Posts Tagged ‘Franklin County’

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Popular Boat Launch Overhaul Planned Near High Peaks

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have announced a plan to update the popular Second Pond Boat Launch on Route 3 in Harrietstown, part of a 10.5-acre Intensive Use Area that provides key access to the Saranac Lakes. A part of the plan includes a land swap with the adjacent High Peaks Wilderness Area.

The DEC is planning to rebuild and expand the boat launch and resurface the parking area, including the addition of a new firewood storage building, the removal of an old cabin, and the construction of a new registration booth and invasive species kiosk. According to press reports a boat washing station, considered important to prevent the spread of invasive species by boaters, was not included in the plan. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Lake Placid Hall of Fame Seeks Nominations

Lake Placid Hall of FameThe Lake Placid Hall of Fame Committee is seeking nominations of full or part-time residents of the Olympic region (Essex, Clinton and Franklin Counties) for 2012. The Lake Placid Hall of Fame began in 1983 and has inducted over 100 individuals including members of the 1948 U.S. Olympic four-man bobsled team and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Permanent plaques commemorating each member are on display in the Olympic Center’s Hall of Fame.

To be considered for membership, individuals should be past or current residents of the Olympic region or have some significant connection to the area. All nominees must have made significant sports, cultural, or civic contributions to the region, or have enhanced Olympic region heritage. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Adirondack Family Time: Wild Center Community Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13th, and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is giving everyone the chance to celebrate the women in their lives whether great-grandmother, grandmother or mother. This event is not just geared toward children, but to embrace the child within. Join in the festivities and enjoy a free opportunity to explore Mother Nature inside and outside the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center).

According to Director of Programs Jennifer Kretser, the annual spring event is an opportunity to showcase The Wild Center’s exhibits as a place for all ages to explore. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Rooftop Highway Commentary: A Cause Worth Losing

What follows is a guest commentary by John Danis of the organization YESeleven, a grass roots citizens group in favor of upgrading Route 11 to rural expressway standards as set forth in the 2002 “Northern Tier Transportation Study” and opposed to the “I-98” (Rooftop Highway) project. Copies of the 2002 and 2008 transportation studies are available at their website.

“I-98”. There is no plan, no route, no funding. According to Wikipedia there is no federal designation of it as a current or future interstate highway project. The name, ‘I-98’ is fiction except in the minds of its proponents who created it as an advertising and promotion gimmick. Yet, here we go again with the “I-98” crowd doubling down on yet another propaganda campaign of resolutions from towns and villages in St. Lawrence County to once again try to create the illusion that everyone is in favor of this really bad idea. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Learning All About Making Maple

There are a variety of places that a person can visit to see maple sap collected, especially this weekend as maple producers join together for the final days of New York State Maple Producers Association Maple Weekend.

My husband and I have had our experiences (and disagreements) with attempting to make maple syrup. All in all and only with the ability to look back do we both see it as something that was fun. It is hard work but we can say we did it, and have said it with quite some frequency.

Our friends, that actually produce syrup commercially, roll their eyes and remind us that the most we ever produce is a couple of gallons. A couple of gallons of pure gold, I must add.

At Cornell University-Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station scientists and maple producers continue to perfect ways to increase maple sugar production.

Currently the sap is collected and boiled at the same rate on their 200+ acre forest research station in Lake Placid. In the Sixties, scientists improved sap collection by applying suction to the existing network of tubes that made the bucket collection technique inefficient. (If anyone has ever collected sap by bucket, you do not need research to tell you how inefficient it is.)

Uihlein continues to share its discoveries and research with professional maple producers as well as the general public through training seminars and presentations. A tour through the research facility is one way to learn about maple collecting. Uihlein also offers webinars and workshops throughout the autumn in a range of topics from Maple Production For Beginners to Making Maple Cotton. Don’t worry. You can review the webinars all year long. There are saved versions available if you are interested in attempting to collect and boil your own sap.

Before we started tapping our own trees my family attended a Cornell University-Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station seminar. Even now that we have been producing syrup for a few years, we still go on tours to see what tricks we can learn to better our own backyard operation.

My children understand how time consuming producing maple can be. It is with great pride that they pour their own syrup on pancakes, making sure not to waste a single drop.

These free Maple Weekends are not all about the work but also for producers to showcase their own facilities. There are pancake breakfasts, free samples, some wagon rides to the sugar bushes and family-friendly activities at various maple producers around the Adirondacks and the rest of New York State. Enjoy!

