Saranac Lake, NY — Historic Saranac Lake announced the unveiling of a newexhibit honoring the hardworking people of Saranac Lake, past and present. The exhibit, titled, “Saranac Lake Means Business” is a reinstallation of a photography project created by Mary Lou Hanpeter in the year 2000. The exhibit will be unveiled in the John Black Room at the Saranac Laboratory Museum on June 29, 2023.
“This is the kind of exhibit we love, because it brings people together to share what they know about local history,” said Historic Saranac Lake Executive Director Amy Catania. “We are grateful to Mary Lou for her willingness to share her wonderful work with us.”
Saranac Lake, NY – Historic Saranac Lake Museum Archivist/Curator Chessie and Museum Assistant Emily have been on an adventure to retrieve an important tuberculosis and public health history collection. The collection contains more than 1,000 fascinating items documenting the treatment, prevention, and detection of tuberculosis from Saranac Lake, across the country, and the world. It was generously donated to the museum to make sure that it could be used by the public and generations to come.
Chessie and Emily arrived home on Tuesday [Jan. 31] after spending several days sorting, inventorying, packing, and driving the artifacts and ephemera home from Georgia.
Those with the museum expressed thanks to those who supported this project with special donations. Museum staff haven’t quite reached their goal to help them process these new donations and make them available to the public, so please visit the fundraiser page to donate if you can.
Photo at top: Historic Saranac Lake Museum employees (Archivist/Curator Chessie and Museum Assistant Emily) embark on a road trip to collect items for the tuberculosis and public health history collection. Photo courtesy of the Historic Saranac Lake Museum.
The Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation is a private foundation established in 2000 “dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park.” Since its inception, the foundation has funded more than 600 not-for-profit grant requests totaling over $1.2 million dollars. The trustees of the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation recently held their annual meeting and board retreat in Saranac Lake.
First, I discovered a one- of- a- kind vintage Saranac Lake “F.M. Bull” glass & wood stopper pharmacy bottle. Then, Historic Saranac Lake Museum’s Archivist/Curator, Chessie Monks-Kelly, and I joined forces in an endeavor that culminated not only in that F.M.Bull bottle being on display in their pharmacy bottle collection, but also in twenty-five more of my antique Saranac Lake “Collins Brothers” bottles being made available in a very successful fundraising effort through Historic Saranac Lake’s museum store.
This is NOT a complete list of everything in our collection, BUT it is growing every day! Right now, we have about 500 records for photographs, letters, and objects online. We will be adding more daily, so be sure to check back often! We’ll also share when we add exciting new materials on social media.
The front page has tips on how to use the search functions, or you can click “random images” to see a random selection of digitized materials. Want to learn more about an image, or don’t see what you’re looking for? Email us! This is just the beginning; we have tens of thousands of objects in our collection.
Thanks to the Northern New York Library Network for their support of this project.
Two nonprofit organizations have recently been given grand funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities:
$199,300 award for the Fort Ticonderoga Association from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will help increase access to Ticonderoga’s hidden collection to create public programs and exhibitions that will explore the Revolutionary War in New York.
A $50,000 award for Historic Saranac Lake from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will help complement the Saranac Laboratory Museum’s Pandemic Perspectives exhibition and support a short film about Saranac Lake history.
When I was a boy growing up in our house on 1 Stevenson Lane, my mom had an antique bottle collection that she kept on a shelf. One of those bottles had a rustically intricate attached metal stopper. The engraved circular glass on the front read “ISAAC MERKEL & SON, BOSS LAGER, SARANAC LAKE.” That bottle always held a special fascination for me. I still have it.
It all began innocently enough, quite by accident really, about three summers ago as I quietly rowed my Zen boat canoe from South Creek into camp. As I crossed some shallows near the shore of an island as I entered the lake, something glistened blue, reflecting morning sunlight from the lake’s bottom.
JOIN OUR ONLINE BOOK TALKS ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE APA
June 18 at 2:00 pm — Rural Indigenousness with author, Melissa Otis. The discussion will be moderated by Iakonikonriiosta, Museum Manager of the Akwesasne Cultural Center.
June 30 at 6:00pm — Contested Terrain with author, Phil Terrie. The discussion will be moderated by Ann Norton Greene.
