Posts Tagged ‘Keeseville’

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Adirondack Birthplace of Muffets

1APerky NiagFallsFactoryThe word Muffet conjures different things for different people – the nursery-rhyme reference, of course, and perhaps furry little creatures, maybe because it sounds like Muppets, only smaller, like Smurf-sized. Muffets are actually something that most of us have eaten (if not a Muffet, then one of its close relatives). They’re the round version of shredded wheat biscuits, and who among us hasn’t tried some type of shredded-wheat cereal at one time or another? » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keene Eye on Architecture Exhibition

aarch exhibitAdirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will welcome renowned architect Nils Luderowski to AARCH’s Clayton Family Gallery.

Luderowski specializes in architecture and design in an Adirondack vernacular and this exhibition features a uniquely expressive series of drawings from a variety of the architect’s regional projects. » Continue Reading.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Keene Eye on Architecture Exhibition

aarch exhibitAdirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) will welcome renowned architect Nils Luderowski to AARCH’s Clayton Family Gallery.

Luderowski specializes in architecture and design in an Adirondack vernacular and this exhibition features a uniquely expressive series of drawings from a variety of the architect’s regional projects. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Essex County Cheese Tour Offers Local Dairy Treats

asgaardfarm_newI’ve made my own yogurt for years and recently started experimenting with fermented food. I’m now struggling to produce Kefir without a grainy taste.

I just can’t seem to get the balance right. With a cupboard full of sourdough starter and ginger beer plant grains, my pantry looks like a science experiment.

With everything else bubbling and brewing, the one product I have no desire to make is cheese. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Charles Shaw, Ace Attorney From Jay (Part 2)

CPShaw 02 BookletDespite all his accomplishments, Charles Shaw’s career is largely defined by a decade-long battle he fought on behalf of the cable interests for rail control of New York City’s streets. Cable’s two main rivals: horse-powered rail and underground lines. Both had many powerful backers.

Initially, Charles was hired to perform one task: lobby the state legislature for specific modifications of a bill under consideration in Albany. After earning the modern equivalent of more than a quarter million dollars for his efforts, Shaw was retained by the cable men, who wanted San Francisco-type cars operating on 70 miles of New York City roads.

Charles became the leading voice for cable, and was often vilified for his intense lobbying efforts. He refused to give up, at one point leading a four-man legal team against a cadre of 38 lawyers. The New York Times and other newspapers saw Shaw’s plan as nothing more than a city land-grab. But still he fought on, winning some victories and eventually spending over a million dollars in the effort. How high were the stakes? It was estimated that lobbyists representing cable had coughed up close to $5 million … and had still come up empty so far. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Saga of Albany Jim (Part 3)

3A 18770409 6th Nat'lAfter his third prison escape in 14 months, Albany Jim Brady worked extra hard at avoiding lawmen. But he also stayed busy and was a suspect in several additional crimes: the robbery of New York City’s Metropolis Bank in early 1877; a heist of the bank in Keeseville, New York, a short time later; and hitting the Sixth National Bank in April of that year, a job that again smacked of Brady’s boldness: drilling upward into an office, accessing the vaults, and completing the theft during daylight hours.

Perhaps it was such nervy and audacious robberies, year after year, that inevitably led to foolhardiness. Or maybe it was just an average situation that escalated out of control, step by step. Whatever the case, Jim Brady’s life took a sudden turn on an early August afternoon in 1877. The site was Ward’s Furnishing Store on Broadway, where he purchased socks, handkerchiefs, and other items for about $25 and shoplifted a number of the same items. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Emancipation Anniversary: A Local Grassroots Victory

What follows is a guest essay by Peter Slocum, a volunteer and board member with the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, based in Ausable Chasm.

Almost lost in the recent “Fiscal Cliff” spectacle was the anniversary marking one of the major positive milestones of our history — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, some 3 million people held as slaves in the Confederate states were declared to be “forever free.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Most of those 3 million people were still subjugated until the Union Army swept away the final Confederate opposition more than two years later. And slavery was not abolished in the entire United States until after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: North Country Club, Keeseville

The “Cocktails” sign on the side of the North Country Club Restaurant sign was a harbinger of the retro-style tavern we were about to enter in Keeseville. The windows on the interior walls as we entered the vestibule foreshadowed a repurposed building. Slate floors, a combination of wood panel and brick walls, and a green formica topped bar counter, all in good condition, confirmed our first speculation. Our first impression was one of familiarity, comfort and welcome.