Photo of Uihlien maple syrup grade samples used with the permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid and the High Peaks. Her second book, in the four book Adirondack Family Activities series, focuses on the Champlain Valley and will be in available in stores and online summer 2012.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Lawrence Gooley: Stories of North Country Twins

In days of yore (pre-internet times), I once subscribed to more than a dozen different magazines. Further back, in the 1960s and 1970s, there seemed to be a magazine for just about any subject that anyone was ever interested in. I was reminded of this recently when a saw a cover titled TWINS. The subject matter was everything related to twins: having them, being one, doctoring them, parenting them, and so on.

What really surprised me was the subtitle: The Magazine for Multiples Since 1984. I’d never heard of it, but it has been around for nearly three decades. It also reminded me of some twin-related North Country stories I’ve collected over the years. Here’s a sampling. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Captain Cook’s, Saranac Lake

It could have been November (or early spring) for all we knew. Dead grass lay matted in pale straw hues awaiting a blanket of snow. The calendar indicated late January, but nearly 40 degree temperatures and an almost complete lack of snow said otherwise.

A little late with her instructions, Pam’s GPS rerouted us down Limekiln Road on a “shortcut” back to Route 73. Not one to turn around (or ever ask for directions), Pam took us four-wheeling down a dirt road that would have been impassible under normal winter conditions. Ice sculptures clung like blobs of celeste blue glass to rock ledges along 73 while hikers and climbers wandered to their patiently waiting cars as dusk approached.

Finally arriving in Saranac Lake, noticing the half-constructed ice castle, we made our way to Captain Cook’s. It looked pretty dead from the outside as Kim stood across the street covertly snapping a few pics of the exterior. We were unprepared for the large crowd as we entered Captain Cook’s Bar and Grill on that Saturday afternoon. Surprise must have registered on our faces as we were raucously greeted at the door who by a man who informed us it was Ladies’ Night – no cover! Having broken the ice, we found a seat in a far corner of the bar where we could observe and take notes. With one bartender serving the 30 or more patrons, we knew we would have to be patient in getting information from her. Staci readily took our drink orders and answered our questions as opportunity permitted.

Though not easily discernible in the dimmer light, the top of the P-shaped bar is an inlaid topographical map. High pine ceilings and walls accent the rustic birch slab shelves. An old canoe hanging on a far wall rounds out the Adirondack appeal. Several flags are tacked to the ceiling and a large bright yellow model seaplane floats over the bar. Three flat-screen TVs are scattered about. We were a little confused by the San Francisco 49ers pennants behind the bar until Pat’s comment about Captain Cook’s being proud Giants supporters was intercepted by a companion who set the record straight.

Wanting to mix with the locals, Kim approached a group to ask questions. Eyeing her notebook suspiciously at first, they quickly warmed up once the purpose of our visit was established. We spoke at length with a woman named Pat who was willing and eager to share insights about Captain Cook’s, the local bars, and the community in general. Though not a standard question from our repertoire, our foremost curiousity was whether this was a typical crowd for a Saturday afternoon in January. Turns out that it is. Captain Cook’s is the headquarters for the Saranac Lake IPW – the Ice Palace Workers. That explained both the diversity of the patrons and the community spirit that pervaded the barroom. They had finished working on the ice palace for the day and seemed to be reveling in their accomplishments, undaunted perhaps by the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival deadline looming just one short week away. We had an opportunity to speak with several IPW members and learned that most of them have been members for years, are about 30 percent women, and are somewhat disappointed by the lack of new, younger recruits. We even managed to convince a few of the volunteers to pose for a photo.

Capt. Cook’s has been owned by Scott Cook for the past four years. In the summer it is headquarters for the local rugby team. It certainly had the feel of being a community place to meet, but welcoming to strangers as well. Though the bar can seat 14 to 16 people, the room easily accommodated the current gathering. A rustic table near the front window was empty, perhaps just a little too far away from the action. Captain Cook’s features Happy Hour drink specials Monday through Friday, but the Saturday prices were very reasonable. They are open year round, seven days a week from noon until 3 a.m. Chicken wings are the specialty here and, as observed from our station at the bar, take-out seems to be very popular. The standard pool table and electronic darts remained dormant this day. An ATM machine is on site and Quick Draw is available too. Additional seating is available upstairs and on an outside patio tucked away from the street. Musical entertainment is featured during Winter Carnival. A small public parking area is adjacent to the bar and on-street parking is just up the road and across the street.

