallory. One other participant was Ben Astar, said to be one of Israel’s top actors, and fluent in twelve languages.
Was Fort Ti the best 3-D movie ever made? Hard to say. Was Fort Ti the best movie ever made in Ticonderoga? Not even close. But that’s a story for another day.
Photo Above: Fort Ti movie poster.
Photo Below: A sample dual-image clip used to create the 3-D effect in Fort Ti.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Today we were going to list the Ten Most Influential Adirondackers, based on input from you, the Almanack readers. We’ve decided to keep nominations open for one more week (please make your recommendations here). In the meantime, one of you suggested, “How about the Adirondacks’ ten biggest asshats? . . . [T]hat’s one discussion I’d like to read.”
So, scroll through for a list of ten all-star Adirondack jerks and a-hats, in no particular order. » Continue Reading.
A new guidebook to 19 French and Indian War historic sites invites travelers travel to destinations in New York and Pennsylvania. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail has published Waterways of War: The Struggle for Empire 1754-1763, A Traveler’s Guide to the French & Indian War Forts and Battlefields along America’s Byways in New York and Pennsylvania.ports. It’s one of the best general guides to the French and Indian War I’ve seen and covers the fortified houses, American and French forts, Lake George shipwrecks, and other battlefields and historic sites from the period. » Continue Reading.
Summer is the time for great history events in our region, and I love local history. So here are three events that I won’t miss this season:
Fort Ticonderoga French and Indian War and American Revolution encampments – 2009 marks the 250th Anniversary of the British victory over the French at Fort Ticonderoga (known then as Fort Carillon). To mark the occasion the Fort is planning the Grand Encampment of the French & Indian War (June 27 & 28). Recreated battles and military life are just one aspect of the event, which includes a large period encampment, the smell of black powder, the roar of cannon, and period music. The American Revolutionary War encampment (September 12 and 13th) includes American and British units and a contingent of Native American interpreters. The 2d New York, the Lexington Training Band, three British Regiments of Foot, the King’s Rangers, the Royal Irish Artillery, and more will all be there. These are the area’s premiere history events for all ages. A tip: the best parking is in the back by the King’s Garden.
Fort William Henry Lecture Series – Serious students of local history will want to attend this series of lectures offered each year at Fort William Henry. This year features noted historian Laurence Hauptman on the Munsee and Mahican (Mohican) at the time of Henry Hudson (August 6). Glenn Williams of the National Museum of the U.S. Army will give a talk on “Irregular Warfare on the Revolutionary Frontier” (August 13). There will also be lectures on the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) influence on Women’s Rights and the Hudson-Champlain Quadricentennial. Most of the lectures (which are free and start at 7 pm) are held at the Fort William Henry Conference Center (behind the fort) on Canada Street in Lake George.
Gokey’s Auctions in North Hudson (occasional Saturday nights) – Yes, it belongs on a list of great Adirondack summertime history opportunities. Gokey’s Auctions are staple good clean Saturday night fun in our part of the park. Located in North Hudson (check the Frontier Town ruins while you are there), John Gokey’s Trading Post offers food and a well-run auction staffed and attended mostly by locals. The previews start at 2 pm and the auctions at 5 pm, but check the complete schedule for dates and announcements of their on-site auctions around the North Country. Don’t bid against me.
It was a tough year for the world’s billionaires, Forbes reported today. Hundreds of the world’s wealthiest are merely millionaires now, including Sandy Weill, former CEO of Citigroup and seasonal resident of Upper Saranac Lake. “His Citigroup shares have lost nearly all their value,” Forbes says, estimating that Citi shares have fallen 95 percent in the last 12 months. The financial services conglomerate that Weill built is now the recipient of a $45 billion federal bailout. Weill is prominent in New York City philanthropic circles, but he maintains a low profile in the Adirondacks. Up here his wife, Joan, is much better known, especially for her generosity to Paul Smith’s College, where she serves as chairman of its board of trustees and spearheaded construction of a library (photo above) and student center that bear her name.
A Lake George summer resident, however, is still in good standing on the billionaire list. Forrest Mars Jr., co-owner of the privately held Mars candy company (which also includes Wrigley, Pedigree pet food and other brands), is the 43rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $9 billion and growing, Forbes says. Mars and his wife Deborah Clarke Mars have a camp on the lake’s northeast shore, not far from Deborah’s hometown of Ticonderoga.
Meanwhile, Bernard L. Madoff pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding investors of about $65 billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. The story seems unrelated, but it also has Adirondack connections, particularly for charitable giving. One of the victims on the Madoff list is the New York City–based Prospect Hill Foundation, a longtime supporter of many Adirondack environmental nonprofits. It’s still unclear what the repercussions will be for the foundation and its grant recipients. Also on the Madoff list is Anne Childs who — with her husband the Freedom Tower architect David Childs — owns a hilltop house in Keene.