Behind the bar, signs promoting the Bikini Martini and Catalina Margarita (no Rob Roys and Whisky Sours here) spoke of more contemporary times. The bartender, Shannon, young, energetic, smiling and soon joking, did too. The large, rectangular bar offered seats at least 15 patrons in sturdy captain’s chairs. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres were put out in a corner with chips, dips, crackers and cheese spread. Quick Draw and a few televisions offered entertainment, but we found the bartenders, first Shannon, then Josh, to be enough entertainment for us.

Owned by Michael and Tonia Finnegan for the past four years, the North Country Club Restaurant has been in business for at least the past 40 years. One of the waitresses, Gladys, came to Keeseville in the 1950s, and was able to fill us in on some history. The building was originally a train station, located elsewhere, but moved to make room for the highway. Once moved, it was reappointed as a restaurant and has been serving local families and tourists ever since. Gladys apparently came with the building. The North Country Club is renowned for its gourmet style pizza, and claims to serve the best pizza from Montreal to Miami. Entirely homemade, it is reputed to have been Fed-Exed to Utah and Florida. Supposedly they deliver anywhere.

Serving a variety of bottled beers, Land Shark and Budweiser are currently offered at a mere $2.00 a bottle. Several beers are available on tap, both domestic and micro, including, Yuengling, Bud, Coors, and Long Trail Blackberry Wheat. The liquor selection is typical, with several flavored vodkas and a few premium distillations. Several varieties of wine are served as well.

The North Country Club is open seven days a week all year, from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and Noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Closing time is extended one hour every day when summer hours begin Memorial Day weekend. They close only for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Happy Hour is featured daily with $1.00 draft beer, $2.00 domestic bottles and $.50 off well drinks. Cocktail specials like the Bikini Martini are available for $5.00 and change weekly, depending on bartender creativity. Maybe someday they will feature one of Happy Hour in the High Peaks signature drinks. Bring your favorite recipe and Shannon and Josh will set you up. Cell phone service is available, and access to wifi is on request. They occasionally offer live music on a small scale.

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

Adirondack Family Activities: The Au Sable Bridge

Located near Au Sable Chasm, the Au Sable Bridge in itself is a child’s playground. After coming out of the woods from a hike we passed through Clinton County via Route 9 when both my children yelled for us to stop the car.

The water rushing over the falls is breathtaking so we pull over at the nearby parking area and go for a stroll. I watch my kids run across with snowball in hand to toss over the side.

I am leery of heights, to put it mildly. I can climb mountains and sit on the edge of a cliff but my brain is never at ease on a manmade object of any significant height.

This highway bridge that spans the gorge dates from 1934 so my children are quick to reassure me of their safety. (What about me?)

We find out this isn’t the first bridge near this spot. The earliest bridge was built in 1793 of logs and located about one mile downstream. Various other wooded bridges were built but consumed by flooding or rotted from the mist from the falls. In 1890 a one-lane iron bridge was erected and can still be seen upstream from the 1934 stone bridge.

The current bridge’s most distinguishing features are the 212’ steel arch span and the concrete arches faced in local granite and sandstone. My children’s eyes start glazing over with the history lesson. They always amaze me with their ability to retain information while acting disinterested only to parrot back information later to their friends.

For now they just want to watch snowballs drop and disappear into the rushing waters of the Au Sable River. According to the Au Sable Chasm website the Route 9 bridge was the main route that connected the northern communities such as Plattsburgh and Montreal to the southern sectors like Albany and New York City before in the Interstate was built in the mid 60s. It is said that remnants of the original railroad bed foundation is underneath the existing bridge but I wasn’t about to peer over the side to look for it.