The menu at Captain Cook’s features sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and several flavors of wings (including peanut butter). Eight draft beers include Davidson Brothers “Captain Cook’s IPA”, Long Trail, Blue Light, and a Samuel Adams seasonal. Assorted flavored vodkas and Jagermeister suggest the bartenders may possess some creativity.

If you’re planning to be in Saranac Lake for the Winter Carnival, or any time at all, Captain Cook’s is a great place to warm up, have a drink and grab something to eat. Visit their website and Facebook page for up-to-date drink specials and events. The atmosphere is friendly and festive and the people are some of the nicest we’ve met.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Paul Smith’s Chili Snowshoe Fest

The Chili Ski and Snowshoe Fest will take place on January 28 no matter the weather conditions, according to Paul Smith’s College VIC Interpretive Naturalist Educator Sarah Keyes.

The event will be jammed with family-friendly activities such as a modified “poker run” where kids will search on skis for animal cards and an obstacle course. There are also kids’ freestyle ski races, a bird walk and a snowshoe stampede.

“Paul Smith’s College Culinary and Bakery students will create three different types of chili as well as bread and some baked goods, “says Keyes. “All the outside snow-related activities will be covered with the purchase of a VIC day pass but there are some events happening at the VIC which are free.”

According to Keyes Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptor Center will give live birding demonstrations where people can get up close and personal to owls and hawks. Children can also always access the inside touch table. Visitors can stop by to view the ongoing art show “Winter Wonders” and the traveling exhibit “Ways of the Woods.”

“We encourage people to stop by and see all the different activities we have happening,” says Keyes. “There will be music that afternoon as well the Adult 5K ski races.”

Keyes says, “We are always open to suggestions from people regarding our programming. We are looking into do an environment book club and after the great success of our “no school” program, parents can look forward to the next session over President’s weekend vacation.”

Keyes mentions that during the Christmas holiday she prepared weekday activities for school-aged children to get kids outside and entertained. The President’s weekend format will be similar and open to locals as well as visitors during holiday weekends. Keyes recommends people calling her at 327-6241 for more information.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC Chili Ski and Snowshoe Fest will start at 10:00 a.m. with a bird walk with Adirondack Birding Center Director Brian McAllister and conclude with a backcountry ski lecture with Brian McDonnell of McDonnell’s Adirondack Challenges though the live music with the Bog Stompers and access to the VIC trails will continue until 4:00 p.m.

photo used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time


Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: The Belvedere, Saranac Lake

We discovered this unfinished review while compiling stats for our annual report and wondered how it had gone unfinished for so long. We visited the Belvedere Restaurant on the recommendation of patrons at Grizle-T’s as part of an August (hence the kayaks) day trip to Saranac Lake. Our holiday hiatus will be over next week, when we’ll be back on track with a new venue and perpetually unbridled enthusiasm for our subject.

The Belvedere is a restaurant with a bar, but has the potential to be a bar with a restaurant at any given moment. Patrons are apt to come in for a meal, but stop at the bar for a drink first and stay for more than one before dinner. The bartender might have to take the blame for that. His genuine, comfortable manner made us want to stick around longer than we expected.

The bar offers a modern array of choices while maintaining the old classics. One might be inclined by the atmosphere to select something more nostalgic and simple like a martini, a rye and ginger, or the lost-but-not-forgotten whisky sour. Spying the flavored vodkas, a twinkle appeared in Pam’s eye as she spotted the grape vodka. She never seems to have any idea what to drink as Kim makes her predictable survey of the sparse selection brews on tap. Not stricken with a bout of creativity, Pam helpfully instructed Bob the bartender, a 20-year veteran of the Belvedere, on the proper proportions of a grape crush, a Barking Spider specialty and Pam’s go-to beverage when unimaginative. Draft beers available at the time of our visit were Long Trail Ale, Blue Moon and Molson Canadian. An additional 18 or so bottled beers include most of the popular domestics along with the more interesting Peroni and Duvel. Several sparkling, white and red wines are available by the glass for between $4.50 and $6.00 a glass; $14.00 to $16.00 for a half carafe.