If you know of other Adirondack connections on the Forbes or Madoff lists, please let us know.
Rich Strum, Director of Interpretation and Education at Fort Ticonderoga, will offer a program entitled “Conquest, Commerce, and Culture: 400 Years of History in the Champlain Valley” at Saranac Village at Will Rogers in Saranac Lake on Sunday, March 8, 2009.
Samuel de Champlain first saw the great expanse of Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains to the east, the Adirondacks on the west in 1609. New York State, Vermont, and the Province of Quebec are commemorating the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s explorations this year through a variety of programs and events. Strum will provide an illustrated overview of four centuries of the Champlain region’s history. He will discuss military contests for control of the vital Champlain corridor, the role the lake has played in economic growth and expansion, the lasting impact of 150 years of French dominance in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The presentation will begin at 2:00 p.m. and is offered at no charge to member sof the Adirondack Museum and children of elementary school age or younger. Free admission will be extended to all residents of Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.
Rich Strum has been the Director of Interpretation and Education at Fort Ticonderoga since 1999. He serves as North Country Regional Coordinator for New York State History Day. He is the author of Ticonderoga: Lake Champlain Steamboat, as well as two books for young readers: Causes of the American Revolution and Henry Know: Washington’s Artilleryman. He lives in Ticonderoga, N.Y. with his wife and daughters.
Although it is apparently, no longer up, two local newspapers have reported (1, 2), that Fort Ticonderoga is asking the public to keep the fort from shutting down. According to Fred Herbst of Denton Publications:
You have probably seen the headlines. Fort Ticonderoga is in a very difficult financial situation. We don’t want to sell assets. We don’t want to lay off staff. We don’t want to curtail our education programs. We don’t want to close. Without the help of our friends and supporters, however, we may be faced with having to take one or more of these measures.
Fort Ticonderoga’s financial troubles began when benefactors Deborah and Forrest Mars Jr. withdrew their support – it’s been covered at length here.
The original statement continues:
Fort Ticonderoga needs its army of defenders now more than ever. The new Mars Education Center is 95 percent paid for. We have raised and borrowed more than $22 million, but we still need $700,000 to settle the outstanding bills and an additional $3.5 million to repay the loans and replenish our endowment fund.
Herbst revealed more about the details of Forrest Mars conflict with Executive Director Nick Westbrook.
“The ride is over,” he wrote in an Email to Westbrook that was provided to the Times of Ti.
The Email said Westbrook would not listen to new ideas and had stopped communicating with Mrs. Mars, when she was president of the fort board of trustees.
“We will not be writing any further checks,” Mr. Mars wrote. “Your performance as a manager is lacking. As a historian and archivist, etc., you excel. You have not given proper supervision and leadership to the staff.”
Mr. Mars said he and his wife paid for most of the Mars Education Center.
“As far as the new center, I would think that besides not communicating with your president (Mrs. Mars) regarding the opening of it, the exhibits to be in it, the budget for operating it and a program for the future use, you might have been nice enough and polite enough to communicate with the major donor (Mr. Mars),” the Email reads. “Not a word from you to either of us. We do not even know if you can fund it.”
The Email also said Mr. Mars had paid for one of Westbrook’s sons to attend a private school and had paid for vacations for Westbrook and his wife.
The Fort is under threat to close next year or sell off some it collections; Westbrook will be resigning. The fort closes for the season October 20th.
“The fort is running through its available endowment funds to pay the Mars Education Center bills, and, in the absence of a major infusion of funds, the fort will be essentially broke by the end of 2008,” Paine said in the memo.
North Country Public Radiois reporting that Fort Ticonderoga’s longtime executive director Nick Westbrook will step down (Post Star says next year). According to the report board president Peter Paine says Westbrook will remain “affiliated with the historic site in a scholarly and advisory capacity” and described the move as “part of a planned transition.”
Ongoing controversy over the loss of the Fort’s most important benefactor has been covered at length on the New York History Blog before. This weekend the New York Timescovered the story:
This summer, the national historic landmark — called Fort Ti for short — began its 100th season as an attraction open to the public with two causes for celebration: the unveiling of a splashy new education center, and an increase in visitors, reversing a long decline.
But instead of celebrating, its caretakers issued an S.O.S., warning that the fort, one of the state’s most important historic sites, was struggling for survival, largely because of a breach between the fort’s greatest benefactor — an heir of the Mars candy fortune — and its executive director.
The problem is money: The fort had a shortfall of $2.5 million for the education center. The president of the board that governs the fort, which is owned by a nonprofit organization, said in an internal memo this summer that the site would be “essentially broke” by the end of the year. The memo proposed a half-dozen solutions, including the sale of artwork from the group’s collection.
