As Americans pause today to mark the terrible events of 2001, it would be fitting to also mark a bicentennial of which few Americans are aware, but of which the North Country should be justly proud: the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh.
These two momentous days, from across a span of nearly two centuries, share an importance that will forever be marked by historians.
Both are absolutely critical to the shape of the America we live in today. Both are fulcra, balancing a more innocent and vulnerable America of the past with a changed nation that confronted a vastly different future world. » Continue Reading.
“The naval battle of Lake Champlain was probably the greatest feat of arms that our navy achieved in the War of 1812,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.
From Secretary of Navy William Jones on Oct. 3, 1814: “To view it in abstract, it is not surpassed by any naval victory on record. To appreciate its result, it is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of our country.”
According to Penn University historian John B. McMaster, it was “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and Thomas Macdonough was “the ablest sea-captain our country has produced.”
Like McMaster, author and historian Teddy Roosevelt called it “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and praised Commodore Thomas Macdonough thusly: “Down to the time of the Civil War, he is the greatest figure in our naval history. … he was skillful and brave. One of the greatest of our sea captains, he has left a stainless name behind him.” And one more: looking back, Sir Winston Churchill said it “was a decisive battle of the war.” » Continue Reading.
Rouses Point businessman Mark L. Barie has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.
Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876.
Weed was President (Mayor) of Plattsburgh in the mid-19th century and served six terms in the New York State Assembly. The Plattsburgh attorney was also a successful businessman and philanthropist. » Continue Reading.
The Preservation League of New York State has named the Old Stone Barracks in Plattsburgh to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.
Constructed in 1838, this is the oldest building at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, it illustrates the longstanding military presence in New York’s North Country between 1812 and 1995. The building boasts massive stone walls, heavy timber framing, and a two-story columned porch running the full length of the north façade. With views of Valcour Island, Cumberland Head, Grand Isle and the Green Mountains of Vermont, the building conveys the central role that military activities played in the history of the Champlain Valley. » Continue Reading.
In the year 2000, five years after Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed, Pratt & Whitney signed a lease, moved in, and set up shop on the former base property. Many jobs and residents had been lost in the shutdown, making Pratt & Whitney a valued anchor business in the recovery effort.
Their arrival might have been a homecoming of sorts with historical significance, but persistent misinformation carried forward for more than a century appears to have robbed the region of an important link to the past. » Continue Reading.
No matter how long a life lasts, the residue left behind is often fleeting, and within a generation or so, most of us are largely forgotten. But it’s also true that every life has a story, and many of them are worth retelling. I often glean such subject matter from obituaries, or from gravestones as I walk through cemeteries. A tiny snippet of information stirs the need to dig for more, perhaps revealing unusual or remarkable achievements and contributions.
A recent example involves Benjamin Wood Haynes, a native of Westford, Vermont, who lived and worked in northern New York in the latter half of the 1800s. Intriguing to me was a reference to him as a “builder,” and so the digging began, yielding some impressive nuggets. » Continue Reading.
Just when you think its time to pack away the swim gear and pull out the skis, its time for the annual Polar Plunge benefiting the Special Olympics. I am not one to actually take the required dip, but hold vigorously to my role as spectator when it comes to braving any Adirondack water in November.
From the Finger Lakes to Lake Champlain and Lake George to Staten Island there are 14 Polar Plunge events scheduled with ones in Plattsburgh and Lake George on November 16. Lake George’s Polar Plunge will kick off from Shepard’s Park while the Plattsburgh participants will brave a chilly Lake Champlain from City Beach.
According to Special Olympics Development Specialist Erin McCartan this is the seventh year of their Lake George plunge and the fourth for their Plattsburgh event. Partnering with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, the Polar Plunges are one their biggest fundraiser throughout the year. » Continue Reading.
Sadly, Veterans Day doesn’t seem to get the press that Halloween does. Yes, I realize it doesn’t come with candy or ring the doorbell dressed up like a ninja. Instead it quietly rolls around each November 11th.
Celebrated first as Armistice Day to commemorate the November 11, 1918 truce ending World War I, the name was changed in 1954 after World War II and the Korean War to honor all American veterans of wars. So besides the individual town celebrations to remember those veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives as well as those that continue to serve, here are three ideas to say thank you. » Continue Reading.
Personally, I prefer to celebrate Halloween passing out the candy while wearing a tiara and a pair of wings without getting any quizzical looks from the neighbors. The other members of my family prefer to look to the pagan holiday as a test of bravery. Haunted houses, corn maze Fright Nights or Zombie Runs aren’t the only means to look fear in eye.
