A new book by Ellen Apperson Brown, John Apperson’s Lake George (Arcadia Publishing, 2017), offers a significant collection of many Apperson photos published for the first time.
Writing from Virginia where John Apperson spent much of his youth, Ellen Apperson Brown has compiled an interesting collection of captioned images, along with an introductory essay that reveals much of the public, and private, life of her great uncle, who had such a large impact on protecting Lake George and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
Grassroots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the 20th Century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement, a new exhibit featuring material from the John S. Apperson and Paul Schaefer collections, will be on display in the Lally Reading Room of Union College’s Schaffer Library through December.
The collections, spanning from 1899 to 1996, provide a window into the history of the American environmental movement and the tensions that erupted over efforts to conserve the Adirondack Forest Preserve and expand the Adirondack Park. The materials also give a broader understanding of the history of national park and wilderness preservation and the critical role activism played in those efforts. » Continue Reading.
Governor Al Smith helped block the construction of a highway along the shore of Tongue Mountain, but it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who was instrumental in protecting the east shore of Lake George, documents in the Apperson-Schaefer collection at the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College in Schenectady suggest.
With funding from the bond acts of 1916 and 1926, much of Tongue Mountain and many of the islands in the Narrows were now protected, permanently, as parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
But by 1926, John Apperson, the General Electric engineer who dedicated much of his life to the protection of Lake George, had become concerned about the future of the east side. » Continue Reading.
During the first decades of the twentieth century, as women first agitated for and then began exercising the right to vote, many became intrigued by the political process and the possibilities for influencing public opinion. One of the topics of great interest and debate concerned the best use of forest lands in the Adirondack Park, and whether to uphold the protections of Article VII, Section 7, the forever wild clause of the New York Constitution. Although little has been written on this subject, I am convinced that women contributed significantly to this debate.
My source of information is a collection of letters saved by John S. Apperson, Jr., an engineer at the General Electric Company in Schenectady. By 1920, he had earned a reputation as a leading preservationist, and was fighting a vigorous campaign to protect the islands at Lake George. His connection to women’s organizations apparently got its start there, as he became friends with Mary Loines, from Brooklyn, New York, who owned land in Northwest Bay. » Continue Reading.
Though the recent fluctuation in temperature has not been conducive to cross-country skiing, it has allowed my family to explore some frozen Adirondack lakes and ponds.
Being able to access those frozen waterways during the winter is one of my family’s greatest joys. When the ponds are safe to cross, the ability to reach normally inaccessible shorelines opens up a different avenue for exploration. » Continue Reading.
One of the highlights of my recent trip to the Adirondacks was a morning spent at Blue Mountain Lake, at the Adirondack Museum, looking through a folder of papers that had been donated to the collections there more than fifty years ago. They belonged to Warwick S. Carpenter, who had served as a young Secretary of the New York Conservation Commission from 1918 to 1921.
Warwick Carpenter’s name was familiar to me thanks to my research on John Apperson, who in 1920 had already earned a reputation as a leader in the Adirondack preservationist movement by helping to win several legislative battles defending the New York State Constitution’s “Forever Wild” clause. Apperson visited the far reaches of the Forest Preserve, and documented with photos the damage he argued was caused by collusion between the forestry interests and the State Conservation Commission. He shared his work with Warwick Carpenter, and the two collaborated on several publications, including early editions of Conservationist magazine which featured Apperson’s photos. Their work stirred a hornet’s nest of angry denials in Albany and New York City, and among the top officers of elite clubs and organizations. » Continue Reading.
This year marks fifty years since the passing of John S. Apperson, Jr., a celebrated Lake George conservationist. To honor his memory and accomplishments, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) held a gathering on July 21 hosted by LGLC Director Debbie Hoffman and her husband Bill, at their Bolton Landing home in the heart of “Apperson Territory”.
Over 60 people joined together for the casual event. Guests were able to walk around the property, which neighbored Bill and Kathleen Horne’s home known as the Annex, and enjoy the lakefront views. » Continue Reading.
Although many books are available about the “great and gracious” on Millionaire’s Row at Lake George, few authors have written about the social and political drama that unfolded there, starting around 1920, as automobiles and improved roads began to change the status quo, revealing the tension between commercial interests and those who wished to create a Lake George Park.
