Posts Tagged ‘Ticonderoga’

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fort Ticonderoga Offers ‘Art of War’ Exhibiit

Fort Ticonderoga’s newest exhibit, The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experienced through the eyes of America’s Great Artists brings together for the first time in one highlighted exhibition fifty of the museum’s most important artworks. Fort Ticonderoga helped give birth to the Hudson River school of American Art with Thomas Cole’s pivotal 1826 work, Gelyna, or a View Near Ticonderoga, the museum’s most important 19th-century masterpiece to be featured in the exhibit. The Art of War exhibit will be through October 20 in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center exhibition gallery.

The Art of War exhibit includes paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and several three-dimensional artifacts selected for their historical significance and artistic appeal. Artists whose works are featured include Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Charles Wilson Peale, and Daniel Huntington among many others. As reflected in the exhibit, 19th-century visitors to Fort Ticonderoga included some of the greatest artists of the period who found inspiration in Fort Ticonderoga’s epic history and exquisite landscape.

Regional photographic artists such as Seneca Ray Stoddard recorded Ticonderoga’s ruins and landscapes over the course of twenty years. Many of his photographs were published in area travel guides and histories during the last quarter of the 19th century, keeping alive Ticonderoga’s place in American history while documenting early heritage tourism.

The Art of War uses the artworks to present the story of the Fort’s remarkable history and show how its history inspired American artists to capture its image and keep Ticonderoga’s history alive. The exhibit will graphically tell the history of the site from its development by the French army in 1755 through the beginning of its reconstruction as a museum and restored historic site in the early 20th century.

The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experienced through the eyes of America’s Great Artists is organized by Christopher D. Fox, Curator of Collections.

Illustration: Gleyna, or A View Near Ticonderoga. Oil on board by Thomas Cole, 1826. Fort Ticonderoga Museum Collection.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Lake George Marine Railway Headed to Historic Registers

To the casual observer, the Lake George Steamboat Company’s marine railway near the foot of the lake is unlikely to conform to any preconceived notion of a historic site.

Built in 1927 by Crandall Dry Dock Engineers, it’s a utility, used to haul vessels in and out of Lake George for repair, maintenance and storage.

But in the 19th century, almost every harbor on the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada had similar railways, almost all built by Crandall Dry Dock Engineers; the Crandall railway at Hart Bay is, according to New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, among the few that remain intact and in operation today.

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has, therefore, recommended that the railway be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The Board cast its votes when it met in March in New York, where it recommended adding thirty nine sites to the registers, including Fort George in Lake George.

“These nominations reflect many of the varied commercial, agricultural, political and social movements that have shaped New York State,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Bringing recognition to these properties will help us to preserve and illuminate important components of New York State history.”

According to Bill Dow, president of the Lake George Steamboat Company, the entire marine railway complex, which includes 390 feet of track under water, the cradle and the gears in the small frame head house, was nominated for the registers.

“Without the marine railway, the Lake George Steamboat Company could not have continued to operate through the Depression and the post-War eras,” said Dow.

According to Dow, the railway was constructed to haul the Sagamore from the lake for repairs.

On July 1, 1927 the Sagamore rammed the point of Anthony’s Nose, and began to sink. The captain, John Washburn of Ticonderoga, ordered that the hole in the hull be stuffed with mattresses. He then sailed her into Glenburnie, where she discharged her passengers, and then beached her in a small cove. After repairs were made at Hart Bay, she was refurbished, launched again in May 1928, and sailed for another five years.

According to the State Board of Historic Preservation, the Crandall Marine Railway complements the Lake George Steamboat Company’s Mohican, which was placed on the registry of Historic Places two years ago.

“Together, the railway and the excursion boat recall the nearly two century history of pleasure boating on one of the Adirondack Regions’ largest and most popular and accessible tourist destinations,” the State Board noted.

The Lake George Steamboat Company is now preparing an application to place the former Lake George train station on the registers of historic places.

Like the Steamboat Company, the station was owned by the D&H railroad, which built the station in 1909 in the same Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture as its nearby hotel, the Fort William Henry.

“The Lake George Steamboat Company represents America, or the America of the past, as few companies do,” said Bill Dow. “We feel a responsibility to honor that past by preserving our legacy.”

Photo: Mohican at marine railway.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror or visit Lake George Mirror Magazine.


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sinking of the Steamer ‘Sagamore’

Not long ago, a few lakeshore residents commemorated a one hundredth anniversary – that of the launching of the steamboat Sagamore.

The event took place at Pine Point in Lake George Village, and according to contemporary accounts, it drew the largest crowds to the village since the introduction of the trolley in 1901. Local schools were closed for the day so that children and their teachers could attend the great event.