Photo: Au Sable Bridge (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.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pre-Season Farmers Market Training Offered

Cornell Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a training session for anyone interested or currently involved in local farmers markets. The workshop will take place on Saturday, April 2 from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Ausable Valley Grange, 1749 Main Street in Keeseville. Bernadette Logozar, CCE Franklin County and Regional Local Foods Specialist for Northern New York will lead sessions on “Food Safety and Samples at the Farmers Markets” as well as “Staying Current: Regulation Updates”. Anita Deming, Executive Director of CCE Essex County will cover “Record Keeping and Profitability Analysis”.

The workshop is open to the public. There is a charge of $15 which includes lunch. For more information or to pre-register please call Sharon at 962-4810 x403.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Thomas W. Symons: Father of Barge Canals (Part II)

The first 20 years of Keeseville’s Thomas Symons’ career were incredibly successful. The highlights from Part 1 of this story include: graduating number one in his West Point class; joining the historic Wheeler Expedition to several western territories; becoming the nation’s acknowledged expert on the Columbia River in the Northwest; negotiating with hostile Indians; and engineering the noted Columbia River jetty.

Add to that improving Washington, D.C.’s water, sewage, and pavement systems; developing river and harbor facilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington; improving the Mississippi River works; developments in Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma; and surveying the US-Mexico border. The list sounds like a career review, but Thomas Symons was just getting started.

In 1895, he returned to the East, charged with planning and designing the river and harbor works at Buffalo. He was named engineer of the 10th Lighthouse District, which included Lakes Erie and Ontario, encompassing all the waterways and lighthouses from Detroit, Michigan to Ogdensburg, New York.

Among his remarkable projects was “a very exposed, elaborate lighthouse and fog signal” in Lake Erie, near Toledo. Grandest of all, however, was one of Thomas Symons’ signature accomplishments: planning and constructing the world’s longest breakwater (over four miles long). Built along the shores of Buffalo, it was a project that earned him considerable attention. Further improvements he brought to the city enhanced his reputation there.

Another major project talked about for years came to the forefront in the late 1890s—the possibility of a ship canal spanning New York State. The 54th Congress in 1897 commissioned a report, but the results disappointed the powerful committee chairman when Symons’ detailed analysis named a barge canal, not a ship canal, as the best option.

In 1898, New York’s new governor, Teddy Roosevelt, assigned Thomas to personally investigate and report on the state’s waterways, with emphasis on the feasibility of a barge canal to ensure it was the correct option. A concern on the federal level was national security, which was better served by Symons’ plan to run the canal across the state rather than through the St. Lawrence, to Montreal, down Lake Champlain, and down the Hudson to New York City.

Thomas’ route across New York kept the structure entirely with America’s borders. (This and many other projects were requested by the War Department, which explains the security factor.) His additional work for Roosevelt reached the same conclusion, and after extended arguments in Congress, $100 million was appropriated for canal improvements. The decision was affirmation of Thomas’ judgment and the great respect in Congress for his engineering capabilities.

In 1902, the senate noted “the conspicuous services of Major Thomas W. Symons regarding the canal problems in New York,” and that he had “aided materially in its solution.” A senate resolution cited “his able, broad-minded, and public-spirited labors on behalf of the state.”

During the canal discussions, his life had taken an unusual turn. Teddy Roosevelt had won the presidency in 1902, and in early 1903, the decision was made to replace his top military aide. Keeseville’s Thomas Symons was going to the White House.

It was sad news for Buffalo, Thomas’ home for the past eight years. At a sendoff banquet, the praise for him was effusive. Among the acknowledgments was that his work in Buffalo’s harbor had brought millions of dollars of investments and widespread employment to the city. From a business and social perspective, one speaker professed the community’s “unbounded love, affection, and admiration.” The comments were followed by an extended ovation.

For a man of Symons’ stature, some of the new duties in Washington seemed a bit out of place. Officially, he was the officer in charge of Public Buildings and Grounds of the District of Columbia, a position for which he was obviously well suited. (And, the job was accompanied by a pay raise to the level of Colonel of Engineers.)

However, Thomas was also the president’s number one military aide, making him the Master of Ceremonies for all White House functions. Every appearance by Teddy Roosevelt was planned, coordinated, and executed by Symons, his close personal friend. Depending on whom the guests were, Thomas selected the décor, music, food, and entertainment.

