Posts Tagged ‘Ticonderoga’

Monday, January 17, 2011

‘Salmon in the Classroom’ Programs Offered Locally

Students at Ticonderoga Middle School and Whitehall High School are raising salmon, through a new environmental education program presented by the Lake George Association (LGA) called Salmon in the Classroom.

Kristen Rohne, the LGA’s watershed educator, visited the schools to help set up a 25 gallon tank, chiller and pump, along with testing materials and fish food. Salmon eggs were provided at no cost by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This winter the students will raise the salmon from eggs to fingerlings. They are expected to learn to monitor tank water quality, study stream habitats, and perform stream-monitoring studies to find the most suitable place to release the salmon in the spring.

“Our goal is to foster a conservation ethic in the students, while increasing their knowledge of fish lifecycles, water quality, aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Rohne. “By working hands-on with the salmon, we believe the students will gain a greater appreciation for water resources and will be inspired to sustain and protect our natural environment.”

This year’s program was funded by a grant the LGA received from the International Paper Foundation. The Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board and the Adirondack Resource Conservation and Development Council are partners in the project. Trout Unlimited, a national non-profit organization with more than 400 chapters, designed the Salmon in the Classroom program.

Photo: Kristen Rohne, watershed educator for the Lake George Association, works with students at Ticonderoga Middle School to set up a salmon tank, along with testing materials, eggs and food.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fort Ticonderoga Hosts Garrison Ghost Tours

Discover the unexplained past at Fort Ticonderoga during evening Garrison Ghost Tours, Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 22 and 23 and Oct. 29 and 30. The lantern-lit tours, offered from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., will highlight Fort Ticonderoga’s haunted history and recount stories featured on Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters.

Garrison Ghost Tours, led by costumed historic interpreters carrying lanterns, allow guests to enter areas of the Fort where unexplained events have occurred. The forty-five minute walking tour in and around the Fort offers historical context to the many ghostly stories that are part of Fort Ticonderoga’s epic history. The evening tours allow guests to experience the magic of Fort Ticonderoga at night. Guests can also take their own self-guided walk to the historic American Cemetery where a costumed interpreter will share the many stories related to its interesting past.

Fort Ticonderoga has a long and often violent history. Constructed in 1755, the Fort was the scene of the bloodiest day of battle in American history prior to the Civil War when on July 8, 1758 nearly 2,000 British and Provincial soldiers were killed or wounded during a day-long battle attempting to capture the Fort from the French army. During the American Revolution nearly twenty years later thousands of American soldiers died of sickness while defending the United States from British invasion from the north.

Tickets for the Garrison Ghost Tours are $10 each and reservations are required. Call 518-585-2821 for reservations. No exchanges and refunds allowed. The Garrison Ghost Tours are a rain or shine event. Beverages and concessions are available for purchase. Garrison Ghost Tour dinner packages are available through Best Western Ticonderoga Inn & Suites. Visit www.fort-ticonderoga.org for package details.

Photo: Twilight at Fort Ticonderoga


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fort Ti’s Education Center Wins LEED Certification

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has recently granted Fort Ticonderoga’s Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDtm) certification. The prestigious certification is a national accreditation honor given to buildings that have been rated as “green” for their efforts to minimize negative impacts on the environment, and that actually make a positive contribution through their structure and design.

The LEED certification is awarded after the successful completion of a rigorous two-year evaluation based on environmental factors including reduced site disturbance, energy efficient lighting, water conserving plumbing fixtures, and indoor air quality management.

According to Beth Hill, Executive Director, “The biodiversity and natural significance of the Fort Ticonderoga peninsula were just as important to the armies who occupied the site more than 250 years ago as they are today. We are dedicated to programs rooted in all aspects of Fort Ticonderoga’s history and its relevance to today’s issues. By educating our visitors on these matters in a space that clearly reflects our commitment to responsible environmental stewardship, we hope to emphasize the importance of preserving and respecting the natural world for future generations.”

Andrew Wright, the building’s architect said that the feature of the building with the largest reduction in energy use is the geo-thermal heating and cooling system. which takes advantage of the energy in water from three deep wells. The heating and cooling needs of the entire building is met through sophisticated heat pumps. The design and construction team for the Mars Education Center was lead by Tonetti Associates Architects and Breadloaf Corporation with careful oversight of the Fort staff. The certification was achieved through careful selection of materials and building practices.