July 8 at 6:00pm —50 Years of the APA: A Wild Idea with author Brad Edmondson. The discussion will be moderated by Jim Hotaling. Register for the talk and receive a 30% discount to order and read the book in advance.
Historic Saranac Lake (HSL) is launching a new project, titled: “Pandemic Past and Present.” This project will take place on their Cure Porch on Wheels, and is funded by the 2021 Corridor of Commerce Interpretive Theme Grant from the Champlain Valley National Hertiage Partnership.
HSL will be hosting programs from its mobile museum (the Cure Porch on Wheels) in order to explore local history in public health with new and larger audiences. Visitors to the mobile museum will be able to watch videos and take part in activities centered around Saranac Lake’s health resort history.
Mahala Nyberg, HSL’s new Public Programs Coordinator and leader of the project had the following to say: “As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Saranac Lake’s sanatorium history is newly relevant. Our history as a community built on the treatment and research of a highly infectious disease helps to shed light on issues in public health today. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic inspires us to explore untold stories in our local history and make new connections to broader themes.”
The mobile museum will be operating within 640 square miles of the Saranac Lake School District, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program grant will support the creation of short videos exploring the history of Saranac Lake’s TB history. This project is a natural outgrowth of a new exhibit soon to be unveiled at the Saranac Laboratory Museum titled, “Pandemic Perspectives.” Following its closure through the winter due to the pandemic, the museum reopened May 25, 2021.
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird, Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes, Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines. Walt Whitman, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”
A whole year has gone by since we first heard the word “Covid.” We are coming full circle, and soon the hermit thrush will sing again.
Following Black History Month, we have been thinking about something we’re often asked about at the Saranac Laboratory Museum – were there Black TB patients in Saranac Lake, and where did they stay? We know that as long as people came to Saranac Lake and the Adirondacks for their health, Black patients were among them. One early health-seeker was Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was one of the first Black artists to be internationally famous. He first came to Rainbow Lake for his health in 1878, five years after Dr. Trudeau.
Due to accidental loss or intentional destruction of records from the sanatoria, cure cottages, and public agencies following the closure of the TB industry, there is a lot that we don’t know. We have large gaps in our knowledge about the names, hometowns, race, and more of patients coming to Saranac Lake and where they stayed. This is true for patients of all races. But it is also true that Black patients were excluded from certain sanatoria and cure cottages, and did not have access to the same resources that white patients did.
This month, one block at a time, an ice palace emerged again on the shore of Lake Flower. If you had the chance to stop by, you may have felt its warm embrace.
The massive ice blocks of the palace remind me of the stone walls of Machu Picchu. Relying on a system of communal labor called mit’a, the Inca built enormous stone structures and highly engineered roads and bridges. Each citizen who could work was required to donate a number of days of their labor to cultivate crops and build public works. Historians of ancient Peru trace the ways the mit’a system forged a complex society. Working together, people developed friendships and bonds of reciprocity that served the common good throughout the year.
“I have been so upset by world events that my mind has been almost completely paralyzed.” — Béla Bartók
In the midst of the dark days of World War II, a frail man named Béla Bartók came to Saranac Lake for his health. Although he was one of the greatest composers in human history, many Saranac Lakers might have seen him as just another invalid, tiny and pale, wrapped in his dark cape against the cold Adirondack weather. Bartók and his second wife Ditta fled their native Hungary eighty years ago, as fascism and antisemitism swept across Europe. He had dedicated his life not only to composing, but also collecting and arranging the folk music of Eastern Europe. Nazi Germany was threatening to erase the cultures of the Roma and other peasant peoples of the region. In the face of such terror, Bartók was depressed, impoverished, and sick with a form of leukemia that acted like tuberculosis. He and his wife moved from one cramped, loud, New York City apartment to another. He had ceased composing.
October is a good month for a ghost story. So here is the tale of a humble spirit who for years haunted a cure cottage up on Charles Street in Saranac Lake.
I heard this story from Eileen Black, who has lived in the house for many years and raised her family there. A ghost visited their home several times a year for decades. He would show up at the back walkway, walking towards the house, glancing in the windows. Well-dressed, in an elegant, old fashioned coat and fedora, he looked a bit like Fred Astaire, so the family named him, “Fred.” Eileen, her husband, and children all got used to Fred sightings. He would appear and then be gone, before they could get a good look at him. Guests at the house would see him too. They were never afraid of him; he felt like a friend.
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