To get to the ladies’ restroom, one must pass through the dining room. Even if you weren’t visiting the Belvedere for a meal, the smells that greet you, seafood on this particular evening, will be very hard to resist. We could picture wives returning to their husbands at the bar, pleading with them to move on to the restaurant, the men reluctantly following, beer pints in hand. The Belvedere’s Italian/Continental menu features a wide variety of pasta, seafood and carnivorous offerings, priced between $13.00 and $22.00, but the bar prices are somewhat lower than what we’re used to, and that’s really why we’re there.

Depending on where you gaze, the Belvedere has the appearance of being frozen in time, somewhere between 1950s and the 1970s. A classic ’50s refrigerator squats behind the horseshoe-shaped, formica-topped bar. Oak cabinetry and pine-paneled walls add warmth between the slate floor and low suspended ceiling. A pool table occupies the center of the room and three booths provide seating away from the bar. There is a separate area outside for smokers, distinctly set apart from the entrance, allowing a comfortable smoke to be enjoyed with your drink at the risk of offending no one. Deck seating is available, though parties of more than six will not be accommodated on the deck. No exceptions. There is comfort in the Belvedere’s non-modern motif that states “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. More comfort can be taken in the fact that, as a patron, you are not paying extra for the upgrades.

Established in 1933 and family-owned for three generations, the Belvedere has survived at least two fires and holds the second-longest continuous liquor license in Franklin County. We’re not sure who holds the number one spot, but intend to find out! Located in a residential area just outside Saranac Lake’s business district in a two-story frame house, the Belvedere is a friendly home-town bar where all are welcome. Drink prices are reasonable, the bartender is personable and the patrons are friendly. The Belvedere is open at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Call to confirm hours of operation. Just leave your credit cards at home – the Belvedere accepts cash only.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Forever Wild Advocates Seek Study of Planned Resort

Citing the lack of wildlife and ecological information in the hearing record, Adirondack Wild, a nonprofit membership organization which advocates on behalf of the New York Constitution’s “Forever Wild” clause, petitioned the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on Friday to reopen its hearing on the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) “to secure additional evidence.” ACR is proposed development of 719 dwelling units spread across 6,200 acres near Tupper Lake.

Adirondack Wild, a party to the adjudicatory hearing reviewing the large Adirondack resort project in Tupper Lake issued the following statement via press release: “The hearing should be reopened to obtain substantive information and assessment without which the members of the Agency cannot make the requisite findings of ‘no undue adverse impact’ to the Park’s ‘natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife, historic, recreational or open space resources, or upon the ability of public to provide supporting facilities and services.'”

“Every expert witness, as well as Agency staff, found the ACR project application seriously flawed due to the lack of on-site studies of wildlife, sensitive habitats or rare, threatened or endangered species,” Dan Plumley, partner with Adirondack Wild. said. ”Our motion also highlights the fact that Agency staff admit that the applicant failed to sufficiently examine alternative project designs, as the law requires.”

“Moreover, the project’s purported economic benefits have been put forth with no factual data, or other basis upon which the Agency can make an informed judgment about commercial and other benefits of the project. The lot value and sales projections were pulled out of thin air,” Plumley said. Adirondack Wild argues that the APA Act states that such benefits must be taken into account in order to evaluate possible burdens on the local community to provide supporting facilities and services to the development.

Agency Regulations permit any party, or the Agency itself, to move to reopen an adjudicatory hearing to secure additional evidence. The Agency has been deliberating about the ACR hearing since November, and is expected to render a decision on the permit at its January 20 meeting in Ray Brook. The Agency’s Executive Director informed its members in November that it has three choices: to deny the project, approve the project with conditions, or send the project back to hearing.

“The APA executive staff are trying to persuade the Agency board to make a blind inductive leap by purporting that open space, natural and wildlife resources are adequately protected with no basis for this conclusion in the evidentiary record given the failure of the applicant to complete the requisite wildlife studies,” Bob Glennon, Adirondack Wild’s advisor on the motion, said.

“The applicant bears the burden of proof that the project will be compatible with the character, description and purposes of Resource Management lands, will not have an undue adverse impact, and that reasonable alternatives have been thoroughly examined. The applicant has completely failed to meet all of these burdens,” states Glennon, who is a former APA Agency Counsel and Executive Director. ”The Park Agency cannot legally make their required finding of no undue adverse impact without substantial evidence that is competent, material and relevant. Instead, the staff is offering mere speculation that adequate habitat protection can be assured.”