The building, constructed on the site of the original French magazin du Roi, is a faithfully reflection of the warehouse that preceded it. The interior is a 21st century Mars Education Center providing visitors with new opportunities to understand the Fort’s rich history and includes two classrooms, offices for education and interpretive staff, the Great Room which accommodates 200 guests, and a state-of-the-art exhibition space. The education center opened in 2008.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fort Ticonderoga’s Harvest Market, Plant Sale

Make plans now for the King’s Garden Harvest Market and Autumn Plant Sale at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday, October 2 from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. Heidi Karkoski, Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Landscape, said “The Harvest Market and Autumn Plant Sale provides a wonderful opportunity for visitors to enjoy the rich bounty of the King’s Garden.” Freshly dug perennials such as Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’, Yarrow ‘Red Beauty’, and Day Lilies will be available for purchase. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own plastic bags or boxes for their purchases.

The Harvest Market will feature colorful vegetables and fruits including pumpkins, melons, and leafy greens. King’s Garden garlic and seasonal herbs will offer visitors an added autumn zest to family dinners. Beautiful cut flower bouquets featuring Zinnias, Salvia and many other favorite seasonal flowers will highlight the market experience. A Favorite Place of Resort for Strangers, the highly acclaimed book on the King’s Garden history, will also be available at a special Harvest Market price. Harvest Market and Autumn Plant Sale proceeds support educational and programming opportunities at the King’s Garden,

As part of the Harvest Market, visitors can relax within the King’s Garden walls and enjoy a picnic lunch or purchase a take-out lunch from Fort Ticonderoga’s Log House Restaurant. Additional activities scheduled throughout the day include Weekend Watercolors, a self-guided program where visitors are encouraged to use the colors of autumn for inspiration, and garden tours. Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn more about becoming part of the volunteer family at the King’s Garden and Fort Ticonderoga.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Fort Ti Holding Big Season Finale

Vast British and American armies struggle for control of the Ticonderoga peninsula and the future of America at Fort Ticonderoga’s Revolutionary War Encampment, Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, from 9:30 am to 5 pm each day. More than 600 re-enactors bring the American Revolutionary War experience to life for visitors during the weekend, highlighting Fort Ticonderoga’s strategic role in the struggle for liberty. A battle takes place each day at 2 pm and is based on an encounter between advanced British and American forces during General John Burgoyne’s successful capture of the fort by the British in July 1777. Visitors will be able to purchase wares from period vendors, thrill at the pageantry of arms, enlist with the Continental soldiers for a bounty, and participate in a Sunday morning Anglican divine service in the fort at 10:30am.

Beth Hill, Executive Director of Fort Ticonderoga, said this event “will bring to life the hardship, hope, and victory that defined Fort Ticonderoga’s history in the American Revolution.” Highlighted programs throughout the weekend will include Potent Potables: Drink and Sutling in the American Revolution presentations, cooper demonstrations, building field fortifications, daily life of camp followers, field surgery and much more! According to Hill, the weekend “will be an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to be immersed in a place and time that defined America.”

The historic capture of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th, 1775, by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys marked America’s first victory of the American Revolution. Fort Ticonderoga remained a strategic stronghold and key to the continent throughout the early years of the war. In 1777, British forces under General Burgoyne successfully recaptured Fort Ticonderoga, forcing American troops to abandon the fort and Mount Independence across Lake Champlain. During the 18th-century, Fort Ticonderoga was attacked six times in the span of twenty years, holding three times and falling three times.

Fort Ticonderoga is a private not-for-profit historical site that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggle, sacrifices, and victories that shaped North America and changed world history. Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, tours, demonstrations and exhibits each day from 9:30am-5pm, May 20th- October 20th. A full schedule and information on events, including the upcoming Revolutionary War Encampment on September 11th and 12th, can be found at www.FortTiconderoga.org.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’s Diane Chase: The Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™

There are just a few weeks left before Director Stan Burdick closes the doors to the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum. There is a lot of history in the 50-year collection of cartoon memorabilia. A political cartoonist himself, Stan contributed to many local newspapers during his career. His work has been selected numerous times for the annual publication, “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” and in 1996 he won the New York Press Association Award for his editorial cartoon of Eliot Spitzer. My children greet Stan like he is the cable man and he just offered free access to unlimited channels. They look at me like I am the only thing holding them back from nirvana. I shush them off making sure they carefully maneuver through the aisles.