There is an interesting post at the Adirondack North Country Association‘s blog that outlines the various attendence, tourism, and sales tax figures for the summer season so far. It a nice overview of what is happening with the local tourism economy. Here are some of the most important details:
Five North Country counties have had an increase in sales tax revenue for the first six months of 2008 as compared to the same period last year. The state average (excluding NYC) increase for the same time period is 3.7%. The state Dept. of Taxation and Finance reported that sales tax revenue in Clinton County increased by 12.1%, Essex County 3.4%, Saratoga 5.2%, Washington 13.3% and Warren 5% ($524,345 more than last year).
The year-to-date visitation numbers at the outdoor venues of the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) as compared to last year are down as of Aug. 12 from 101,531 to 87,919. Their indoor venue, the Winter Olympic Museum, has increased from 6,134 to 6,971. Already short summer seems shorter still, Monday, August 18, 2008, Press Republican, p. A5.
Since 2001, annual attendance at Fort Ticonderoga has decreased from 115,000 to 77,000 in 2007 with a 10% increase in 2008. Fort Ticonderoga considers sale of artwork, Chris Carola (Associated Press), The Sunday Gazette, August 10, 2008, p. B10.
The post concludes that “Retail shopowners with no other income streams, such as selling their own product, may be the most threatened businesses in our region because of the increase in food and gas prices.”
Fort Ticonderoga President Peter S. Paine Jr. has suggested in a memo forwarded to the Plattsburgh Press Republican that the historic site (a veteran of the French and Indian and American Revolutionary wars as well as the War of 1812) has seven options to avoid permanent closure, none of them good.
Paine wrote in the memo that “the fort is running through its available endowment funds to pay the Mars Education Center bills, and, in the absence of a major infusion of funds, the fort will be essentially broke by the end of 2008.” » Continue Reading.
It’s a big year at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. First it’s the 100th anniversary of their opening with a dedication attended by President William Howard Taft. The Pell family began it’s restoration that year, a project that is continuing with the completion of the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center that will open on July 6.
This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War of the Battle of Carillon, which was designated as the I Love NY “signature event,” and the opening of the new exhibit “Face of War; Triumph and Tragedy at Ticonderoga, 1758-1759,” the first new exhibit in many years. It details the lives of soldiers taken directly from their diaries and letters. On the weekend of June 28 and 29th, over 2,000 re-enactors from all over the world are expected to make camp assembling to commemorate and celebrate the battle when Major General Abercromby’s British Army, along with Native Americans and American Militia was defeated by a much smaller force defending the fort under the Marquis de Montcalm. The focal point of the re-enactment of the 1758 battle will be a replica of the log breastwork that was a focal point of repeated and deadly British frontal attacks.
On July 5, the British and the Black Watch will be remembered with a parade to the Scottish Cairn, accompanied by clans, bagpipes and Scots from Canada, England and the United States. On July 8, there will be a parade led by the Fort Ticonderoga Fife and Drum Corps to the Montcalm Cross in remembrance of the French victory.
In no particular order, Adirondack Almanack’s list of Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks. Our list of the Seven Natural Wonders can be found here. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions.
Whiteface Memorial Highway Although Lake George’s Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves honorable mention, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves a spot on our list of wonders. Considered a test case for both the New Deal Works Progress Administration and the constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve, construction began in 1929 (after passage of the necessary amendment) and eventually cost 1.2 million dollars. The completed road, an eight-mile climb (at 8 percent average grade) from the crossroads in Wilmington, comes within 400 feet of the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks. New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at the groundbreaking that a “distinguished French engineer” had driven the road and told him, “I, of course, know all of the great mountain highways of Europe. There is no highway in all of Europe which can compare for its engineering skill, for its perfection of detail, with the White Face Mountain Highway of the State of New York.” When the road was completed, F.D.R. (by then President of the United States) officially opened the route on July 20, 1935 and dedicated it to the “veterans of the Great War.” In his closing remarks F.D.R. said “I wish very much that it were possible for me to walk up the few remaining feet to the actual top of the mountain. Some day they are going to make it possible for people who cannot make the little climb to go up there in a comfortable and easy elevator.” The result of F.D.R’s desire is the 424-foot tunnel into the core of the mountain that ends in a elevator which rises 276 feet (about 27 stories) to the summit.