He became the public face of all White House events. In reception lines, it was his duty to be at the president’s side. No matter what their stature, he greeted each guest as the line progressed, and in turn introduced each guest to Roosevelt. Everyone had to go through Roosevelt’s right-hand man before meeting the president (though he actually stood to the president’s left).

He also played a vital diplomatic role by mingling with the guests, ensuring all were seated and handled according to their importance, and allowing the President and First Lady to feel as secure as if they had planned each event themselves.

He was also the paymaster general of the White House, seeing to it that all funds appropriated for expenses were spent properly. The media regularly noted that, in Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Symons was the most conspicuous person except for the president himself.

With so many responsibilities, the job of top aide to the president seemed impossibly busy, which is why Roosevelt expanded the staff from one to nine aides, all of them placed under the charge of Symons, who could then delegate much of his authority.

The only sense of controversy to arise during Thomas’ career was related to the development of New York’s barge canal, and it had nothing to do with him personally. He was the designer of the proposed system, and many felt it was critical that he stay involved in the project. But the new duties in Washington kept him very busy. Because congress approved additional engineering employees to work under Symons, some felt it was wrong to allow Thomas to spend some of his time working on the canal project, away from his regular job.

Symons even agreed to forego the higher pay he received from the White House position in order to help with the canal. There was considerable resistance, but Roosevelt himself stepped forward, telling Congress that, as governor, he had hired Thomas Symons to closely examine New York’s waterways. Thus, there was no man better suited for overseeing the $100 million expenditure.

The legislators relented, and by authority of a special act of congress, Symons was allowed to work on the creation of New York’s barge canal system. After Roosevelt’s first term, Thomas left the White House and focused his efforts on the canal work.

In 1908, when the Chief Engineer of the Army Corps was retiring, Symons, by then a full colonel, was among the top candidates for the job. His strongest advocate was President Roosevelt, but, after 37 years of service, Thomas submitted his name to the retirement list.

He remained active in the work on New York’s canals, which he monitored closely, and despite suggestions of excessive costs, the project came in well below the original estimates. He also served on the Pennsylvania Canal Commission and continued working and advising on other engineering projects.

His role in the building of America is undeniable, from New York to Washington State, the border with Mexico, the Mississippi River, Washington, D.C., and so many other places. The world’s longest breakwater (at Buffalo) and New York’s barge canal system stand out as his major career accomplishments. And, Roosevelt’s first administration took him to the highest echelons of world power for four years. He shared the president’s gratitude and friendship.

Thomas Symons, trusted aide, the man Teddy Roosevelt called the “Father of Barge Canals,” died in 1920 at the age of 71. In 1943, a Liberty ship built in Portland, Oregon was named the SS Thomas W. Symons in his honor.

Photo Top: Colonel Thomas Williams Symons, engineer.

Photo Middle: 1904 map of Symons’ planned route for New York’s Barge Canal.

Photo Bottom: A portion of the breakwater in Buffalo harbor.

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.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Keeseville’s Thomas W. Symons, Part I

In 1847, Thomas Symons operated a book bindery in the village of Keeseville, offering ledgers, journals, receipt books, and similar products. Rebinding of materials was much in demand in those days, a service that helped expand his clientele. While Thomas, Sr., was successful in building a business, his son, Thomas, Jr., would play an important role in building a nation.

Thomas William Symons, Jr., was a Keeseville native, born there in 1849. When he was a few years old, the family moved to Flint, Michigan, where several members remained for the rest of their lives. His younger twin brothers, John and Samuel, operated Symons Brothers & Company, the second largest wholesale firm in the state. They became two of Michigan’s most prominent men in social, political, and business circles.

Thomas chose a different route, completing school and applying to the US Military Academy at West Point. After acceptance, he proved to be no ordinary student, graduating at the top of the Class of 1874. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, and served at Willett’s Point, about 50 miles south of West Point. After two years, he was ready for some field work, and his timing couldn’t have been better.

Symons was assigned to join the Wheeler Expedition under fellow West Point alum George Wheeler. The travels of explorers Lewis & Clark and Zeb Pike are better known, but the Wheeler Expedition is one of four that formed the nucleus of the US Geological Survey’s founding.