The museum houses over 700 pieces of original art from mainstream cartoonists like Chuck Jones’ Bugs Bunny, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury to the more obscure work of Henri Daumier, an 18th century French caricaturist. Special exhibits include the work of Arto Monaco (creator of Santa’s Workshop and Land of Make Believe), Sid Couchey’s Richie Rich, and Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girls. The collection will be moved to the Pittsburgh ToonSeum in September.

There is also a reference library of over 300 books if anyone has a moment to research any favorite comic strip characters. For us, Mr. Burdick manages to answer a seemingly endless array of questions.

Stan even gives us a quick cartooning demonstration and explains this particular art form that with all the ease of computers and scanning is still rendered by hand. He shows how a political cartoonist has to be up on current events by reading newspapers and listening to the news, find the right concept, think up the caption, draw it, and “ink” the artwork. The original art is then reduced in size, scanned and e-mailed to the newspapers to be read by all. That is the simplified version.

I am not sure my children grasp how much work goes into each cartoon. They innocently ask if they can go back to reading and looking at the cartoons. Gladly. It is an opportunity not to be missed. We can fill them in later on specific historical events that created the cartoons.

The Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum is located on the lower level of the Community Center on Montcalm Street. It is currently open on Fridays from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. or by appointment. Please call 518-585-7015 for additional times and more information.

Photo of Stan Burdick, director of the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum, and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

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.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

APA to Consider IP’s Sludge Landfill Expansion

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, July 8, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. Among the topics of the monthly meeting will be the expansion of International Paper’s paper mill sludge landfill in Ticonderoga, Franklin County map amendments, and a DEC proposal to build a fishing platform on Sacandaga Lake. The July meeting will be one day only.

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report. Following her report the Board will hear from Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston. Supervisor Preston will provide an overview of his Town as part of the ongoing Community Spotlight series. Complementing Mr. Preston’s presentation will be a summary of Wilmington’s recently complete Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

At 11:00 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider International Paper’s greater-than-25% expansion of its existing paper mill sludge landfill. The project site is located in the Town of Ticonderoga, Essex County.

At 1:00 p.m., the Park Policy and Planning Committee will determine approvability for a proposed map amendment in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The committee will also consider authorizing a public hearing for a requested map amendment of private lands in the Town of Harrietstown, Franklin County

At 2:00, the Park Ecology Committee will hear a presentation from Mr. Sean Ross, Director of Forestry Operations for Lyme Timber Company. Mr. Ross will discuss Contemporary Forest Management Practices and Needs.

At 3:00, the Legal Affairs Committee will meet to discuss delegating certain variance approvals to the Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs.

At 3:45, the State Land Committee will hear a preliminary proposal from the Department of Environmental Conservation for the construction of a fishing platform on the Great Sacandaga Lake at the Northville boat launch site.

At 4:15, the Full Agency will convene to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The next Agency meeting is August 12-13 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

September Agency Meeting: September 16-17 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


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.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Fort Ti: Ticonderoga’s 1950s 3-D Movie World Premiere

The terms “North Country” and “world premiere” haven’t mingled very often, but May 8, 1953 was one notable exception. It all had to do with Fort Ti, but not the one we’re all familiar with. This was Fort Ti, the movie, and it was special for several reasons.

Since the earliest days of movie-making, film crews have used dozens of locations across the region, but this particular movie had a significant impact both locally and nationally. The fact that Ticonderoga hosted a world premiere is itself impressive. It carries added importance that the historic State Theatre hosted the event.

Ticonderoga’s Union Opera House had been a center of culture in the village for more than two decades, but when it burned in 1916, it was replaced with a theatre, The Playhouse. Culturally, the town didn’t miss a beat, as The Playhouse hosted violinists, pianists, lecturers, movies, bands, vaudeville shows, magicians, and myriad other performers for the next twenty years.