“The Agency should deny the project without prejudice to resubmission, or reopen the hearing so that the applicant finally conducts the natural resource inventory and assessments, and the alternatives analysis that he should have provided years ago,” according to David Gibson, Partner with Adirondack Wild and a regular contributor here at Adirondack Almanack.

“Collecting this evidence will not require years of study,” Gibson said. “While two full field seasons would be preferable, one full field season of work by qualified experts would gather a considerable amount of information about the presence of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems that is presently not available to Agency Members as they seek to render an informed determination whether this is an approvable project or not.”

The project developers have not yet completed applications for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or for a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan (PILOT) with Franklin County. Developers are proposing taking out approximately $36 million in taxpayer supported bonds to finance the construction.

“Reopening the hearing to obtain vitally needed new evidence will not be holding up progress on the project at all. The applicant can pursue these other permit applications while he is obtaining the additional evidence we believe is essential for the hearing record and for an intelligent, well-reasoned, legally-defensible decision by the Agency,” Gibson said.

Photo: The view over the proposed development area from the summit of Mt. Morris, with Cranberry Pond and Lake Simond in distance.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Schroon Lake New Year’s Eve

For the first year Schroon Lake will be offering its own version of First Night full of family-friendly activities.

According to the Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce the Schroon Lake First Night celebration started in 2003 as part of the Schroon Lake bicentennial. The event was then held again in 2004 to end the bicentennial year. It was resurrected in 2011 as an opportunity to provide a non-alcoholic event for families.

Committee Co-Chair Sharon Piper says, “This is a nice way for families to celebrate together. There will be fun crafts for kids. They can make a New Year’s hat when they aren’t listening to the band. We really tried to provide activities to keep everyone engaged. Our event will also wrap up after the fireworks so families can get home safely.”

Sylvia Fletcher and the Magic Trunk will host three performances, 5:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. There will be ongoing craft stations, face painting and refreshments.

The sock hop will be held at the Schroon Lake Central School gym and truly no shoes are allowed so wear your cutest socks and dance to the classic rock band, “Loose Connections.”

To join in the community spirit there will be a stroll from the school to the park at the conclusion of the sock hop. (It is only a few blocks walk to the park so dress appropriately for the weather.) At the Schroon Lake Town Park enjoy a luminary display, hot chocolate and a bonfire at 8:30 p.m. Fireworks will commence over the lake at 9:15 p.m.

Piper says, “We encourage everyone to come, people from out of town to the second home owner. We hope to provide an opportunity for families to enjoy some fun together.”

The cost for the event is $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children (4-18) with children under four admitted free. There is a family rate available. The goal for the admission is to help offset the cost of the event while still keeping it affordable for families.

The Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce hopes that this event will become an annual tradition for all. This year’s event will be hosted at two venues, the Schroon Lake Central School and the Town Park. The committee is working on light refreshments available for purchase during the event while all other activities are included with admission.

There will be a program to let participants know the schedule for all events. (Look for special offers and coupons from local businesses in the program.)

To the north will be an official First Night Celebration in Saranac Lake with a variety of activities geared toward families of all ages. To the south will be Saratoga Springs’ First Night. There will also be New Year’s Eve fireworks over Lake George at midnight.

Happy New Year! Be safe!

Photo: Fireworks (Courtesy Diane Chase)

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adirondack Family Time: Movie Houses For The Holidays

This is a busy week for all. Schools will be closed for the holidays and some parents are wondering what to do with their kids.

Tonight is also the beginning of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) and Christmas is right around the corner. We seem to be so busy cooking and preparing for the holidays that it takes a bit of reminding that the goal is to spend time with each other.

If you can’t get outside and enjoy the numerous Adirondack adventures perhaps stage a family bowling tournament or enjoy indoor ice-skating.

One thing we like to do, besides being outside skiing, skating or sledding in the winter is to enjoy a small intimate theatre experience. Not just live theatre, though that plays (no pun intended) a prominent role in our lives. No, it’s escaping for a few hours and going to “The Movies.”

At one time many towns in the Adirondacks had their own year-round movie houses. Sadly most have made way for the multiplex. Some theatres have retained their original architecture so the movie is not always the only thing to observe.

Take a moment and enjoy a small slice of history. Each theatre offers a unique experience that a larger cineplex may not. These theatres are independently owned and operated and can offer a less expensive ticket price. After a holiday spending spree, saving money is a pretty good gift, too.

