Posts Tagged ‘Land of Makebelieve’

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Opening Weekend for the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum will be opening for its 57th season this Friday, May 23, at its home in Blue Mountain Lake. After a calm winter of Cabin Fever Lectures and special programs, the museum is bringing back favorite exhibits and hosting specials exhibitions for the 2014 season.

Though all the new exhibits sound exciting, one in particular that I’m looking forward to celebrates Arto Monaco’s whimsical art and the Land of Makebelieve. A few years ago my family and I had been able to visit and help the Arto Monaco Historical Society on a few of its work weekends in Upper Jay. The organization was doing its best to resurrect parts of the Land of Makebelieve as well as to catalog the massive art collection for future generations. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Leaves Widespread Damage in the Adirondacks

Following a spring of historic flooding and two minor earthquakes, the Adirondacks has been slammed by the remains of Hurricane Irene leaving behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flooding and epic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails.

Damage from the remnants of Hurricane Irene is widespread across the Eastern Adirondacks from Moriah, which suffered extensive damage during the spring flooding that had still not been repaired, to the entire Keene Valley and into the Lake Placid region. Trails in the Eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas have been closed through the Labor Day weekend. The bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the Duck Hole Dam breached. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Exhibit Honors Theme Park Designer Monaco

A new exhibit, “IMAGINING MAKEBELIEVE: An Exhibition Honoring Arto Monaco” will open with a reception at the Tahawus Lodge Center (14234 Rte 9N, Main St, Au Sable Forks, NY) on Friday, July 22, 2011, 6-9pm.

From 1954 to 1979, the Land of Makebelieve captivated visitors young and old. This summer, the Arto Monaco Historical Society invites you to remember the Land of Makebelieve, an enchanting, child-sized theme park, and its creator, Arto Monaco.

Born in Ausable Forks in 1913, Monaco designed not only the Land of Make Believe but Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Storytown and Gaslight Village. The Arto Monaco Historical Society was created after Monaco’s death in 2003 to preserve his legacy.

The exhibition in Au Sable Forks will feature images and artifacts from the original theme park, formerly located in Upper Jay but now closed to the public. The exhibition will also include plans for a new park that’s under consideration for the former Land of Makebelieve site.

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Preserving Arto Monaco’s Theme Park Legacy

While the child-sized buildings at Land of Make Believe may be deteriorating, the legacy of Arto Monaco, the visionary who created the theme park in 1954, will be preserved.

According to Laura Rice, a curator at the Adirondack Museum, hundreds of items documenting Monaco’s career as a toymaker and theme park designer and developer are in the process of being acquired by the Adirondack Museum.

To be housed in the Museum’s Collections Storage and Study Center, where the material will be catalogued and made accessible to scholars, the Monaco collection will ultimately be seen by the public, said Rice.

“We will definitely display items, but no exhibition has been scheduled,” she said adding that the collection consists of “a little bit of everything, from art work to the toys he created to souvenirs and the uniforms employees wore at Land of Make Believe.”

Born in Ausable Forks in 1913, Monaco designed not only the Land of Make Believe but Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Story Town and Gaslight Village.

A $50,000 grant from the Charles R. Wood Foundation helped the Arto Monaco Historical Society acquire the collection from Monaco’s family, said Anne Mackinnon, a founder of the society.

The Arto Monaco Historical Society, which was created after Monaco’s death in 2003 to preserve his legacy, arranged for the transfer of the collection to the Adirondack Museum, according to Mackinnon. “Arto had been talking to people at the Adirondack Museum before he died; he had identified it as wonderful repository for his legacy,” Mackinnon said.

According to Laura Rice, roadside attractions like the Land of Make Believe, Stanta’s Workshop and Story Town, “are now recognized as integral to the development of the Adirondack Park as a resort area in the 1950s.”

Rice added, “Museums are often a generation behind in recognizing the significance of a piece of popular culture; we now have enough distance to have a proper perspective.”

The Arto Monaco Historical Society also acquired the site of Land of Make Believe in Upper Jay and hopes to transform it into a park, said Mackinnon. While many of the buildings are beyond repair, the society hopes to preserve the park’s castle in some form, she said.

“The castle is not only iconic; castles played an enormous role in Arto’s imagination,” Mackinnon said. “One of the last sketches he made before he died was of one more castle.”

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Restoring Arto Monaco’s Land of Makebelieve

Among theme-park historians Arto Monaco is a legend. The work of Monaco in designing the area’s theme parks has become a central part of the history of tourism in the Adirondacks. His creations have been found in the defunct Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Makebelieve (Upper Jay), Gaslight Village (Pottersville and then Lake George), and Frontier Town (North Hudson), at Storytown (now the corporate Great Escape) and Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington (the last of a breed and a spot that made our Seven Human-Made Wonders of the Adirondacks).

Monaco was a local artist who designed sets for MGM and Warner Brothers, a fake German village in the Arizona desert to train World War II soldiers, and later his own Land of Makebelieve. Monaco died in 2005, but not before the Arto Monaco Historical Society (AMHS) was organized (in 2004) in order to preserve and perpetuate Monaco’s legacy, assemble a collection of his work, and stabilize and restore the Land of Makebelieve which was closed in 1979 after the Ausable River flooded the park for the eleventh time.

Since they first went into the woods with tools in 2006, volunteers of the AMHS have hacked the now overgrown Land of Makebelieve out of the encroaching forests in hopes of saving what’s left of Monaco’s legacy there from the ravages of nature.

On Saturday, September 26, the AMHS will hold its 2009 Annual Meeting followed by a another work session at the former Land of Makebelieve site from 1 to 4 pm. The morning meeting will be held at Paul Johnson’s Bakery, on Route 9N one mile south of the Upper Jay bridge. Lunch is available for those who stay for the afternoon work session. To RSVP, or for information on the upcoming work day or volunteering for the AMHS in general, contact them through their website at http://www.artomonaco.org/.

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gaslight Village: Lake George Fun Yesterday

I thought I’d take a look at the history of the one of the more popular Adirondack theme parks – Lake George’s Gaslight Village.

Gaslight Village opened in 1959 and was run by Charley Wood. Charley already owned a number of investments including Holiday House on the shores of Lake George, and Storytown, U.S.A., an amusement park with a Mother Goose rhymes theme (later expanded with Ghost Town, a western boot-hill theme, and Jungle Land, an animal park) which he opened in 1954. He later went on to build the Tiki Resort (now a Howard Johnson’s), a short lived wax museum, Sun Castle resort, and more. » Continue Reading.