In 1937, owner Alfred Barton leased the building to a company that owned 140 theaters in the northeast. An intense remodeling ensued, and the changes were dramatic: a new domed ceiling; new lighting; drapes and curtains added to the stage; new plush carpeting; air conditioning; a large marquee sign; capacity expanded to 800; and newly upholstered and roomy seating, staggered for easy viewing from any location.

A month later, the building reopened as the State Theatre, receiving glowing reviews from all, and calling to mind one word: magnificent. A variety of events were held there, but it was primarily a movie theater, and when the time came to select a site for the premiere of Fort Ti, the State Theater was the obvious choice.

This wasn’t just any movie. Though most modern reviewers still give it two stars out of four, Fort Ti was important for another reason. Television was a new and growing medium, and its effects were felt throughout the movie industry. People were staying home evenings to watch TV, and something new was needed to bring viewers back to the theaters. In the 1950s, 3-D movies were the solution.

Fox, MGM, Paramount, and Warner Brothers all rushed to produce movies in 3-D format. Columbia employed the Natural Vision System, the same technology used by a few of its competitors. Fort Ti was to be Columbia’s showcase offering, and movie attendees had to wear polarized glasses to enjoy the intended effect. One lens was red and the other blue, and in general, the idea was to merge two visual impressions into one. The result? Objects looked like they were jumping out from the screen, right at the viewer.

The launch at the State Theater was accompanied by a pageant portraying events surrounding the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen on May 10, 1755. The premiere date of May 8 was chosen for its proximity to that anniversary. Media from the entertainment world were on hand, including representatives from magazines, newspaper, and radio. (What, no TV?)

After all the hype, it was time to watch the movie. Was all this 3-D stuff for real? Fort Ti producer Sam Katzman and director William Castle certainly thought so. In an unusual move, Columbia had employed Katzman for the project, a man who LIFE magazine called “the only independent producer whose films—though all despised by critics—have never lost money.” It didn’t matter much that he was often known as a “schlock” producer: for forty years, he made money for the studios, and that was what counted.

Since Katzman was the producer, what better choice could there have been than William Castle as director? Here was a man who made a career out of movie gimmickry, and 3-D certainly looked like a gimmick. As usual, Castle made it work to great effect. Reviewer Donald Kirkley said after watching Fort Ti, “Many times moviegoers were observed to duck as things seemed to come their way, breaking through the screen barrier.”

Others referred to it as “the throwingest picture yet,” a reference to the many objects sent flying towards viewers. How was it done so effectively? In his autobiography, Castle later revealed some of his secrets: “Every evening I took a large pot and practiced throwing things into it: knives, forks, spoons … anything I could lay my hands on. My wife thought I was crazy, but my aim was becoming perfect.”

Castle was clearly pleased with the results, adding, “I attended the preview of Fort Ti. The audience, with glasses perched on their noses, ducked constantly. Tomahawks, balls of fire, arrows, and cannonballs seemed to fly out of the screen. Smiling, I said to my wife, ‘I’m not a director—I’m a great pitcher.’ ”

The movie is only rated average, but “unrated” components conferred cult status on it. Though Ticonderoga is nearly on the East Coast, Fort Ti is generally categorized as a Western. Some movie historians include it on their lists of the most important Western films of all time, not for the story, but for the new 3-D format and the effect it had on viewers.

For the record, the film included many Hollywood embellishments, and dealt with a story of Rogers Rangers, Jeffrey Amherst, and several other players, with a romance built in, and plenty of fighting action (offering ample opportunities for throwing things at the audience). George Montgomery played the leading role as Captain Jed Horn, while young Joan Vohs (a former Rockette) played his love interest, Fortune Mallory. One other participant was Ben Astar, said to be one of Israel’s top actors, and fluent in twelve languages.

Was Fort Ti the best 3-D movie ever made? Hard to say. Was Fort Ti the best movie ever made in Ticonderoga? Not even close. But that’s a story for another day.

Photo Above: Fort Ti movie poster.

Photo Below: A sample dual-image clip used to create the 3-D effect in Fort Ti.

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.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Hacker Builds Luxury Boat Factory to Meet Global Demand

The factory was humming, despite the fact that it was Sunday morning.

A busy factory would be an unusual sight almost anywhere in America today, but in the Adirondack Park, where unemployment exceeds 20% and manufacturing has all but disappeared, it’s a true rarity.