The engineers, Symons among them, not only explored, but recorded details of their findings. The land encompassing Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah was surveyed using triangulation, and more than 70 maps were created. Their studies on behalf of America’s government produced volumes on archaeology, astronomy, botany, geography, paleontology, and zoology. The possibilities of roads, railroads, agriculture, and settlement were addressed.

The experience Thomas gained during this work was invaluable. In 1878, he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1879, Symons was appointed Engineer Officer of the Department of the Columbia, and was promoted to captain in 1880. Similar to the work he had done under Wheeler, Thomas was now in charge of studying the area referred to as the “Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest,” focusing on the upper Columbia River and its tributaries.

Much of the land was wilderness, and the job was not without danger. The American government was notorious for breaking treaties with Indians, and groups of surveyors in the region were driven off by angry natives who said they had never sold the rights to their land.

Symons was a surveyor, but he was also an officer of the military. Leading a company of the 21st Infantry from Portland, Oregon, in Washington, he faced off against 150 armed warriors. The situation was potentially disastrous, but Thomas listened to the concerns of the Indians, learning their histories and beliefs. Bloodshed was avoided as Symons skillfully negotiated a truce, allowing him to survey from the Snake River north to the Canadian border, unimpeded.

Much of the upper Columbia study was conducted in a small boat carrying Symons, two soldiers, and several Indians. His report provided details of the region’s geology and history, a review so thorough, it was published as a congressional document. Combined with his earlier surveys of Oregon, it made Symons the government’s number one man in the Northwest.

Whether or not his superiors agreed with him, Symons addressed the Indians’ issues in prominent magazine articles, sympathizing with their plight. Few knew the situation better than Thomas, and he freely expressed his opinions.

Besides exploring and mapping the Northwest, he chose locations for new army outposts, built roads, and carried out military duties. He also became a prominent citizen of Spokane, purchasing land from the Northern Pacific Railroad and erecting the Symons Building, a brick structure containing commercial outlets and housing units. (A third rendition of the Symons Block remains today an important historical building in downtown Spokane.)

Thomas’ proven abilities led to a number of important assignments. In 1882, he was placed on the Mississippi River Commission, taking charge of improvements on the waterway. In 1883, the Secretary of State asked Symons to lead the US side of the joint boundary commission redefining the border with Mexico. Surveying, checking and replacing border markers, and other work was conducted while averaging 30 miles per day on rough ground in intense heat. For his efforts, Thomas received formal thanks from the State Department.

He was then sent to Washington, D.C., where he worked for six years on city projects, principally the water supply, sewage system, and pavements. He also developed complete plans for a memorial bridge (honoring Lincoln and Grant) connecting Washington to Arlington, Virginia. (A modified version was built many years later.)

Symons’ next assignment took him back to familiar territory, the Northwest. Based in Portland, he was given charge of developing river and harbor facilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. He did primary engineering work on canals, including one in Seattle that remains a principal feature of the city, and planned the tideland areas for Ballard, Seattle, and Tacoma harbors. Seattle’s present railroad lines and manufacturing district were included in planning for the famed harbor facilities.

On the Pacific coast, Thomas’ work on the world-renowned jetty works at the mouth of the Columbia River was featured in Scientific American magazine. He also provided the War Department with surveys and estimates for harbor construction at Everett, Washington.

Next week: Even bigger and better things, including historic work in New York State.

Photo Top: Thomas Williams Symons, engineer.

Photo Bottom: Modern version of the Symons Block in Spokane, Washington.

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.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Exotic Wildlife: Gators in the Adirondacks

In 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released the film Lake Placid. Despite the title, the story takes place on fictional Black Lake in Maine. The folks at Fox apparently figured the name of an internationally renowned Olympic site in New York might attract more attention than Black Lake, which was, after all, placid, just like the title said. Except for those times when a giant killer crocodile was thrashing on the surface, gulping down humans for lunch.

It was hard to tell which was less believable: that Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, and the legendary Betty White would sign on for such a project; that a movie based on such a far-fetched concept could make money; or that a member of the order Crocodilia could be found on any lake within 700 miles north of the Carolinas. If you’re a betting person, which is/are true?