The granddaughter of the Steamboat Company ‘s general manager, George Rushlow, was selected to christen the Sagamore. Someone suggested that the boat be christened with water from the lake – after all, it was said to have been exported to Europe for use as holy water – but that idea was vetoed on the grounds that old sailors believed that it was unlucky to christen a vessel with the same water in which the boat was to sail. Rushlow said that he did not want to “Hoo-doo the boat in the mind of any person.” So the traditional method of cracking a bottle of champagne on the bow was used instead.

Elias Harris was the captain. At 74 years of age, the Sagamore was to be his last boat. (His son, Walter, was the pilot; Walter Harris became one of the first motorboat dealers on the lake; his Fay and Bowen franchise was the largest in the country.) Elias Harris began his career as a fireman on the Mountaineer, the boat that carried James Fenimore Cooper on the journey down the lake that inspired The Last of the Mohicans. He graduated to the post of pilot on the John Jay, which burned in 1856, killing six of the 70 passengers on board. On the deck of the Sagamore that day was a small anchor that had belonged to the John Jay, a memento Harris always kept with him.

The Sagamore was built to succeed the Ticonderoga, which burned at the Rogers Rock Hotel pier in August, 1901. The Ticonderoga was the last steamboat to be constructed entirely of wood, and the 1,25 ton Sagamore was the first steel-hulled steamer on Lake George. She was commonly regarded as the most luxurious boat ever to sail these waters; her saloon was finished in hazel with cherry trimming, corridors were paneled with mirrors and her furnishings were plush.

The Sagamore was almost an exact replica of Lake Champlain’s Chaeaugay and was powered by the same boilers and coal burning engines. (The engines were built by the Fletcher Company, which had a reputation for making engines fine enough to be preserved under glass.) The Chateaugay, which was launched in 1888, was the very first of the iron-hulled vessels. Later she would carry among her passengers a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose father, James Roosevelt, served for a time as president of the Champlain Transportation Company and the Lake George Steamboat Company, and become the first boat to ferry automobiles between New York and Vermont.

But whereas the Chateaugay sailed for more than forty years without any alterations, the Sagamore sailed for little more than six months before she was withdrawn from service. The builders of the Sagamore had given the boat more headroom between decks than the Chateaugay possessed, and that additional headroom made the Sagamore top heavy. The boat was put into dry dock and there she was cut in half amidships and lengthened by 200 feet. A set of ballast tanks was also installed forward of the wheelboxes. From then on, steamboatmen praised her for her easy handling. (In 1999 we would see another Lake George steamboat – the MinneHaHa – cut amidships and lengthened by 34 feet.)

The Sagamore could accommodate 1,500 passengers and traveled at a speed of 20 miles per hour. She left Lake George every day at 9:40 am and arrived at Baldwin three hours later, where it met the train for Fort Ticonderoga. She would berth at the Rogers Rock Hotel for three hours, and then return up the lake and deliver passengers to the 7:00 pm train to New York.

The late Dr. Robert Cole of Silver Bay recalled in the pages of the Mirror last summer that the Sagamore ferried the automobiles of travelers to points down the lake.

On July 1, 1927 the Sagamore rammed the point of Anthony’s Nose, and began to sink. The captain, John Washburn of Ticonderoga, ordered that the hole in the hull be stuffed with mattresses. He then sailed her into Glenburnie, where she discharged her passengers, and then beached her in a small cove. After repairs were made, she was refurbished, launched again in May 1928, and sailed for another five years.

Although no one knew it at the time, the early twenties would be the last prosperous years for the steamboats until they were revived as excursion boats for tourists after World War II. As America entered the Depression, operating deficits climbed into the hundreds of thousands.

The Sagamore was withdrawn from service in September 1933 but was not scrapped for another four years. In the meantime, she lay at Baldwin, falling into ruin. The George Loomis, superintendent of the Steamboat Company wrote that he went on board to salvage one of the mirrors but that the quicksilver had flaked off most of them. Karl Abbot, the general manager of the Sagamore resort, thought of tying her up to a wharf and turning her into a restaurant but apparently changed his mind. In the fall of 1937, the Sagamore was stripped of her gold leaf, wood paneling and rich furniture (upholstered arm chairs were sold for $5 a piece) and finally dismantled. With the destruction of the Sagamore, an era came to an end. People would continue to travel the lake on steamboats, but as tourists rather than as passengers bound for one of the great hotels, and never again in such stately luxury. After the Sagamore was scrapped, George Loomis committed suicide. The two events, friends said, were not unrelated.

Photos: The Sagamore after striking a rock at Glenburnie. The Sagamore at Cleverdale.

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


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Former Military Rifle Range Inspections Set

The National Guard Bureau will surveying old National Guard rifle range in Ticonderoga, Malone, Glens Falls, and Saratoga Springs for the presence of environmental poisons this summer. The ranges are among 23 former New York Army National Guard training sites used between 1873 and 1994.

The program is being conducted worldwide to address human health, safety, and environmental concerns at former non-operational defense sites. This includes over 400 sites in 48 states and two territories formerly used by the National Guard. The training sites in New York vary in size from 3.7 to 939 acres.