The fact that this plant manufactures a Lake George product that is shipped around the globe makes the factory not only a rarity, but unique.

Located in a former palette plant in Ticonderoga, the 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility produces Hacker boats, from start to finish.

“Our former facility, housed in several buildings, was not efficient enough. Our new facility makes it easier for us to build boats with the extraordinary craftsmanship that defines every Hacker,” said Lynn Wagemann, Hacker-Craft’s president and CEO.

According to Wagemann, the new plant has enabled Hacker-Craft to shift every aspect of production to one, central location.

Since opening the new plant in April, Hacker-Craft has hired 12 new employees and expects to hire more workers as orders for the luxury mahaogany boats increase. Hacker-Craft now provides comprehensive health insurance to all qualified employees, said George Badcock, a Hacker-Craft owner.

That kind of investment will enable Hacker-Craft to recruit and retain the employees it needs to become a global company, said Badcock. “Hacker-Craft had to expand its market beyond Lake George, the Adirondacks and even the US if it’s to be the success it deserves to be,” said Badcock, a Lake George summer resident who is also president of an international leasing company.

Among the boats nearing completion was a 26-ft runabout, which, according to Dan Gilman, Hacker’s vice-president for sales, is the first new runabout model to be designed and produced by the company since 1995. “This is on its way to France,” said Badcock, who explained that Hacker has entered into an agreement with a European investment group that will market the boats throughout Europe and Asia. “This group has access to new luxury markets, where the demand for a classic Hacker is only growing,” said Badcock.

Hacker now has similar arrangements with groups in the mid-west and in Canada, said Badcock.
Building a single runabout requires as many as 1,500 hours of labor before it’s completed, said Gilman. “This factory is organized according to the same principles used by John Hacker, Chris Smith and Gar Wood,” said Gilman. “The only difference is that we now have power tools.”
Every successive stage of production is visible through the length of the factory, from framing to planking and finishing.

“The boats are now built completely of mahogany; in the past, oak, spruce and ash were used, which worked less with the most advanced expoxies,” said Gilman. The Honduran mahogany, Gilman said, is also harvested from forests certified as sustainable. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Some employees are specialists, others can do practically any job required to build a boat. “These are master boat builders,” said Gilman. “We’re apprenticing new employees with the experienced builders, trying to make certain that the craft is passed along.”

Approximately 16 boats were under construction at the factory last week. This number will rise to 25 this year; operating at full capacity, the factory can produce as many as 35 or 40 boats a year, said Badcock.

“Lynn Wagemann has put together a great crew; they take tremendous pride in their work,” said Badcock. According to Wagemann, Hacker Boat Company’s Silver Bay location is now used as a boat yard, for administration and as a show room for the company’s boats.
Hacker also has a facility for restoring and repairing boats in downtown Ticonderoga and storage facilities for 240 boats in Hague, Wagemann said.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, April 23, 2010

Inez Milholland Portrait Restoration Planned

A portrait of Inez Milholland hanging over a mantelpiece in the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington DC will be restored if a committee established in March is able to raise $4,000.

Milholland’s name is known today primarily by historians of the crusade to win for women the right to vote.

That crusade acquired crucial public attention on March 4, 1913, the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his first term. Women from every state gathered in the capital and staged a great parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Leading the parade on a white charger was Inez Milholland, then 25 years old.

She was, literally and figuratively, a figurehead of the nascent women’s rights movement. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lake George: Jefferson, Madison, and Prince Taylor

Lake George resident and regular Almanack reader Enid Mastrianni has offered for Black History Month this enlightening piece on a trip by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Jefferson’s enslaved servant James Hemings, to Lake George and their reactions to Prince Taylor, a free black man living just south of Ticonderoga:

Many a booster of the Adirondacks has cited the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Holiday Train

In a mad rush of holiday cheer, too many side dishes and the turkey/tofurkey debate, it is easy to forget that some people will not have an argument over the necessity to recreate meat-shaped products out of tofu. Those and many others will be wondering where their next meal will be coming from.

For the 11th year the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Holiday Train will be pulling into over one hundred towns in seven states and Quebec raising awareness for local food pantries.