The answers: Yes—Fonda, Pullman, and White (plus Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson) played the major roles in the movie. Yes, it earned money—nearly $32 million, enough to spawn Lake Placid 2 in 2007, and Lake Placid 3, scheduled for release on June 26, 2010. And yes, members of the order Crocodilia have lived recently in the north woods. All bets are winners!

The gator of Mirror Lake existed, appropriately enough, in the village of Lake Placid, and it scared the heck out of some very surprised tourists. I was once an avid fisherman, and before you take a fisherman’s word on something as ridiculous as this, it’s probably best to seek a higher authority, say, the New York Times. In 1903, they ran a story titled “Alligator in Lake Placid.”

That was two decades before “Lake Placid South” (Lake Placid, Florida) came into existence, so rest assured, the story applied to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. The tale in the Times began in early 1903 when the Stevens brothers, proprietors of the famed Stevens House, learned the answer to that age-old question, “What do you give someone who has everything?” The obvious answer: a reptile from the tropics, given to them as a gift by a friend who was returning from Florida.

A young alligator became the newest addition to the hotel’s amenities (deterrents?), housed temporarily in a bathtub. Around May, when ponds were open and the snow was melting, they made a decidedly non-tropical decision, releasing the gator into Mirror Lake. Frigid nights brought ice to the lake’s shallows, leaving only the slightest hope for the gator’s survival.

A few weeks later, on a warm, sunny day, appeared the oddest of sights at Mirror Lake—an alligator catching some rays on the beach. Because of its size, the gator posed little threat to humans, and the Stevens had a new attraction for patrons and curious northerners who, in the summer of ′03, hoped to glimpse the elusive newcomer.

Imagine the surprise of visitors a year later, innocently walking the shoreline of Mirror Lake in early summer, and stumbling upon an alligator! They reported their amazing find to management, who explained it was merely the Stevens’ family pet. (We can assume the Stevens housed it for the winter, but in warmer climes, gators can survive the cold in underground dens. Lake Placid’s temps would have provided a stern test of that system.)

Though the whole story seems like a once-in-a-lifetime tale, especially for those of us familiar with Adirondack wildlife, the Mirror Lake gator was not as unusual as you’d think. Similar incidents have occurred from Malone to Keeseville, and Ausable Forks to Ticonderoga. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it became fashionable to have exotic pets, and many small alligators were among those carried home from Florida to the Adirondacks. Most of them were less than two feet long. Some escaped from their owners, while others were released into the wild.

It’s unclear what became of the survivors, like the Mirror Lake alligator or the many pets kept by private individuals. Or the one at the Lake Placid Club in 1933. That’s another story that defies belief. George Martin, the swimming instructor at the club, captured (with help) a seven-foot alligator from southern Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. They wrapped the reptile’s huge jaws in wire and prepared to take him north.

How do you transport a 7-foot alligator 1,000 miles? By George’s reckoning, you crate it, lay the crate on the car’s running board (most cars had them back then), lash the gator’s tail to the car’s rear fender, and hit the road. Though the wires around his jaws were snipped, the animal refused to eat, but they did make frequent stops at gas stations to water him down. He was christened “Mike,” and the club made plans for a facility where the animal could spend the winter. In the meantime, he was kept among Jacques Suzanne’s menagerie about a mile south of the village.

On a few occasions in the North Country, folks have unexpectedly stumbled upon alligators, and it’s hard to imagine the shock of the moment. Unfortunately, the reaction was uniform: kill it. A young boy from Malone, startled with his find (an 18-inch gator), dispatched it with a rock.

Another alligator’s death begs the question “Why?” The story was reported in the Wells area in late October 1957. Two bow hunters were hoping to bag a buck, but they spied a 32-inch alligator treading water near a beaver dam. One of the men put an arrow into the gator just behind the head, killing it. It was assumed to have been a released pet surviving on its own. No one knew how long it had been there, or if it had denned and somehow weathered the previous winter. (Not likely.)

Back in 1924, a young gator in Keeseville survived as a pet for three years until a couple of barn cats settled a longstanding feud, dragging it from its tank, killing it after an intense battle, and partially devouring the carcass before the owners drove them off.

But not all the alligators in the Adirondacks met tragic ends. Some were part of a traveling show associated with the Seminole Indians of Florida. Virtually every Florida carnival and sideshow featured alligator wrestlers, and among the best was George Storm. In the 1950s, a complete Seminole village was set up at Michael Covert’s hotel in Wilmington, and part of the daily show that summer was Storm performing his specialty.

Considering the unknown fate of Lake Placid’s alligators, their known proclivity for longevity, and the movies by the same name, it might be a good idea during the Ironman Triathlon to count swimmers going into Mirror Lake as well as those coming out. Just in case.

Photo Above: Poster from the first Lake Placid movie.

Photo Below: The Stevens House as it looked when it hosted the alligator.

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.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

DEC Revises Adirondack Campground Closure Plan

The DEC has announced that under the new plan, it will operate four of six campgrounds previously slated for closure for shortened seasons, from June 26 through Labor Day. In addition, after partnering with local officials, DEC will substitute one Piseco Lake-area campground in Hamilton County on the closure list for another. At the campgrounds that will remain closed, DEC will allow use of its hiking and horse trails and climbing routes.

In DEC’s own words:

“New York is facing tough economic times and closing campgrounds was not an easy choice. With the help of local officials, DEC has devised a way to soften the impact,” Commissioner Grannis said in a press relase. “Each of the targeted facilities historically suffered from low occupancy over the course of a full season. By shortening the season, we can open the campgrounds during traditional peak occupancy periods. This plan will help local tourism and provide opportunities for affordable getaways while still reducing our annual operating costs.”

The revisions for the 2009 season are:
In the Catskills

Beaverkill, Roscoe, Sullivan County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. DEC will operate the facility with assistance from Sullivan County, upon adoption of a cooperative agreement.

Bear Spring Mountain, Walton, Delaware County.

The previous decision to close the camping area within this facility remains in effect. However, numerous horse and hiking trails and associated trailhead parking areas at this popular Wildlife Management Area will continue to be available for public use. There will be no fee for parking.
In the Adirondacks

Point Comfort, Arietta, Hamilton County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day. However, DEC will not open Poplar Point, which is also in the Piseco Lake area, for 2009. DEC will explore options to work cooperatively with Arietta officials to continue to potentially offer a day-use facility at Poplar Point in future years.

Sharp Bridge, North Hudson, Essex County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.

Tioga Point, Raquette Lake, Hamilton County.

The campground will be operated under an abbreviated season – from June 26 through Labor Day.

Pok-O-Moonshine, Keeseville, Essex County.

The previous decision to close this facility remains in effect. Hikers, rock climbers and other recreational users will be able to access hiking trails and climbing routes by parking in the entrance area. No fee will be charged for parking.

DEC will work closely with ReserveAmerica, the state’s camping reservation service contractor, to contact visitors whose reservations were previously cancelled, to offer them their original reservations and to re-open the camping site inventory to them before it is made available to the general public. DEC will cover the cost of the reservation fees to lessen the impact to the visitors that will be affected.

DEC is responsible for managing 52 campgrounds and 7 day-use areas in New York’s Adirondack Park and Catskill Park.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roundtable to Discuss Interviewing and Oral History

The Clinton-Essex Counties Roundtable will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at the Northern New York American Canadian Genealogy Society, Keeseville Civic Center, 1802 Main St., Keeseville. The topic will be “Community Scholars Training: Interviewing & Oral History” and will be presented by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) Executive Director Jill Breit.

Breit will share examples of successful oral history projects and demonstrate the many ways interviews can be used for different outcomes. She will focus on how to organize an oral history project, the basics of an oral history interview, the importance of field notes and follow-up interviews, recorders and other equipment for collecting oral history.

There will also be a tour of NNY American Canadian Genealogy Society Library and the Anderson Falls Heritage Society. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $5.00, payable at the roundtable.

The roundtable is provided free of charge to the public on behalf of the Northern New York Library Network, Potsdam, and Documentary Heritage Program. To register for this event contact the NNYLN at 315-265-1119, or sign up on-line at www.nnyln.org and click on “Classes.”


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