Currently, the New York National Guard has three training sites located in Guilderland, Youngstown and at Camp Smith, near Peekskill. Soldiers also train regularly at Ft. Drum, near Watertown.

Current property owners are in the process of being asked to allow contractors on their property to conduct this check which although mandated by the Department of Defense Military Munitions Response Program, will only include soil samples from a depth “less than two to three inches.” The survey will also a visual inspection and checks with hand-held metal detectors. According to a press release issued by the Guard, “the inspectors will collect the samples with disposable plastic spoons, which are about the size of an ice cream scoop.”

A preliminary assessment to identify locations, research historical records, land usage and past incident(s) in the area was completed in 2008; this summer’s site inspections are expected to collect additional information, data and samples necessary to determine if following actions are warranted.

About the sites:

The Malone Small Arms Range was used from about 1895 to 1985. The range was approximately 43 acres; the range layout and boundary are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used there. The former range is located on state land, redeveloped for a correctional facility, northwest of Malone.

An older Ticonderoga Small Arms Range measured about 406 acres and was used from about 1950 to 1973; the newer one measured 105 acres and was used from about 1986 to 1994. The layouts and boundaries of the ranges are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used at them. The former ranges are located between Vineyard Road and Corduroy Road.

The Glens Falls Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1955. The range was approximately 876 acres; the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on forested, municipal property north of Peggy Ann Road.

The Saratoga Springs Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1951. The range was approximately 100 acres; the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on residential properties and forested land east of Weibel Avenue.

Anyone who has documents, records or photographs of the range are encouraged to contact Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo at corine.lombardo@us.army.mil or (518) 786-4579.

Photo: New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, conduct weapons training at the Guilderland Weekend Training Center.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Local Sites Suggested for Historic Registers

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended the addition of 39 properties to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including a Clinton County lumber company and a Saratoga County grain and feed store, a Lake George marine railway, Fort George, a home in Lowville, and more.

Listing these properties on the State and National Registers can assist their owners in revitalizing the structures, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. There are 90,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts. Property owners, municipalities and organizations from communities throughout the state sponsored the nominations.

Once the recommendations are approved by the state historic preservation officer, the properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.

Local sites recommended for inclusion in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Past recommendations are available here.

Clinton County
Heyworth-Mason Industrial Building, Peru – the 1836 structure is an example of an early stone industrial building that housed A. Mason and Sons Lumber Company, a firm that operated for 90 years and greatly impacted the building industry in Clinton and Essex Counties.

Essex County

Crandall Marine Railway, Ticonderoga – the rare and remarkably intact 1927 railway dry dock facility was, and still is, used by the Lake George Steamboat Company to haul its excursion boats in and out of Lake George for maintenance and storage.

Fulton County

Hotel Broadalbin, Broadalbin – originally built in 1854 as a specialty store selling gloves manufactured at the local Northrup & Richards glove factory, it was greatly enlarged in 1881 for use as a hotel for the growing numbers of tourists visiting the Adirondacks.

Herkimer County

Frankfort Hill District #10 School, Frankfort Hill – constructed in 1846, the vernacular building retains a high degree of architectural integrity and remarkably served as an active public school for 110 years until 1956.

Lewis County

Stoddard-O’Connor House, Lowville – built in 1898, the Queen Anne/Colonial Revival-inspired home is adjacent to the commercial heart of Lowville, which was experiencing ample growth during the turn of the last century.

Mary Lyon Fisher Memorial Chapel, Lyonsdale – the late Gothic Revival masonry chapel in Wildwood Cemetery was built in 1921 by the children of Mary Lyon Fisher in honor of their mother, and is an important reminder of the philanthropy of the Lyon family, a preeminent family of the region.

St. Lawrence County

Young Memorial Church, Brier Hill – built 1907-1908, the church is an intact example of the Shingle style, featuring a two-story square Gothic bell tower and decorative windows of opaque glass and stained glass medallions and portraits made by a local artisan.

Saratoga County

Smith’s Grain and Feed Store, Elnora – constructed in 1892, the store served the local farm community for generations by selling feed, grain, coal, fertilizers and other goods that were transported to the store by the railroad, which unloaded at the store’s own siding.

Warren County

Fort George, Lake George – archaeological investigations at the French and Indian War site have provided rare insights into New York’s colonial wars and it reflects early and successful public initiatives in land conservation and commemoration.

Also included was the Caledonia Fish Hatchery in Livingston County, significant for its association with Seth Green, who established the first fish hatchery in the western hemisphere there in 1864, creating what has been acclaimed nationally and internationally as the world’s largest and most productive fish plant in continuous use. A roadside souvenir stand modeled after a 1954 tepee on Route 20 in Cherry Valley, Otsego County, was included as an example of popular roadside architecture.


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.