FortTiconderoga Although the earliest archeological evidence of Indian settlement dates to 8,000 B.C. (and Native Americans were planting crops there as early as 1,000 B.C.), the first fort built there by Europeans was FortCarillon constructed by the French in 1755-1758 during the French and Indian War. It’s location at the narrow strip of land between Lake Champlain and Lake George meant that the fort, called the “key to the continent,” controlled the northern portion of America‘s most important north-south travel route through the earl 19th century. Its impressive placement atop the cliffs and its European design kept it from being taken by an overwhelming British force under General Abercromby in 1758. It was taken the following year under General Amherst and again on May 10, 1775, when Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys surprised the sleeping British garrison. It was retaken by the British in July 1777 by General Burgoyne who managed to place cannon on MountDefiance overlooking the fort. In 1820, William Ferris Pell bought the ruins and in 1908 Stephen and Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell began restoration. The following year it was opened to the public (President Taft was on hand) and in 1931 FortTiconderoga was designated a not-for-profit educational historic site managed by the Fort Ticonderoga Association.
The AdirondackMuseum Some day the WildCenter in TupperLake may make this list, but until then the AidirondackMuseum owns the title Adirondack wonder. The brainchild of mining baron Harold Hochschild, the museum has recently reached its 50th year preserving the heritage of the Adirondacks. Although it began as a small endeavor it has become a must see attraction of 32 acres and 22 buildings. Nearly 3 million visitors have seen the exhibits on mining, logging, boating, recreation, and the environment and culture of the Adirondacks. It is the single largest collection of Adirondack artifacts, including thousands of books (60 published by the museum), periodicals, manuscripts, maps and government documents, over 2,500 original works of art, 70,000 photographs, 300 boats and wheeled vehicles, and a large collection of rustic furniture, art, and architecture. Highlights include the Marion River Carry Railroad engine passenger car and the carriage that brought Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to North Creek the night President William McKinley was assassinated.
North Country Public Radio Founded at St. Lawrence University and now celebrating their 40th year, today’s North Country Public Radio is a network of stations broadcast from 30 fm transmitters and translators from the Canadian frontier to Western Vermont and south into HudsonValley. Its regional and national news, public affairs, and music programs have become a part of Adirondack culture in a way that gives NCPR a place on our list of Adirondack wonders. Whether its a ham dinner in Placid, a lost dog in the Keene Valley, a fire in Pottersville, or a political event in Saranac or Tupper, NCPR reaches over, around, and seemingly through the mountains and into our homes in ways nothing else in the North Country does. That’s a wonder in itself.
KeesevilleStoneArchBridge Workers building the historic StoneArchBridge over the AuSableRiver on Main Street in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river, the entire bridge collapsed into the AuSable with a thunderous crash said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent. Since then it’s done quiet service. Rehabilitated in 2000 and now carrying more than 5,500 vehicles a day, the bridge still stands as a testament to Adirondack engineering. Its total length is over one hundred feet with 90 foot stone arch span.
Santa’s Workshop Each year more and more of the region’s theme parks fade into oblivion. Those that have been lost include Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Make Believe (Upper Jay), FrontierTown (North Hudson), Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape), GaslightVillage (Lake George), and TimeTown (Bolton Landing). Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY seems the last of a breed and some of the remaining (and still operational in its original context) handiwork of Arto Monaco. Monaco was the local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Make Believe (as well as parts of Storytown, GaslightVillage, and FrontierTown). Lake Placid businessman Julian Reiss’s Santa’s workshop opened July 1, 1949 and included a very early prototype petty zoo; it received its own zip code (12946) in 1953. A record daily attendance occurred in 1951 when 14,000 people walked through the gates. Julian’s son Bob Reiss took over the operation in the early 1970s, but the number of visitors has continued to drop with the park closing in 2001 only to reopen, hopefully for good. Lake Placid Sports Complex From the early competitions at the Lake Placid Club to the modern Olympic Training Facility, the sports complexes in and around Lake Placid have been bringing the sports world to our doorsteps for over a hundred years. Most are familiar with the stats: 12 awards in each the 1932 and 1980 games; Jack’s Shea two gold medals (the first American to win two gold medals at the same Olympics); figure skater-turned movie star Sonja Henie’s second of three consecutive Olympic gold medals, speed skater Eric Heiden’s five medal sweep (including one world record); “The Miracle” of 1980. After the 1980 Games, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) combined under one management Whiteface, the bobsled, luge, cross-country ski and biathlon facilities at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, the Olympic Center, the speed skating oval, and the jumping complex. Since then ORDA has hosted hundreds of major national and international events, including world championships and world cup competitions in bobsled, luge, skeleton, alpine racing, ski jumping, speed skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. The Olympic Training facility opened in 1988 (one of only three in the country) and includes a 96-room dormitory that meets the needs of more than 6,000 athletes a year. The Lake Placid facilities are in one of only three communities in the world to have hosted two Winter Olympics, and that alone makes them an Adirondack wonder. What do you think? Fire away – let us know which Adirondack human and natural constructed things/places are the most significant, must-see attractions, marvels of engineering, historically important, or have other significance that makes them one of your top seven?
Remember – two lists – one for the human-made wonders, one for natural wonders.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
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