For some Halloween-themed ideas around the Adirondacks try An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe stories at Pendragon Theatre on October 30 at 7 pm and November 1 at 9 pm. Costumes are encouraged for readings of selected works of Poe’s short stories including a Tell-Tale Heart.
This was not the bike trip I had hoped for. It seemed like a good idea, until I saw my girlfriend Liz dragging her bicycle up and over slippery rocks in a rushing stream. After a push and pull to gain some ground and a quick break to study the best way to rock hop with a bike in hand, she stumbled and fell. While dropping her beloved Surly bicycle into the water in an attempt to gain her balance she just groaned with exasperation. Now, with the bike partially submerged and her feet wet, we were both starting to question our reasoning. Not only were we fording streams, we found ourselves dragging bicycles over downed trees, ducking and weaving around overhanging branches, pushing through thick brush only to find the path strangled by even more vegetation and debris.
Our plan was pretty simple; retrace the route of the abandoned D and H Railroad from Plattsburgh to Saranac Lake. The maps all showed it, locals talked about its existence and one bike shop mechanic told us he traveled the whole thing by dirt bike years ago. “Although, “he said, “the right of way seems to be lost in places.” After some roadside scouting of the railroad grade via our little Toyota, we concluded that the best place to begin was outside of Cadyville where there were no houses or any no trespassing signs blocking our way. » Continue Reading.
Last week’s coverage here of Airdmore, that unusual camping colony at Elizabethtown in 1922, prompted a number of questions for me, particularly about the unusual surname of the main player, Henry Aird. The name was familiar to me in only one regard―from the plumbing supply company, Aird Dorrance, based in Morrisonville, near Plattsburgh, and with facilities in Ballston Lake and Clifton Park. I wanted to know: could there be a connection between the modern company and the business founded more than a century ago by Henry Aird?
If so, then he left a remarkable and lasting impact on North Country history in an economic sense, creating jobs for more than a hundred years, all of them resulting from choices he made in his business career long ago.
So I started digging. Early on, the effort was plagued by the usual problems that require clarification, especially regarding early records. As uncommon as the name Aird is, there were Airds and Bairds in Elizabethtown at the same time, led by men with the same first name―Henry. Both were among the moneyed class of visitors who frequented the village. Keeping their stories separate was easy enough, but the Airds’ reuse of given names and middle names, and the inconsistent use of middle initials in identifying them in legal papers and newspapers, was another story. » Continue Reading.
For the 6th year, the Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance (ACCA) has organized free admission to 14 participating museums, cultural centers and historical societies for the first weekend in June.
The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum’s Director and Fundraising and Membership Lisa Fountain says, “This weekend our Kids Station will be open on Saturday only. We will have crafts for parents and children to do together. This year we have our Robotics coach Justin Collins here with a robot demonstration. Kids can test the robot and play with it. Justin runs our Robotics Camp in the summer. He will be available to answer any questions regarding the camp.” » Continue Reading.
Today is Martin Luther King Day, and if you lived through the 1960s, you’ll never forget that turbulent decade. Even turbulent is putting it mildly: weekly classroom drills for nuclear attacks (Get under my desk? What the heck is this thing made of?); riots over race, poverty, the draft, and the Vietnam War; the assassinations of JFK, King, and Bobby Kennedy; and so much more.
Martin Luther King was a leading figure of those times, beloved and hated nationally and internationally. Love him or hate him, he was remarkable. Against the worst of odds, he effected change through peaceful protest. The impact was clear, even here in the North Country.
A series of events during the 1960s proved that peaceful protest and the purity of King’s motives were strong enough to convert critics and naysayers. Plattsburgh offers an example of King’s effect over the course of a decade. » Continue Reading.
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.
During the holiday season of 1945, a most unusual conversation was taking place in the Adirondacks. It was a pivotal year in the twentieth century―history’s worst war had just ended, and an effort to prevent future wars had resulted in the formation of the United Nations, which officially came into being on October 24. The groundwork had been laid earlier in San Francisco, where delegates from fifty governments joined forces and drafted the original UN charter.
The next order of business was to find a home for the new alliance, referred to widely then as the UNO (United Nations Organization). Since San Francisco hosted the charter conference, it was considered a favorite in the running. But as the process played out, northern New York was abuzz with the possibility of being chosen as permanent host. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
General inquiries about the Adirondack Almanack should be directed to editor Melissa Hart.
To advertise on the Adirondack Almanack, or to receive information on rates and design, please click here.