Among those in favor of creating a park were several millionaires, including William K. Bixby, who donated land on Tongue Mountain to the state, and George Foster Peabody, who gave land for a campground (Hearthstone) and a park, on Prospect Mountain. Another wealthy landowner, Mrs. Stephen Loines, a widow with three unmarried daughters, contributed significantly to the cause, not only through her gifts of land, but in her efforts to influence public opinion. » Continue Reading.
According to local lore, Robert Moses, secretary of the State Parks Commission, and John Apperson, leading defender of the “forever wild” clause of the NY constitution, had a confrontation of historic proportions, one summer day in August of 1923. Moses, who was already carrying out an ambitious scheme to grab power, had convinced Governor Al Smith that the development of state parks would be a very popular election issue.
As the center-piece of his plan, Moses wanted to build a parkway on the Tongue Mountain peninsula (plus, eventually, gas stations, scenic overlooks, and hotels). Apperson wanted to prevent development altogether. He dreamed of bringing the central portion of the lake (Tongue Mountain, the Narrows, Black Mountain and Paradise Bay) under state ownership, and thus under the protection of the NY constitution.
The battle over the highway at Tongue Mountain happened quietly, behind the scenes, and out of the headlines. In fact, Robert Moses’ biographer, Robert Caro, never mentioned this story, and apparently knew little about the work of John Apperson at Lake George. Fortunately, we can now examine letters and documents long hidden from view that shed considerable light on the politics concerning the creation of a Lake George Park. » Continue Reading.
Almost every park and camp ground in New York State is administered by the Office of Parks and Recreation, with the exception of those in the Catskills and the Adirondacks. The Department of Environmental Conservation manages those.
Wint Aldrich, a Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation at Parks through four administrations, once explained that anomaly to me. “The Conservation Department didn’t want Robert Moses anywhere near the Forest Preserve,” Aldrich said.
Moses, who had controlled everything even remotely related to New York’s parks since 1924, was notoriously averse to wilderness preservation. » Continue Reading.
“I pray that each year, as I age, I’ll have the rare opportunity to once more glide with the wind, be part of the ice and the winter breeze. It’s a crazy thing to dream of, pray for, or depend on…..ICE; black crystal clear ice. Wind, a whish of the skates, and off I go once more.” Peter White, dedicated skate-sailor, 2009
Rarely practiced today, skate-sailing was quite popular from the late 1800s through the 1940s. Eskill Berg, of Schenectady, a Swedish engineer at General Electric, introduced this wind-driven sport to the Lake George area in 1895. » Continue Reading.
It is fitting that the Lake George Land Conservancy has created a John Apperson Society of friends and donors. Through his work for a wilder Lake George and Forest Preserve throughout the Adirondacks in the first half of the 1900s, Apperson, the General Electric engineer, gave heart, body and soul to healing what he considered the ills of industrialized, over-engineered society – to the extent that Apperson acknowledged that Lake George was his wife, and the Lake’s islands were his children. » Continue Reading.
The Lake George Land Conservancy has elected to celebrate the memory of John Apperson by naming a society in his honor.
“The John Apperson Society recognizes Apperson’s significant contributions to the preservation of Lake George and honors those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director. » Continue Reading.
A summer day. The road to the Moose River Plains from Limekiln Lake is free of traffic this morning, the sun’s rays have not yet turned the evening dew to dust. As I drive down the shaded road I think about the work of local people from Inlet who dug and placed sand on these roads to give the heavy logging trucks enough traction on the steep sections.
Dick Payne, former Inlet Police Chief, left me memorable impressions of working the Plains in the “old days.” Since 1964 when the Gould Paper Company sold this land to the people of the State, the land is Forest Preserve. As the cicadas begin to whine from the trees, I try to remember another group who hiked in via the Red River valley to discover what was at risk from the Higley and Panther Mountain Dams on the South Branch of the Moose River. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer was a pied piper for young people in search of a cause, just as John Apperson had been for him when Schaefer was in his early 20s. By the 1970s and 80s, Paul was approaching 80 years of age, and scouts, teens, and earth activists of all ages found their way to Paul’s doorstep. I want to share a few of the lessons he conveyed.
One spring day in 1990 I met with Paul to discuss Governor Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks (Berle Commission) report which was about to be made public. Paul mentioned that on Earth Day, a group of “idealistic” young people had come down to pay him a visit. He had planned to show his award-winning film, The Adirondack: The Land Nobody Knows, but his Bell and Howell 16-mm projector could not be found (I had borrowed it). Instead, Paul invited the students into his living room. “I’ve never had a better time in my life,” Schaefer told me. “These kids were idealists, and we need them.” » Continue Reading.