Here are five year-round Adirondack movie theatres to get in a few laughs, enjoy a snack and leave any aspect of holiday stress behind.

Hollywood Theatre 14232 NYS Route 9N, Au Sable Forks, NY 12912
(518) 647-5953 (in the winters closed Monday and Tuesdays)

*Lake Placid Palace Theatre 2430 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-9271
 *open every day including Christmas and New Year’s with a 2:15 p.m. matinee through the Christmas-New Year’s week.

Lake Theatre Main Street, Indian Lake, NY 12842
(518) 648-5950

The Strand Theatre in Old Forge 3093 Rte 28 Main St., Old Forge, NY 13420
(315) 369-6703

Tupper Lake State Theatre, 100 Park St, Tupper Lake, NY 12986
(518) 359-3593

Enjoy your time together!

Photo: Palace Theatre (Courtesy Diane Chase).

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Franklin County Inventor Eliakim Briggs

In the 1830s, hundreds of inventors around the world focused on attempts at automating farm equipment. Reducing the drudgery, difficulty, and danger of farm jobs were the primary goals, accompanied by the potential of providing great wealth for the successful inventor. Among the North Country men tinkering with technology was Eliakim Briggs of Fort Covington in northern Franklin County.

Functional, power-driven machinery was the desired result of his work, and while some tried to harness steam, Briggs turned right to the source for providing horsepower: horses.

This particular branch of the Briggs family had many members across New England, descended from Irish ancestors who fought in America’s Revolutionary War. A number of them later moved to New York in southern Washington County, which is where Eliakim was born in 1795.

Dozens of Vermonters and eastern New York State residents were among the first to move farther north and settle along the border with Canada from Clinton County to western Franklin County. Several members of the Briggs clan, including Eliakim, made the journey around 1820.

With a background in foundry work, young Eli began experimenting with building a “traveling threshing machine.” Around this time, he married Chateaugay’s Russina Allen (a descendant of Vermont’s Ethan Allen), who had moved there from Ticonderoga. They settled in Fort Covington, and by 1827, Russina had given birth to five children. Only the fifth, Janette, survived infancy.

Eli’s inventive efforts proved successful, and he began patenting his creations. Unfortunately, a fire in December 1836 destroyed 80 percent of the Patent Office’s 10,000 records. Among the documents to survive were those covering Eliakim’s “Horse Power Machine” (patented July 12, 1834), and his machine for “mowing, thrashing, and cleaning grain,” patented February 5, 1836.

The 1834 machine was an improvement in design and function of the existing horse treadmill, which was subsequently used to power his threshing machine. Looking to the future, Briggs perceived all sorts of possibilities from harnessing the power of horse-driven treadmills.

In the following year, on the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad (one of New York’s very first rail lines) was a most unusual sight. Instead of the customary single rail car being towed along by a horse, the car was moving silently forward with no visible means of propulsion.

Gawkers could hardly believe their eyes, but the secret lay within, where a horse on a treadmill propelled the car forward at the then blazing speed of 15 miles per hour, prompting one reporter to observe, “This is indeed an age of wonders.” He was witnessing the handiwork of Eliakim Briggs of Fort Covington, whose remarkable invention was being manufactured and sold in Ogdensburg at the time.

Briggs felt that the greatest potential for financial success was in agriculture, and after a trip to the West (which was Indiana, since there were only 26 states at that time), he was convinced. The family pulled up stakes and relocated to Dayton, Ohio.

In 1839, Thomas Clegg, one of Dayton’s pioneer industrialists, operated the Washington Cotton Factory, which had an extensive machine shop. Clegg partnered with Briggs in producing his automatic threshing machine, to the great financial benefit of both men.

Eliakim became one of the leading entrepreneurs of Dayton, but after three years he moved on to Richmond, Indiana for a year. In 1841, the family settled in South Bend, and it was there where Eliakim really made his mark. The fledgling settlement of perhaps 700 citizens soon experienced rapid growth, driven in part by Briggs’ threshing manufactory (powered by windmills), one of the first industries in the town’s history.

After three years of success, the company outgrew its quarters. Briggs built a large new factory, providing employment for many residents, some of whom later became leading businessmen themselves (the famed Studebakers are one example).

Briggs’ traveling threshing machine was a big success, and not only because of the inventor’s great abilities. Eliakim’s charisma was evident in his open, friendly treatment of customers who came from Indianapolis, Lafayette, Richmond, and other western locations. He opened his expansive home to visitors and customers alike, earning a reputation far and wide as the most hospitable and generous of businessmen.

He also remained a family man to a brood that had grown to nine by 1844, including sons John, George, and Charles, who eventually followed business pursuits as aggressively as their father had. John caught gold fever and ventured to California in 1849. As his brothers became old enough, they joined him in several business exploits, including mining. One part of their legacy, still producing gold today, is the Briggs Mine, about 20 miles north of Denver.

Successful in business, Eliakim combined his personal beliefs with financial profits in pursuit of a personal passion: the anti-slavery movement. He was a fervent abolitionist who sought freedom for all. Briggs abhorred slavery and was a longtime, ardent supporter of the Underground Railroad, despite the inherent dangers.

In early 1861, at the age of 66, Eli was still securing patents on new devices, while his horse-driven machines remained very popular. That same year, previous failures in the effort to process sugar cane in the West finally met with success when new equipment was introduced: “…a horizontal, three-roller, horse-power press for expressing the juice, manufactured by E. Briggs of South Bend, capable of pressing out sixty gallons per hour …”

Eventually, the development of steam and other power sources would replace Eliakim’s creation, but during his lifetime, it remained an important component of industry.

Briggs died in September 1861, still successful in industry, and still battling for the abolition of slavery. A year later, in September 1862, his wife, Russina, passed away as well. Much of the family fortune was placed in the hands of daughter Janette, a widow whose husband had also done quite well for himself.

Janette became very well known for philanthropy in South Bend. When she died in 1916, several bequests were included in her will, including $15,000 to an orphanage and $12,000 to the YWCA. Those two bequests alone were equal to approximately $500,000 in 2011, reminiscent of the generosity her father exhibited throughout his life.

Photo: Patent drawing of Eliakim Briggs’ horse treadmill (1834).

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Alternatives to Black Friday

Thanksgiving is about tradition. Our family sits down to a huge meal that my mother-in-law cooks while the rest of us try to stay out of her way. She is an amazing force to be reckoned with. We overeat. We rest. We eat more. We attempt a family-against family touch football game to prepare us for leftovers. It all comes down to spending time with each other. We are extremely fortunate.

Every family has their own customs so for those looking for a time-honored ritual; North Country Ballet Ensemble continues a Thanksgiving tradition with performances of The Nutcracker in Plattsburgh on Friday and Saturday (November 25-26) at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. with a 2:00 matinee on Sunday. All performances will be held at the Hartman Theatre, Myers Fine Arts Building at SUNY Plattsburgh. Subsequent performances will be held at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on December 3 at 7:30 p.m. and December 4 at 1:00 p.m.

Just as family-friendly and with a different type of magic, the Adirondack Center for the Arts will open with Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical rendition of “Cinderella” in Indian Lake (November 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Indian Lake Theatre) as part of the annual Country Christmas Tour. (Don’t forget about all the events going on in Inlet and Old Forge

Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts Director Stephen Svodboda says, “Our presentation of Cinderella is a classic ‘underdog’ holiday show filled with dancing, singing, and a little bit of magic. This timeless fairy tale is one that is close to the hearts of everyone and, illustrating a true sense of community, the actors in our show come from all over the Adirondacks ranging in age from 4 to 80 years old. The resulting production is an amazing performance that is sure to inspire. We hope you will join us this holiday season!”

To make the “slipper fit” with everyone’s busy schedule, performances of Cinderella run through mid December at various locations around the Central Adirondacks. Admission is $15/$10 members, children 12 and under/$5 accompanied by a parent.

Another substitution for Black Friday madness is the Wild Center Family Day on November 25. Packed with activities from book signings to live music, The Wild Center staff has made sure that you can work off your meal with nature walks and museum activities.

“We are going to have art and nature projects geared toward children but a lot of other activities such as a book signing with Carl Heilman. Children are going to love the maple syrup on snow demonstration, seeing it made and then being able to eat it right here at the Wild Center,” says Josh Pratt, Wild Center Store/Admissions Manager.

I know this barely covers all that is going on for Black Friday. I hope it offers a few choices for some Adirondack fun. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: Cinderella (Colleen Pine) surrounded Stepsister (Kierstyn Natter), and Prince Charming (Lucas Greer) of the cast from the Adirondack Lakes Center for Arts production of Cinderella. Photo provided.

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recently released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates).


Monday, November 7, 2011

Lawrence Gooley: Long History of the ‘Rooftop Highway’

As has happened for so many, many years now, the Rooftop Highway is in the news again, with plenty of pros and cons presented and a whole lot hanging in the balance. While listening to some of the arguments, it struck me that the idea is perhaps a little older than some of us think. Paul Sands of WPTZ recently commented that the Rooftop Highway idea hasn’t moved for 20 years, but at the very least, I’m old enough to recall the intense discussions during the 1970s, and that takes us back 40 years.

Of course, the record shows that the concept was legitimized a half-century ago when, in early 1961, the New York State legislature passed a bill that included the proposed road as part of the federal interstate highway system.

In the 1960s, the idea was pushed by State Senator Robert McEwen (an Ogdensburg native) and Clinton County Assemblyman Robert Feinberg (Malone native and Plattsburgh resident). In fact, Feinberg said it would happen “sooner or later,” even if Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the bill (which he did, after both houses passed it).

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Feinberg’s father, New York State Senator Benjamin Feinberg, was highly critical of the condition of the state’s highways in the late 1930s. At that time, he called for the construction of four-lane highways to help make travel safer. Decades later, Robert followed up on his father’s ideas.

Unnoticed in the mix was New York State Assemblyman Leslie G. Ryan (of Rouses Point), who presented serious arguments for the establishment of a main highway north to the Canadian border, and another running east from Clinton County to Watertown, the same concept known today as the Rooftop Highway.

Ryan’s ideas may well have been adopted by Congress when the interstate highway system later became reality. In 1940, when he proposed the idea of a multi-lane route across northern New York, his motivation came from several sources. Some of those same reasons were cited years later in the battle over the Rooftop Highway.

At the time, the United States was still fifteen months away from entering World War II. England and Canada, however, were at war with Germany. It occurred to Ryan and many others that a German victory could suddenly place the Nazis on our northern border, which was basically undefended.

(From the days of the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, the northern border had been a constant security concern. Since that time, the level of worry had waned, but it was still an issue.) By mid-1940, the Germans had won many victories, and Canada and Britain (among others) had already been at war with them for a year.

With German dominance a real possibility, Assemblyman Ryan addressed the problem eloquently in a letter to Congressman Clarence Kilburn, who in turn presented it at the federal level to the War Department. Ryan’s arguments were compelling.

“It seems to me that a weakness in our national defense, and one that would seriously hamper our cooperation with Canada, is our present system of main highways in northern New York. Over our narrow roads, it would be practically impossible to move large numbers of troops and military equipment, including heavy guns and tanks, with the speed necessary for effective operation in modern mechanized warfare.

“Because our Northern border is completely undefended, our inability to speedily concentrate forces in this section might well prove disastrous to our national defense, more particularly if Germany should defeat England and attempt an invasion of this country through Canada.

“It is my belief that the main highway from Glens Falls to the Canadian boundary at Rouses Point should be widened to provide three or four lanes, and the U. S. Highway No. 11 from Rouses Point through Champlain, Mooers, Ellenburg, Chateaugay, and Malone to Watertown and south to Syracuse, should likewise be widened, and much of it resurfaced with concrete.

“Such improvements would provide broad military highways from Albany, Syracuse, and then south to and along the Canadian boundary over which troops and military equipment could be moved speedily to the northern frontier if it should become necessary.

“They would also give direct connection between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, and the three United States Army posts at Plattsburgh, Madison Barracks [Sackets Harbor], and Fort Ethan Allen, the latter by way of the Rouses Point bridge.”

Looking to the future, Ryan added, “In ordinary times, these three or four lane highways would be no more than adequate to care for our constantly increasing local and tourist automobile traffic.” In other words, the changes wouldn’t be overkill, even in peacetime.

In the 1960s, twenty years later, McEwen’s plan cited a top priority that was remarkably similar to Ryan’s: “From a defense standpoint, this Rooftop Highway could be very important. Such installations as Rome Air Force Base, Camp Drum, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Atlas missile sites in the Plattsburgh area, and the Burlington dispersal area would be served by this Rooftop Highway.”

Most, if not all, media refer to the “original” plan floated in the early 1960s for a Rooftop Highway, but the concept was promoted by Assemblyman Leslie Ryan of Rouses Point two decades earlier. Depending on which side of the argument you’re on, part of the blame or credit goes to Mr. Ryan.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.