The northeast sector of the tour starts Thursday, November 26 at Rouses Point at approximately 11:00 pm. Each stop is a little over a half hour. Crowds will be treated to live entertainment as well as a festively decorated train, free of charge. All that is asked is a donation to the local food pantry. In addition, to providing the gaily lit-up train and live bands CFR donates funds to each stop’s food bank.

The US portion of the tour is hosted by Prescott a brother (Kaylen) and sister (Kelly) duo hailing from the Canadian musical legacies Family Brown (award winning country band formed by their grandfather, uncle and mother) and later Prescott-Brown (their parents’ award winning band). Prescott’s own style has them performing at such venues at the Ottawa BluesFest and welcoming their first cd, “The Lakeside Sessions.”

Singer/songwriter Adam Puddington will take the stage with his own unique brand of music lightly influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Blue Rodeo. Other musical guests will be Sean Verreault best known as part of the blues rock band Wide Mouth Mason and Milwaukee native Willy Porter’s blending of folk music rounds out the program.

Local food banks will be collecting non-perishable food items and donations at each location so all the audience has to do is stand back and enjoy.

Each event does take place outside so dress warmly. Some locations have vendors set up to sell hot refreshments but it is not something to count on. The focus is on the food pantries and making sure their shelves are stocked for winter.

So for whatever reason you are thankful, take an opportunity to kick off the holiday season with a lively concert and a contribution to a food pantry.

Northeast Schedule
Thursday, November 26

Rouses Point – 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Rouses Point Station

Saturday, November 28
Binghamton – 8:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., CP East Binghamton Rail Yard, Conklin Ave.

Sunday, November 29
Oneonta – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Gas Avenue Railroad Crossing

Cobleskill – 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., Cobleskill Fire Department, 610 Main Street
Delanson – 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Main Street Railroad Crossing
Schenectady – 9:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Maxon Road
Monday, November 30
Saratoga Springs – 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., Amtrak Station

Fort Edward – 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., Amtrak Station

Whitehall – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Amtrak Station

Ticonderoga – 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Pell’s Crossing, Amtrak Waiting Area, Route 74
Port Henry – 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Amtrak Station, West side stop
Plattsburgh – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Amtrak Station

photograph: The Holiday Train in Montreal


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Diane Chase’s Adirondack Family Activities: Ticonderoga Free Children’s Workshops

Free. Now that’s a four-letter word that I don’t mind my children saying. As a matter of fact I encourage it with wild abandon. With the rain winning the weather wrestling match, inside alternatives are wearing thin. Even the sunniest of personalities isn’t always enough to break through a ten-day forecast of rain. Fortunately there are many options available to get kids (and the rest of us) out of the house.

The Ticonderoga Heritage Museum continues with its bi-weekly workshops offering “A Champlain Summer” of free children’s activities. The museum has tied into the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s travels to the lake graced with his name. The Museum has taken on the task to encourage kids to come and find out what other children were doing for fun 400 years ago.

My son informs me that it is considered work if you have to make something. Somewhere we have picked up a consumer. Really since when is it considered hard labor to make a block print t-shirt? Sounds like fun to me.

There is a theme for the last few events. Kids can design a Native American tee shirt on August 5th or learn about life as a Native American child and make and eat a corn meal treat on August 7th. Next week brings weaving projects on the 12th and rattles (to ward off evil spirits) on the 14th. The events take place every Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. and are free. The Heritage Museum is on the corner of Tower Avenue and Montcalm Street.

Across Montcalm Street and directly after the museum’s activities, are more free activities. The annual Ticonderoga Festival Guild is holding its 30th Arts Trek Children’s Series. These morning events are on Wednesdays at 10:15 a.m. so you’ll have to scurry to see it all. Since 1980 the Festival Guild has been dedicated to promoting the performing arts to the community at large. If you still have any energy left complete the loop with a wander to Bicentennial Park, which abuts the Heritage Museum property, and enjoy a romp at the playground, see the waterfall or if it rains hide under the covered bridge or gazebo.


photo used with the permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time


Diane Chase writes about Adirondack Family Activities in the weekly FamilyTime newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, as well as blogs for LakePlacid.com and Adirondack Almanack. Her first guidebook is called “Adirondack Family Time: over 300 activities in the High Peaks Region and Beyond.”



RSS Latest News Headlines

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.

RSS Latest News Headlines

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.

Recent Almanack Comments

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox