More from the
Plains of Abraham




   By Mary MacKenzie
 EDITED BY LEE MANCHESTER
More from the
Plains of Abraham
   By Mary MacKenzie
 EDITED BY LEE MANCHESTER
Table of contents
A short history of the Adirondacks:
   From creation to the 20th century ..................................
A short history of the
                Adirondacksth
             From creation to the 20 century
          Mary MacKenzie...
man to see those peaks, blue and hazy in the distance. The French
began to call them the Peruvian Mountains because they t...
Thus were the ancestral Adirondacks born. The foundation of these
once lofty peaks now lies some twenty miles underground....
undisturbed, as we find them today, although such areas are rare
around Lake Placid, as we shall see a little later.
     ...
anorthosite. The rest of the Adirondacks are made up largely of other
rock that erodes rather quickly.
     You will often...
And then, about 460 million years ago — and now we’re getting
closer to the present — the Adirondack peneplain began to sa...
St. Lawrence and Champlain valleys became arms of the ocean, and
that is why whale bones are found today in Lake Champlain...
tremendous splash in the lake. And so, while glaciers deposited the
boulders, that is one story of how mere man displaced ...
that were given birth 2 billion years ago, whose tops wore off into
the ancient seas, and evidently under them are the roo...
summer months. One of their largest summer villages was evidently
located on the plateau where the old Torrance farm is, a...
before 1800, the settlers of Macomb’s Purchase built a road from
Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County to Westport on Lake Cham...
family, I think we can all agree that the climate of North Elba proved
very salubrious.
     Elijah settled on Great Lots ...
like Griswold, Bliss, Needham, Porter, Mack, Button, Pond and
Thorndyke.
     The first marriage was that of Elijah McArth...
unmolested in the deserted fields. Only 10 families were left in the
whole of what is now North Elba. In the next 25 years...
I think the headstones that fascinate me most are those of the
Thompson family, for what a story lies behind them.
     On...
houses and hotels. John Thompson was the first supervisor of North
Elba when it was set off from Keene in 1850.
     The T...
Shenandoah River. There they lay while the Civil War raged over
them. In 1899 their bones were disinterred and removed to ...
their simplicity and (newly married) happiness, the poor young
   widow sat with tears rolling down her face; for I suppos...
It is not my intention to dwell very long on the story of John
Brown and the Negro colony. It is too well known to all of ...
to think of early villages as having great charm and natural beauty.
This was not so of Placid. If you have seen as many p...
playground, one of the most exclusive resorts on the continent, the
cradle of winter sports, the Olympics, and on down int...
History of the
           village of Lake Placid
        THE TEXT OF A SHORT BOOKLET PUBLISHED BY THE
         LAKE PLACID...
finally Essex. After the formation of Essex County in 1799, North
Elba was pert of the Town of Jay, and then Keene, until ...
At this time a substantial iron works was constructed on the
present Lower Mill Pond, with two forges, numerous buildings,...
In 1846 Smith also founded a Negro colony in the town as a
humanitarian project, by giving away lots to free Negroes of th...
In 1871 the first village hotel, Brewster’s, later called the Lake
Placid Inn, was constructed by Benjamin Brewster at the...
flavor of Dodge City and the rough Western frontier. During this
period lumber camps sprang up, traces of which can still ...
The Northway has substantially reduced automobile travel time
to and from all urban areas.
     Lake Placid offers some of...
A local history primer
             FROM THE PLACID PIONEER, SUMMER 1969

     Your editor, as town historian, receives ma...
Westport to Hopkinton. Road work was started by the state in 1810
and completed in 1816.

8. Was the Old Military Road eve...
Elba in the absence of warriors — and that on their return the
Indians pursued Rogers and gave him battle on the banks of ...
Dates in Lake Placid-
            North Elba history
       CIRCA 1965; UPDATED THROUGH 1981

         The date when this ...
January 18, 1935
The A&P ad in the Lake Placid News featured some food prices that
are almost unbelievable today. Butter w...
the 500-meter speed-skating race, was won by Jack Shea of Lake
Placid.

February 4, 1951
The Placid Memorial Hospital [now...
the Women’s Club was preparing a banquet in the building. At 10
p.m. the clock and fire-bell tower crashed through the roo...
February 19, 1931
Miss Nellie LeRoux (later, Mrs. Leo Dashnaw) and Milford Dietz,
star skater of Saranac Lake, were crowne...
March 20, 1922
Thomas F. Roland, father of Peter Roland, purchased the Homestead
Hotel from Charles Green. The Roland fami...
MAY
May 4, 1909
The Bank of Lake Placid was instituted and started serving the
people of Lake Placid.

May 6, 1935
The cor...
by the Lake Placid High School band. Postmaster Fred Dennin was
chairman of the program.

May 20, 1884
Joseph V. Nash, fou...
JUNE
June 3, 1908
On this day the Great Forest Fires of 1903, which raged through the
Adirondacks for six weeks, came into...
June 24, 1916
The present North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid was dedicated and
opened to the public during the high schoo...
under the ownership of George and John Stevens. It was torn down
in 1947.

July 4, 1946
A welcome home celebration in hono...
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“The Plains of Abraham: A History of North Elba and Lake Placid — Collected Writings of Mary MacKenzie” was published in 2007 by Nicholas K. Burns Publishing, a one-man publishing house in Utica, New York. When the book finally went to press, much of the material gathered from the late Mrs. MacKenzie’s files by editor Lee Manchester had to be put aside to keep the volume from becoming too big to print; even so, “The Plains of Abraham” ran to more than 400 pages in length. Rather than leave completely aside the rest of the material that had been edited for “The Plains of Abraham,” Manchester decided to make it available in a small, paperback edition. TO PURCHASE A BOUND, PRINT EDITION, GO TO http://stores.lulu.com/marymackenzie

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More from the Plains of Abraham

  1. 1. More from the Plains of Abraham By Mary MacKenzie EDITED BY LEE MANCHESTER
  2. 2. More from the Plains of Abraham By Mary MacKenzie EDITED BY LEE MANCHESTER
  3. 3. Table of contents A short history of the Adirondacks: From creation to the 20th century ..................................................1 History of the village of Lake Placid ................................................22 A local history primer .......................................................................29 Dates in Lake Placid/North Elba history...........................................32 The WIRD radio interviews..............................................................51 Essex County anecdotes....................................................................70 Peru Mountains: First name of the Adirondacks...............................75 Location of Elba Iron Works ............................................................77 Osgood’s and Lyon’s inns ................................................................82 Letter re. Iddo Osgood, Nathan Sherman..........................................85 Notes: Osgood’s Inn, 1984 ...............................................................88 Note on Lyon’s, Osgood’s, 1995 ......................................................91 Alfred Donaldson as a historian........................................................92 Regarding Russell Banks’ novel, ‘Cloudsplitter’..............................97 Against proposal to make John Brown’s Farm site into a historic Visitors Interpretive Center..........................102 Presidents’ visits: Correspondence .................................................110 Grover Cleveland at Lake Placid ....................................................112 FDR and Essex County...................................................................114 Mystery at Bog River Falls .............................................................117 Wildflowers in the garden...............................................................121 Building a patio...............................................................................131
  4. 4. A short history of the Adirondacksth From creation to the 20 century Mary MacKenzie always dreamed of writing a truly comprehensive history of Lake Placid, North Elba and the Adirondacks — not starting from the first European settlement of the Plains of Abraham, or from the first human visitors to the region, but from creation itself. This lengthy first item has been cobbled together from five different speeches she gave to classes and community groups in the North Country, all with similar outlines and obviously drawing upon the same store of materials: (1) to the Northland Rock and Mineral Club (March 9, 1965); (2) to the Lake Placid Kiwanis Club on (October 9, 1968); (3) to the Clinton County Historical Society (date unknown); (4) to “my favorite club,” with whom “I always love to share … all the wonderful things I have found in the botanical world” (perhaps the Garden Club of Lake Placid?) (date unknown); and (5) to a group at Lake Placid’s Northwood School, at the invitation of Philip A. Adil (date unknown). I’ve always had my own definition of history: “History is the sum of all mankind.” But lately I’ve been pondering about that, and I think I’m going to revise it. Does man really make history of his own volition? I don’t believe he does. Isn’t he really made to act by the geological and geographical influences and demands of his surroundings? For instance, we see the Phoenicians and the Vikings becoming great seafarers and traders because of their proximity to the sea, but the history of other nations is different, in the desert or jungles or mountains or as islands. Just for example, we see that Plattsburgh earned its wonderful colonial and pre-colonial history because of its situation on the great navigable waterway of Lake Champlain, close to the Canadian border. So history really evolves about mineral resources or climate and a hundred other geographical conditions. And a piece of land leaves an imprint on a man, for good or evil. So I’d like to tell you tonight about when and how and why history evolved as it did in the Adirondack Mountains. But in what way do you start telling it all? By going back 10,000 years to when glaciers carved the hills and scooped out the valleys? Or do you start with the Indians, or with old Samuel de Champlain, who sailed down the lake in 1609 and probably was the first white 1
  5. 5. man to see those peaks, blue and hazy in the distance. The French began to call them the Peruvian Mountains because they thought there must be great mineral treasures there, although nobody bothered to explore them for another 200 years — and that’s how the village of Peru, in Clinton County, and Lake Champlain’s Peru Bay got their names. But we’re not going to start there. We’re going to go back more than a billion years. And what was here a billion years ago? Well, the geologic history of any region is hidden in its rocks, and of course the Adirondack rocks have a spellbinding story to tell — to me, it’s one of the great adventure stories of all time. Adirondack rock isn’t the oldest in the world, as some people like to say. But it is among the oldest. The planet Earth itself began over 4 billion years ago. And a great deal more than a billion years ago the rocks of the Adirondacks were being born beneath a warm, shallow, primeval sea. Planet Earth was still an infant in its first geologic era, known as the Precambrian. You can realize how long ago that was when you reflect that land- dwelling animals were not to appear for at least another 700 million years. Under this warm, shallow sea that covered our area — all of our present New York state and eastern North America — was a long, deep, narrow trough or submerged shelf, which geologists call a geosyncline. And into this trough poured sand and clay and calcium carbonate and volcanic ash, probably eroded from an older continent and volcanic islands which have long since disappeared. For long ages these sediments drifted in, accumulated layer by layer, were cemented together and finally evolved into a rocky mass of sandstone, shale and limestone. At the same time, under its mighty burden, the trough sagged, allowing the sea to maintain a more or less constant depth of several hundred feet. Now, after a certain thickness of rock builds up in the sea, mountain-building forces are triggered and there is volcanic activity. We saw this sort of thing happen just a few years ago when a new mountain island was formed in the sea off Iceland. And so tremendous pressures and upheaval were forced upon our drowned rock mass. It not only buckled downward into the earth’s crust but was thrust upward into the sky. And above the sea, probably all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to Labrador, rose a mountain rampart that may well have been as magnificent as the Himalayas — great, jagged peaks as bare and as lonely as the mountains of the moon. 2
  6. 6. Thus were the ancestral Adirondacks born. The foundation of these once lofty peaks now lies some twenty miles underground. Intense heat, pressure and chemical action re-formed — or, as they say, metamorphosed — these sedimentary rocks that had been created from the muds and sands and lime of the primeval sea. Sandstone, shale and limestone were magically transformed into schist, gneiss, quartzite and the crystalline limestones. These are called Grenville rocks, from a Canadian town in the St. Lawrence Valley. Because we do not belong, of course, to any other mountain chain in the eastern United States. We’re uniquely alone and a part of the Canadian Shield of southeastern Canada. The Adirondacks are an extension of this shield and join it through an isthmus widely known as the Frontenac Axis, which extends across St. Lawrence County and the stepping stones of the Thousand Islands. So you can think of the Adirondacks as a high Grenville island, with a neck of land to the west joining it to another vast Grenville island in Canada, and surrounding us lie areas very much younger in age, including the Champlain Valley. We know there are no fossils in the Adirondack rock, although the regions around us teem with fossils. Why is that? Just in the last few years, new discoveries have been made that push the start of life on this planet back to 3 billion years ago. Possibly the great heat at which our rocks were metamorphosed destroyed all trace of life. But a more logical explanation is that, at the time our rocks were formed, only soft-bodied marine creatures, without any shells to leave behind as fossils, inhabited the sea. I have said there are no fossils in the Adirondack rock, but there is one exception: graphite, which is generally conceded to be a fossil. When we look at the shiny black scales of graphite, we can truthfully say we are gazing upon the crystallized remains of some of the earliest organisms that ever lived on earth. Whether they were plant or animal has never been determined. During this process of mountain building, which of course didn’t happen overnight but probably took place over a very long period of time, an odd circumstance occurred, one that has created the strange puzzle of the Adirondacks and still baffles geologists — and one to which they haven’t yet found the answer. Great masses of molten or igneous rock may have shot up from the bowels of the earth and were forced or intruded into the sedimentary Grenville rocks in a very irregular manner. At any rate, the Grenville was broken into patches, pushed aside or tilted, or shot through by molten floods. In some cases the Grenville actually melted or became part of molten masses flowing like tar. In other cases, Grenville areas were left intact or 3
  7. 7. undisturbed, as we find them today, although such areas are rare around Lake Placid, as we shall see a little later. These igneous rocks are said to be the syenites, granites, and the Marcy- and Whiteface-type anorthosites. They have always, until just the last few years, been considered younger than the Grenville rocks. Today, however, many eminent geologists who have been making an intense study here have abandoned this theory. They believe that all the rocks that comprise the Adirondacks are transformed ancient sedimentary rocks of the Grenville period, and not a whole series of intrusions one after the other. This will give you some idea of the enormous challenges the geologist still finds in the Adirondacks, which he considers the greatest assemblage of rock types in the long, long history of geology, and one of the most fantastically complicated and least understood. No wonder poor Professor Emmons, the state geologist who came up here in 1837 and named the mountains Adirondack, was considerably baffled. Now, we’ve mentioned anorthosite as one of our rocks, and we are going to pause here and discuss it for a few moments because it’s our most important rock, and the main reason why we have the wonderful High Peaks area which surrounds Lake Placid. I’m sure this question has occurred to most of you: Why are these High Peaks compressed in a very small area, but only low mountains and hills throughout all the rest of the Adirondacks? The answer is anorthosite. There are two types, the Marcy and the Whiteface, and they underlie only about 1,500 square miles of Adirondack country, chiefly here in Essex County. This anorthosite, as you can see, is a coarse-grained, gray rock in which occasional blue, green or gold flashes of the beautiful mineral Labradorite are seen when you hold it at the right angle. The most perfect specimens of Labradorite are used as gems. This mineral was first discovered by the Moravian missionaries in Labrador, and when it was originally introduced into England it commanded fabulous prices because it had never been seen before. It is much sought after by rockhounds in the Adirondacks. This rock anorthosite is unique. It is made up of over 95 percent of one mineral: lime-rich feldspar. It is a rare rock throughout the world and occurs in very few spots. There are several bodies in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Quebec and Norway. The bulk of it is in northeast North America, from the coast of Labrador to the Adirondacks. It’s a rather light rock compared to others, but it is very slow to yield to erosion, and that in large part is the reason for the locale of our highest peaks, which are composed mainly of 4
  8. 8. anorthosite. The rest of the Adirondacks are made up largely of other rock that erodes rather quickly. You will often find that the lower mountains around Lake Placid, and those worn down to mere cobbles, are the ones rich in Grenville rocks. The Lake Placid area has several very interesting Grenville sections: Pulpit Rock to Connery Pond, Cobble Hill, Winch and Owens Ponds off Wilmington Road, Sunrise Notch and Wilmington Notch. Heaven Hill, where Henry Uihlein resides, is almost entirely made up of this most ancient of our rocks. Probably the most famous section of all is Cascade Lakes. Here, numerous avalanches have exposed the primary limestone, which contains many crystals, semi-precious gems and minerals. Cascade, of course, is an exceedingly popular spot with rockhounds. But let us return to our great adventure story. Modern geochemical methods have made it possible to determine the time when the dramatic change in our rocks took place and the mountains were made. The ancestral Adirondacks are thus definitely known to have been formed at least 1.1 billion years ago. In a quarry near Gouverneur once worked for feldspar, a student of minerals found a few small, dull black cubes, crystals of uraninite, which is the oxide of uranium. It has the strange habit of slowly disintegrating, by radioactivity, into lead and helium, and this slow decay goes on at a very steady rate. Thus, the uraninite was computed to be 1.1 billion years old — and remember, the parent rock from which it was formed is a billion years older — and so the birth of our mountains is pushed back still further into the mists of time. Never again were these original Adirondacks to be completely covered by the ever-advancing ancient seas. Other islands and small continents were born, lived their day and disappeared, but the great island of the higher Adirondacks stayed above the waves — though at times these waves did lap far inland on the Adirondack island, as is proven by the sandstones and limestones well into our upland area. As soon as the young mountains rose above the water, however, they began to die. The winds and waves, the rain, snow and ice assaulted them over millions of years. Their eroded sands and rocks may have trickled down to a new trough in the sea that eventually formed the mountains of New England. Almost certainly, somewhere there are rock formations that evolved from the Adirondack erosion, but none are known for certain anywhere. In any event, finally, after a half a billion years, the great mountains were gone, worn down to low, rolling hills surmounted by the dome of the Adirondack High Peaks area. Only the stubs remained. 5
  9. 9. And then, about 460 million years ago — and now we’re getting closer to the present — the Adirondack peneplain began to sag under a westward advancing sea. Clean beach sands were deposited on them, and low forms of plant life began to appear on the land that remained above the water — because you’ll remember that the Adirondacks never completely vanished again under the sea. Then, about 300 million years ago — and now we are getting very close to the present — the Adirondack region, along with all of eastern North America, was uplifted again. The sea retreated, our mountains again exposed their ancient Precambrian rocks, and the inevitable process of erosion began once more. It was following this uplift that they were sculptured to almost the look of the present landscape. The next great event for the Adirondacks was the Ice Age, or glacial period. Actually the term Ice Age is incorrect, because there was not one but many Ice Ages, from about a million years ago to 9,000 years ego. They have come and gone, and they may return again. Even now we may say there’s an Ice Age because we have polar ice sheets at both ends of the earth. The Ice Age began when a huge ice cap formed in northern Labrador, which spread around its margins by plastic flow and eventually reached as far south as Long Island and Pennsylvania in the east, advancing and receding many times. During these many glacial ages, vast sheets of ice covered New York. Even our highest Adirondack summits were buried beneath the moving ice mass. It was then that our peaks and ridges were honed and sharpened, new river valleys were scoured out, and the many lakes and ponds were formed. Lake Placid itself was formed by the blockading of two parallel valleys that had been joined by smaller valleys, producing the islands, and thus forming a ladder-shaped body of water. In a depression of the dam that created Lake Placid, Mirror Lake now lies. There are many evidences in our area of glacial action. The great bowl-like depression just east of the summit of Whiteface, called a cirque, was occupied by a local glacier. Its remarkable shape, seen from Wilmington, is due to the action of the glacier plucking out the rock. The valley between Esther and Marble mountains was also formerly occupied by a local glacier, and the Sentinel Range has a very fine example of a bowl-like depression, or cirque, cut out by a local glacier. As the last ice sheet began to wane, the highest peaks of the Adirondacks were the first to be uncovered, islands in a sea of ice. In fact, the whole Adirondack region was one vast island, because the 6
  10. 10. St. Lawrence and Champlain valleys became arms of the ocean, and that is why whale bones are found today in Lake Champlain. Slowly the islands became larger, surrounded by huge lakes. North Elba, the Saranac Lake section, Keene, Jay and Wilmington were almost one huge lake. At various times there were three major lakes in the Lake Placid area, known to geologists as the South Meadows and the Upper and Lower Newman lakes. The South Meadows Lake was some 10 miles long and wide, containing a number of islands. Some unmistakable beaches exist today on the shoulders of the Sentinel Range and on Scott’s Cobble, where the town ski slopes are. The outlet of this great lake was to the west, since the valley containing the Cascade Lakes was filled with glacial moraine. This early lake was succeeded by the Upper Lake Newman, which was even larger. Some terraces of this once great lake are very evident today. Some day when you’re driving along the Cascade Road by the Rollie Torrance farm, look across the fields to the John Brown plateau and the ridges south of it along the Au Sable River, and you’ll see striking evidence of the terraces of this old lake. The Olympic ski jump hill also bears the imprints. After the extinction of Upper Lake Newman, another great lake came into being, known as Lower Lake Newman. This lake was of still greater extent and included the valleys occupied by both the west and east branches of the Au Sable River, the connecting link being the Wilmington Notch. These waters flooded the area covered by Lake Placid, the greater portion of the Saranac Lake quadrangle, and the area of Franklin Falls, Keene and Keene Valley over to Upper Jay. Of course the great ice sheet carried down from the north millions of boulders that were dumped on the Adirondacks, some on the highest peaks — Marcy, Colden and McIntyre — and here is a story of what happened not so long ago to some of those boulders. Whether or not you believe it depends upon whether or not you believe truth is stranger than fiction. Noah LaCasse, a native of Newcomb, told this tale back in the 1930s when he was an old man in his 70s. He said that when he was a young man they used to organize in Newcomb what they called “stone rolling” parties, some of which seem to have been co-ed. They would go way into the woods and climb one of the High Peaks and roll the boulders off. He said their greatest thrill was to start a big boulder from the top of Colden. This would crash down the steep slopes, shearing off many a good-sized tree, it would jump Avalanche Lake and finally come back down the side of Avalanche Mountain, landing with a 7
  11. 11. tremendous splash in the lake. And so, while glaciers deposited the boulders, that is one story of how mere man displaced some of them. We might recommend this harmless pastime today to juvenile delinquents as a way of working off steam — instead of breaking up beach houses following debutante parties, or throwing rocks and beer bottles at policemen. And then the great waters withdrew, leaving the landscape as it looks today, the valleys so filled with glacial debris brought from outside that most of our ancient rock lies deeply buried beneath it. The whole area was a great Arctic tundra, bare of vegetation. The wonderful forest cover we have today has built up only since the final ice sheet wasted away about 9,000 years ago. But even today the land still, at times, suddenly bounds back, shrugging off the weight of the foreign ice. We have an earthquake, and there is great excitement and much ado over what is, after all, only a very minor readjustment in the long, long geologic history of the Adirondack Mountains. And now that I’ve told you like it was, I’m going to make a very important correction. The story I’ve just told is the one that evolved over a 130-year geologic study of the Adirondacks. But in just the last several years, a very major and exciting new discovery has come about through studies emanating from St. Lawrence University. In a narrow belt — 30 miles long and 3 miles wide — along the Oswegatchie River near Gouverneur, an exposed belt of rocks has been studied and found to be 2 billion years old, twice as old as the Grenville, which has always been thought to be the oldest. This means that it was probably laid down as a sediment in an extremely ancient sea 3 billion years ago. This rock has been named Pre- Grenville. All this adds up to the fact that there was another great mountain range covering our area prior to the birth of the Adirondacks. This great mountain range, of course, completely eroded, and upon its roots our present Adirondacks were laid down. And so we now know that we have in northern New York some rocks of extraordinary age that represent a fragment of the earth’s very earliest history — and this rock may underlie the whole of the Adirondack complex. No doubt a great deal more of it will be recognized in outcrops within the next few years. Now that we’ve covered the facts, let’s return to a question I am often asked: “How old are the Adirondacks?” Well, the Adirondacks are all ages, ranging from at least 3 billion years ago to now. They didn’t just pop up complete as we now see them, as some sort of catastrophic upheaval. They are the roots and bedrock of mountains 8
  12. 12. that were given birth 2 billion years ago, whose tops wore off into the ancient seas, and evidently under them are the roots and bedrock of other mountains born 3 billion years ago. They are old, among the oldest mountains in the world. But, in the manner of all things subject to constant change, however slow and imperceptible, they are forever new, too. The landscape we see in Lake Placid today was sculptured and honed down from the ancient rock only over the last 300 million years, which is short in geologic time. Our mountains have an “old shoe” look, as William Chapman White says. They look as if they’ve been there since the world began — and what’s more, they actually have been. We know now that the familiar expression, “the everlasting hills,” is decidedly incorrect. Our mountains, of course, are even now dying as they did a long time ago. But there’s no doubt they’ll be born again, as they always have been. From the evidence of the past, it seems that this region is mountain-building country — always has been, and can never be anything else. At last, the land was ready for human occupation. First came the Indian. Forests of mixed evergreens and hardwoods covered most of our land when the first Indian hunters came into our town. They were not the Iroquois, but an older, prehistoric race that inhabited New York more than 5,000 years ago. At any rate, early hunters were here before the Great Pyramids were reared at Giza in the Nile Valley, and when our European ancestors were still savages in the early New Stone Age. I own a cache blade which dates back to these aboriginal tribes, and it was dug up here in North Elba 4 years ago, proving that prehistoric Indians antedating the Iroquois were familiar with this region. Then our mountains became the hunting grounds of the Algonquins, and particularly of one tribe, the Adirondacks. The Iroquois waged constant warfare with these Algonquins, as they did with almost everyone else, and by the time Champlain arrived on the lake that bears his name, the Iroquois had driven the Algonquins from our area. Champlain was told that all the surrounding country belonged to the Mohawks, an Iroquoisan tribe. The Indians seemed to have no particular name for our mountain region. On the earliest maps it is called merely “Land of the Iroquois” or “Land of the Mohawks” or “Beaver-Hunting Country of the Six Nations.” This great wilderness remained unexplored by the white man, and a big question mark until almost 1800. We might say that the honor of being the first summer tourists here belongs to the Mohawks, because while they never had any permanent village, they did congregate in large numbers for the 9
  13. 13. summer months. One of their largest summer villages was evidently located on the plateau where the old Torrance farm is, at the entrance to the Heart Lake [Adirondack Lodge] Road. I learned from a member of the St. Regis tribe that the Indians also had a summer encampment on one of the islands in Lake Placid. They regarded Whiteface as a sacred mountain and used it as a lookout post. Perhaps the ancient and half-rotted dugout canoe which was found at the bottom of Lake Placid some years ago by skindivers belonged to those Indians. Early settlers here also found traces of an Indian council ground on Brewster Peninsula [on the south end of Placid Lake]. There were two known Indian trails in North Elba. One was the Saranac River at our western border, which was almost a main trail from the Fulton chain of lakes to Lake Champlain. The only other known North Elba trail, which is considered quite ancient, was up the Hudson, through the Indian Pass, and thus into our town. And so Indian Pass was very well named by the early settlers. Then the Revolution came, the Indians were banished from their ancestral lands, and into the hands of the state passed the vast tracts of the uninhabited Adirondacks. We do not know who the first white man was to see Lake Placid — probably a wandering trapper, in the days when everyone was pursuing the beaver because everyone in Europe wanted a beaver hat. It might have been John Jacob Astor himself, in the days when he was a poor young man roaming the wilderness with a pack on his back. For Astor combed the farthest reaches of the Adirondacks around the age of 17, with his partner, Peter Smith of Utica, and as we get on with our story we will see that it was this same Peter Smith who many years later bought up almost half of our township, perhaps because he was familiar with it and had seen it in his youth. In 1781, part of the Adirondacks — including North Elba — was set aside by the state as bounty land, not for Revolutionary War veterans but for men who would be willing to act as a militia to guard our Canadian border. There were, unhappily, no takers, and the state, uncertain what to do with this great white elephant, surveyed it in 1786 and threw it open for sale to the public. North Elba was divided into Townships 11 and 12 of the Old Military Tract. And still there were no takers. Now, far over to the west in the great Macomb’s Purchase of St. Lawrence County, settlement was well advanced by 1795. And to the east little villages began to spring up at Westport, Jay, Elizabethtown and Keene. Between east and west lay this trackless wilderness. But, happily for our history, it did not remain trackless for long. For even 10
  14. 14. before 1800, the settlers of Macomb’s Purchase built a road from Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County to Westport on Lake Champlain, for commerce with the Champlain basin. Primitive as it was, it was nevertheless the first track into the unexplored northern wilderness and North Elba. At first it was called the Northwest Bay-Hopkinton Road. Soon it became popularly known as the Old Military Road, not because it ever served any military purpose but because it wound its way through the Old Military Tracts. In 1810 it was taken over by the state and improved. Of all the things I love in North Elba, I love nothing any more than this Old Military Road. It is our very oldest man-made possession, for from Keene to Saranac Lake it follows almost exactly the same course it did over 166 years ago, and parts of it have changed little if at all to this day. Even today, every time I go there over the abandoned, gloomy forest stretch of the Old Military Road that is known as the “Old Mountain Road,” I feel the mysterious and heavy silence of the past. This was once the last leg of the journey to North Elba. From Keene the road climbs up and up over Alstead Hill, hugs the north flank of Pitchoff Mountain, and finally plunges down to Cascade Road, just west of the Freeman’s Home motel. Many a hair-raising tale was told in the old days of the hazards in negotiating this primitive mountain passageway to the west. Sometimes in the stillness I think I can hear the sound of huge wagon wheels clanking over treacherous stones. It was down this road in 1800 that North Elba’s first settler came. There has probably never been anywhere, at any time, a more unlikely first settler. His name was Elijah Bennet. He was not a young man, being 46 in 1800, and his second wife Rebecca was 36. He was also a cripple. He had served in the Revolution as a private, and his left arm had been severely fractured by a musket ball at the famous Battle of Bunker Hill. Then, too, Elijah was a poor man, as were almost all of North Elba’s early settlers. Ours is not a history of wealthy land barons and patroons and stately manor houses. It is instead a history of simple farmers who lived off the land by the sweat of their brow, of rude log cabins, fierce winter gales and near- starvation, and a desperate battle, not with Indians but with wild animals, of which there were many we no longer have — panther, lynx, bobcat, moose and wolf. Elijah and Rebecca Bennet were without children when they arrived in North Elba in 1800, although they had been married 8 years. By 1810 they had seven children. When we consider that they were in advanced middle age when they started to produce this large 11
  15. 15. family, I think we can all agree that the climate of North Elba proved very salubrious. Elijah settled on Great Lots 279 and 280 of Township 11 of the Old Military Tract. This land today would fetch a king’s ransom, for it includes the site of all the main Lake Placid Club buildings and grounds and its upper golf course, lower Main Street and the Mill Pond area. Elijah was the only one of North Elba’s first colony to settle within what are now the village limits of Lake Placid. That he did so, however, once and for all refutes a certain claim of town dwellers that theirs is the area first settled, and the villagers are johnny-come-latelies. The fact remains, though, that Elijah did settle on a part of Lake Placid village. The Bennets lived here for 30 years, and Elijah died here in 1830 at the age of 76. We do not know where our first settler lies buried. No cemetery here or in Keene contains his headstone, but there is a clue as to where his final resting place may have been, as we will see a little later in our story. The Bennets were not long alone in their mountain home. From 1800 to 1810 the clop of horse and oxen hoof was a familiar sound on Old Military Road as family after family careened down the Old Mountain Road, took one look at the marvelous mountains, woods and waters, and settled in. The dull thwack of the axe sounded in the forests as the farmers cleared their land — and, later, the spank of water wheel and the squeal of bellows as the Elba Iron Works rose on the Chubb River, lending the settlement its name. Perhaps you wonder how our town looked then. It looked very different, I am sure, from what you imagine. We all tend to think of North Elba, when the first settlers came, as a dark, mysterious, primeval forest with towering pines that were here when Columbus found America. It must have been a beautiful forest indeed, but there was in fact little white pine. The predominant trees were hemlock, beech, maple and spruce. And there were great open beaver meadows, for the beaver were very numerous in those days and dammed every little river, brook and rill that flowed in the town. This was very fortunate for the early colonists, for the beaver meadows provided good grazing for sheep, goats and cattle until they could clear their land. There was no particular area of settlement. They put down stakes everywhere — the Torrance farm section, along the Au Sable River, all along the Old Military Road as far as the summer drive-in theatre, all through Averyville, the Bear Cub Road, the River Road, and the area around Mill Pond. They were all good Yankee names 12
  16. 16. like Griswold, Bliss, Needham, Porter, Mack, Button, Pond and Thorndyke. The first marriage was that of Elijah McArthur and Electa Brooks, and the first death that of Arunah Taylor, who perished by cold in the woods. By 1810, there were 200 souls living here; by 1815, probably 100 more. There was a grist mill, a saw mill, regular church services, and a school, taught by Fanny Dart. And there was rather a large iron works located just below the present electric- power dam on the Chubb River, which gave employment to many people. Company houses for the workers were located where the airport now is. It was at this time that a great part of the town was first lumbered off to make charcoal to supply the iron works. And it was at this time that many of the place names were given. Lake Placid was named then. Even the islands in Lake Placid, Moose and Buck, were named as early as 1804. Our present Mirror Lake was christened Bennet’s Pond for Elijah Bennet, and Chubb River and Chubb Hill (now, unfortunately, called “Riki Hill”) were named for Joseph Chubb, who had a large farm where the Rodzinski, Allwork and Fortune houses are. I have seen an ancient cellar hole almost across from Fred Fortune’s on the Old Military Road, with an old well hole in almost perfect preservation. This was undoubtedly the site of Joseph Chubb’s house. As for the settlement itself, it was known by various names. The first seems to have been the Plains of Abraham. If this seems a strange name for a mountain community, you should take a good look at your town, for it is almost entirely an immense, uplifted plateau all the way from Cascade to Saranac Lake, with a few cobbles dotted here and there. It was also known as Keene Plains and the Great Plains, and sometimes just The Plains. Finally it was referred to mostly as Elba, and then North Elba to distinguish it from a community named Elba in the southern part of the States By 1817 it all came to an end. The little settlement had been dealt a two-edged blow. In 1815 the iron works shut down, leaving many without work. In the summer of 1816 an arctic cold wave destroyed all crops, and near-starvation followed. It snowed every month that year — including June, July and August — and for a long time afterward it was referred to by old-timers as “1816 and hell frozen over.” In the wake of these two tragedies, there was a general exodus from the town. The farmers moved on westward in the tide of empire, and the once bustling, thriving community of Elba fell into decay. The forest encroached again on abandoned pastures. In the clearings the panther screamed again, and deer and moose grazed 13
  17. 17. unmolested in the deserted fields. Only 10 families were left in the whole of what is now North Elba. In the next 25 years there were never to be more than 10 families at one time, two of them over at the Saranac Lake end. Most of these early settlers had been squatters — in other words, they never bothered to buy from the state the land they settled. It has often been claimed that they left because Peter Smith bought up the entire town and would not sell them the land they had improved. This is not correct, however, for Peter Smith did not buy his land until after most of them had gone — and, in any event, Smith purchased much less than half the town, mostly land that had never been settled. There was one family that stayed on that has always been one of my favorites: the Osgoods (no relation to our present Osgoods). Every community has its rich, important, respected first citizen. Elba’s was Iddo Osgood, always known as Squire Osgood, who came here just after Elijah Bennet, probably in 1801. He died in North Elba in 1861, which made him a continuous resident for 60 years. Iddo served several terms as supervisor of the town while it was still part of Keene. He was a commissioner of the Old Military Road for the state while it was being improved after 1810. He was also a justice of the peace, as was his son Daniel. His son Dillon became our first postmaster in 1849. Iddo was a great opportunist, for when the town became all but deserted in 1817 he appropriated to himself all the abandoned fields for his own sheep and cattle. You might say he had a field day. Osgood also had the first inn and tavern in the town. This first colony of Elba became forgotten, even by those who arrived later and found traces of it. If it is mentioned at all in the history books, it is dismissed in a sentence. And that is why I have taken on the job of trying to reconstruct it, for it lies at the very roots of our history and gives meaning to all that followed. In the early 1900s, gruesome evidence of it came to light, for people digging at the sand pit opposite the ski jump began to uncover old skeletons and an assortment of bones. There seems to have been no endeavor to preserve them and re-inter them in hallowed ground, for the young village boys had a rattling good time for some years playing with the bones. This was undoubtedly our first cemetery, all outward signs of which had vanished in 100 years. It was quite probably here that our first settler, Elijah Bennet, was buried. Most of you have probably wandered through our cemeteries, idly reading the inscriptions. Have you ever wondered about the people whose bones lie there? I often do. What was his trade? How did he live? What were his joys and sorrows? How did he die? 14
  18. 18. I think the headstones that fascinate me most are those of the Thompson family, for what a story lies behind them. One day in 1824 there strode down the Old Mountain Road to the Plains of Abraham a man who was destined to become the patriarch of North Elba’s most uncommon family. Already he was the father of four sons, one of them an infant in his mother’s arms. Five more sons and a daughter were to be born here. His name was Roswell Thompson. He was born in New Hampshire, and he had come through the forest from Lewis, near Elizabethtown, where he had settled before 1815. Legend has credited him with 22 children, but there is not a shred of evidence to support such a claim. He actually fathered 10, nine boys and a girl — but we can all agree that even 10 is a goodly sum, and surely no other 10 children of one family were ever so buffeted about by the winds of fortune. This prolific and interesting family was to know terrible tragedy, death and separation, almost all of it growing out of their eventual close alliance with John Brown. The entire foundation of this large, hearty, industrious pioneer family was disrupted with the arrival of John Brown in North Elba. The children, in order of birth, were John, Archibald, Henry, Franklin, Samuel, Leander, William and Willard (who were twins), the one girl Isabelle, and Dauphin. Today the descendants of only two of them — Franklin and Archibald — are left in Lake Placid. The others are scattered all over the United States, and few are aware of the existence of the rest. The Thompsons are the only family in town today which descends from Lake Placid’s earliest days. William and Dauphin were to die martyrs’ deaths at Harper’s Ferry with John Brown. Henry was to marry a daughter of John Brown and suffer near-mortal injury at Black Jack in Brown’s Kansas raids. Isabelle was to lose her husband, a son of John Brown, at Harper’s Ferry. Leander was to lose his wife and all his children in a North Elba epidemic; he later served the Union cause in the Civil War. Willard was to know the terrible infamy of Andersonville while a prisoner in the same war. And Henry, John, Samuel and Isabelle were to follow John Brown’s stricken widow from North Elba to settle amid alien corn. Roswell Thompson settled on property in 1824 that is now the Lake Placid Club golf links. In later years, he built a large house that was sold to the Lake Placid Club and became known as Mohawk. In one sense, the Thompsons can be said to have been the builders of the early village of Lake Placid, for almost all the sons were carpenters and joiners and had a hand in raising many of the early 15
  19. 19. houses and hotels. John Thompson was the first supervisor of North Elba when it was set off from Keene in 1850. The Thompsons achieved national fame when the Harper’s Ferry incident was blazoned across the front pages of America’s newspapers. William and Dauphin were both raw country boys when they set off for the south with John Brown and his men. Quite probably they had never before been outside Essex County. William was 27, a kind-hearted, good-natured fellow who enjoyed telling funny stories. Dauphin was only 21, a handsome lad nearly six feet tall, with blonde, curly hair and blue eyes, innocent as a baby. He is described in Stephen Vincent Benet’s narrative poem, “John Brown’s Body,” as the “pippin-cheeked country boy.” He was a quiet person who read a great deal and said little. William and Dauphin sincerely believed in John Brown’s cause, as did almost all the Thompsons, and went to Harper’s Ferry without being urged and purely from a sense of right and duty. The action at Harper’s Ferry took place on October 17, 1859. William, who had been left as a sentry on the bridge, was driven off by the Jefferson Guards and fled back to the armory, which Brown had taken. At Brown’s request, he went out with a prisoner to stop the firing with a flag of truce. The sole result was that he fell into the hands of the enemy and was made a captive in the Wager House hotel. Mad with the desire to revenge the death of the Harper’s Ferry mayor in the raid, the mob attempted to make away with William in the hotel itself. A brief respite was secured him by a young lady who begged that his life be spared. The mob then dragged him out by the throat, carried him to the bridge and shot him. Before he fell, a dozen or more balls were buried in him. Then they threw his body off the trestlework into the Potomac. As he lay in the shallow water below, he was riddled with yet more bullets. The body, said a local historian, could be seen for a day or two after, lying at the bottom of the river with his ghastly face still exhibiting his fearful death agony. Making all allowances for the horrors of the day, the killing of William Thompson was still considered a disgrace to the state of Virginia, and it loses nothing of its barbarity with the lapse of years. That night John Brown and his raiders and their prisoners occupied the armory’s engine house, with the doors shut and barred. With the coming of dawn, the United States Marines, using a ladder as a battering ram, broke open the door. Rushing in like tigers, they bayoneted Dauphin Thompson. It is said that he died immediately. William and Dauphin, with six other raiders who were killed, were buried in an unmarked grave, almost at the water’s edge of the 16
  20. 20. Shenandoah River. There they lay while the Civil War raged over them. In 1899 their bones were disinterred and removed to North Elba and were given a hero’s burial by John Brown’s side. The changed opinion of the country is reflected in the fact that while Dauphin had been killed by United States Marines in 1859, in 1899 United States infantrymen fired a salute over his and his comrades’ grave at North Elba. But perhaps even a sadder tale is Isabelle Thompson’s, whose husband, Watson Brown, was also killed in the raid. Isabelle married Watson when she was 19 years old. Their one child, Frederick, was born in August 1859. There is still in existence a very touching and tender series of letters from Watson to Isabelle just before the raid, which no one can read unmoved, and which have become famous in the literature of history. The most famous, quoted by Benet, says, “Oh, Belle, I do want to see you and the little fellow very much but must wait. ... I sometimes think perhaps we shall not meet again.” And they never did. The heart-broken young widow for a time had consolation in her little son Freddy. A very poignant description of the widowed Isabelle and her little son is contained in the book, “Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters and Journals.” Louisa and her father, along with most of the other intellectuals of New England, had been staunch supporters of John Brown, and after his execution Isabelle and Mrs. Brown were invited to visit the Alcott home at Concord. A tea was given in their honor, and Louisa reported in a letter to her sister: The two pale women sat silent and serene through the clatter; and the bright-eyed, handsome baby received the homage of the multitude like a little king, bearing the kisses and praises with the utmost dignity. He is named Frederick Watson Brown and is a fair, heroic-looking baby, with a fine head and serious eyes that look about him as if saying, ‘I am a Brown! Are these friends or enemies?’ I wanted to cry once at the little scene the unconscious baby made. Someone caught and kissed him rudely; he didn’t cry, but looked troubled and rolled his great eyes anxiously about for some familiar face to reassure him with its smile, When he was safe back in the study, playing alone at his mother’s feet, C. and I went and worshipped in our own way at the shrine of John Brown’s grandson, kissing him as if he were a little saint, and feeling highly honored when he sucked our fingers or walked on us with his honest little red shoes, much the worse for wear. The younger woman [Isabelle] had such a patient, heart- broken face, it was a whole Harper’s Ferry tragedy in a look. When we got your letter, Mother and I ran into the study to read it. Mother read aloud. As she read your words that were a poem in 17
  21. 21. their simplicity and (newly married) happiness, the poor young widow sat with tears rolling down her face; for I suppose it brought back her own wedding day, not two years ago, and all the while she cried the baby laughed and crowed at her feet as if there was no trouble in the world. But even little Freddy was taken from Isabelle, for the child sickened and died in 1863 when he was only 4 years old. His little headstone is in our North Elba Cemetery. I have seen portraits of Isabelle in middle age, when she was living in Wisconsin, had been married many years to her second husband, a nephew of John Brown, and had two daughters. She was a stolid, placid, serene-looking woman, with no mark upon her face of the terrible tragedy of her youth. Archibald seems to have been one of the few Thompsons who suffered little of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He was a rollicking, adventuresome young man who married late in life and was a notable axeman and woodsman in his later years. He went to California in the Gold Rush of 1849. The story is told that, one day, his mother sent him down to the spring for water. He filled the bucket, suddenly set it down and took off for the gold fields on the spot, without saying goodbye to his family. A couple of years later he returned to North Elba, went first to the spring, filled the bucket he found there, strode to the house, opened the door and said, “Hello, Ma. Here’s your water.” That is part of the story of the Thompson family, which came here in 1824 and has endured until today. There are a lot of other interesting stories behind all those tombstones. I wish I had time to tell them all. We are very greatly indebted to the handful of families like the Bennets, the Osgoods, the Thompsons, and the Averys of Averyville, who stubbornly clung to the soil of North Elba while all others deserted it, who endured the terrible hardships of pioneer life and kept our history and town alive while others passed it by. But suddenly in the 1840s, North Elba found new life. A second tide of immigration swept in upon Gerrit Smith’s offer for sale of the lands he had inherited from his father, Peter Smith. As you all know, about 1846 Smith also founded a Negro colony here as a humanitarian project. Within 10 years the experiment proved a failure, due to the harsh climate. The project did, however, serve to draw the attention of John Brown, who moved his family to North Elba in June 1849 and resided here the better part of 10 years, using the place as a planning base for his abolitionist activities. 18
  22. 22. It is not my intention to dwell very long on the story of John Brown and the Negro colony. It is too well known to all of you, has been written about ad infinitum and is still being written about. This episode has been stressed out of all proportion by historians, but we must admit it has given us a great deal of fame. And whatever each of us may think of John Brown’s character, good or ill, we can all agree that his name has become a household word throughout the world, and a symbol of freedom and of the dignity and rights of all men. This is now one of the world’s great shrines, this simple, gaunt little house with its back to the west wind and looking out over the great Plains of Abraham of our past. We are lucky to have this important historical attraction in our town. Its importance will increase rather than decrease as history moves on. The new wave of settlement was again made up of staunch farmers of New England heritage. They came mostly from Keene and Jay and the villages bordering Lake Champlain. They had all had a hand in developing Essex County from the start, and the rigors of North Elba did not faze them in the least. There came names like Nash and Brewster, Hinckley and Huntington, Washburn and Blinn, Scott and Davis, Ames and Lyon, Peacock and Merrill, names that are still with us. By 1850 our population had again reached 200, almost the same as it had been 40 years before. At this time we were wholly a farming community, but the rudiments of the tourist trade were in evidence with the building of the first inns on Old Military Road, Scott’s and Osgood’s, followed by Lyon’s, the old stagecoach stop, which is still standing. Writers, artists, hunters, fishermen and professional people, heeding rumors of Elba’s wild and primitive beauty, began to visit the area, and after the Civil War they came in great numbers. Our modern history was about to begin. If I seem to skip over the Victorian Age and treat it lightly, there are several reasons. First, it is fairly recent as our history goes, and most of you are familiar with it. It has been fully dealt with in the history books — in fact, it is the only era of our human history that has been written about. Secondly, it was a time of such tremendous growth that it is hard to single out this or that personality or event. And third, it is the period that I personally like least of all — and I will be very frank about it. I think it’s because I would not have wanted to live in Lake Placid during the last 30 years of the 19th century or the first 10 years of this one. It was, very plainly, at that time one of the ugliest villages on the face of the earth — and this despite the great hotels and summer homes that were being reared, and the tremendous influx of the wealthy and aristocratic. We are apt 19
  23. 23. to think of early villages as having great charm and natural beauty. This was not so of Placid. If you have seen as many photographs of this era as I have, you will know what I mean. The village was almost completely denuded of trees. They had all been cut down. Signal Hill, Grand View Hill, even the Lake Placid Club area, all stand out bare as billiard balls, raw and ugly and windswept. Even the background of the mountains cannot soften the harsh lines of the new houses and hotels. There were board sidewalks on Main Street, and the first wooden buildings were ugly and tasteless, typical Adirondack architecture. They remind me of a stage set of Matt Dillon’s Dodge City and the Long Branch. Actually, the village today is far lovelier than it was then, and a vast improvement. But, no matter. Lake Placid in those days became established as one of the great resorts of the east, the playground of the wealthy and prominent. We are particularly indebted to two families of the second migration who made this so, the Nashes and the Brewsters. It is their vision that can be said to have shaped the golden age of hotels. Joseph Nash’s Red House and Benjamin Brewster’s Lake Placid House were the first inns in the village, after 1850, and Nash was responsible for the first of the Stevens Houses, which were made so famous by the Stevens brothers, John and George. Had these men been content to remain farmers, it is safe to say we would not have come so far so fast. Indeed, it can be said that Joseph Nash was the creator of Lake Placid village. He owned most of the land, he wanted to see it developed, and he did a very great deal to hasten its development. The beautiful little Nash Red House that we all knew and loved stood for many years at the foot of Stevens Hill as a symbol of Lake Placid’s past glory. It is our very great loss that it was not preserved. And then we know that with the advent of the Lake Placid Club in 1895, the novelty of a winter sports program was introduced to the North American continent, and from this period the growth and fame of the village as a winter sports resort was rapid, leading to its selection as the site of the third Olympic Winter Games. So we reach the end of our travels. We’ve come a long way together. Our journey took us over a billion years, from the lunar landscape of a great mountain island in primeval seas, to a land of glittering glaciers, then a frozen tundra, the hunting ground of the Mohawk, a lonely frontier farming settlement, an iron-works town, and a land all but abandoned for 25 years. Then again a farmer’s town, and a luckless Negro settlement with John Brown. Then the first ripple of the tourist trade that, in a short 50 years, swelled to a gigantic wave. The golden age of the great hotels, the rich man’s 20
  24. 24. playground, one of the most exclusive resorts on the continent, the cradle of winter sports, the Olympics, and on down into recent modern times. This is the bounty of our history: that it is infinitely rich and varied and vigorous, and it is uniquely our own. For there is no other history like it in all the world. 21
  25. 25. History of the village of Lake Placid THE TEXT OF A SHORT BOOKLET PUBLISHED BY THE LAKE PLACID-NORTH ELBA HISTORICAL SOCIETY The village of Lake Placid, noted summer and winter resort, 1,967 feet above sea level at its highest elevation, is situated in the scenic “High Peak” area of the Adirondack Mountains in Essex County, New York. It lies on the shores of lakes Mirror (formerly Bennet’s Pond) and Placid, and is surrounded by the vast Adirondack State Park lands. Origin of the name Lake Placid is unknown. Its first appearance was on a map of Township 11, Old Military Tract prepared by Stephen Thorn, State Surveyor, in 1804. This being the earliest survey of the township, the lake was undoubtedly named by the first settlers, who were then in residence. The social and economic evolution of this village is closely correlated to that of its township, North Elba, and must be considered an integral part of the latter’s history. Lake Placid lies in the northern center of the town, which occupies a lofty plateau ringed by the highest summits of the Adirondacks, including Marcy (5,344 feet) Algonquin of the McIntyre Range (5,112 feet), and Whiteface (4,672 feet). Formed during the infancy of the planet Earth, in the Pre-Cambrian period, the Adirondack massif is classed as one of the oldest mountain systems in the world, and its ancient rocks are of more than passing interest to both scientist and rock hound. North Elba was traditionally the site of a Mohawk Indian summer village before the advent of the white man, and numerous arrowheads and other artifacts unearthed over the years confirm the legend. The first white men to visit it were probably soldiers of the Crown during the French and Indian wars, and later wandering trappers who harvested the town’s teeming beaver population. Actually, for centuries the entire Adirondack area had been the exclusive beaver hunting grounds of the Iroquois confederacy. Just prior to the Revolution some Adirondack tracts (not within North Elba) were deeded out by the Crown and Indian treaty. After the Revolution, title to the remaining lands passed into the sovereign State. North Elba was first included in Albany County, then Charlotte, Washington and Clinton counties in succession, and 22
  26. 26. finally Essex. After the formation of Essex County in 1799, North Elba was pert of the Town of Jay, and then Keene, until 1850. In 1781 the legislature passed an act to raise a militia for border defense on bounties of the State’s unappropriated lands. This led to the definition and a rather superficial survey in 1787 of the “Old Military Tract” which now is included as parts of Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. North Elba, with an official area of 153.5 square miles (14 miles long and 11 miles wide), is contained in Townships 11 and 12 of the Old Military Tract, as surveyed by Thorn in 1804 and 1805. No claims being filed for bounties in this wild, inaccessible area, the tract was ultimately thrown open for sale to the general public. Access to the remote North Elba area was gained, evidently before 1800, over the Northwest Bay-Hopkinton road (Old Military Road), which led from Westport on Lake Champlain to Hopkinton, St. Lawrence County. Contrary to popular belief, the road never saw military use. Probably first known as the Northwest Bay Road, it later was popularly referred to as Old Military Road for the tract through which it passed. The road was built by private owners of the great Macomb’s Purchase to the west for commerce with the Champlain basin, and was not acquired and improved by the State until 1810. Parts of its original course are still in use for public travel. It was the first road to traverse the Adirondack wilderness. Settlement at Lake Placid was commenced in 1800 by Elijah Bennet of Orwell, Vermont, a Revolutionary War veteran of the Continental Army who was wounded in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Bennet (who gave his name to Bennet’s Pond, rechristened Mirror Lake in the early 1870s by Miss Mary Monell) occupied and farmed Lots 279 and 280 of Township 11 within present village limits until his death in 1830. Shortly after his arrival, other New England farmers moved in rapidly to form a community on the fringes of the present village. Among these were Isaac Griswold, Theodore and Jonathan Bliss, Jonathan Jenkins, Daniel McArthur, Jeremiah and Charles Needham, Ebenezer Mack, James Porter, Josiah, Daniel and James Wilson, and the Dart family. Early settlers Joseph Chubb and Daniel Ray gave their names to the Chubb River and Ray Brook. Some of the pioneers were squatters and never bought the land they farmed, but many did obtain Patents from the State. By 1810 population was 200 and a school and church services had been established, Fannie Dart was the first schoolteacher, Cyrus Comstock, an Essex County Congregational circuit rider, the first minister, and the first death that of Arunah Taylor, who perished by cold in the woods. 23
  27. 27. At this time a substantial iron works was constructed on the present Lower Mill Pond, with two forges, numerous buildings, gristmill and saw mill. Operated by the Elba Iron and Steel Manufacturing Co., with a capital stock of $100,000, it was mainly the creation of State Comptroller Archibald McIntyre. The settlement then became known as Elba, the origin of the name being the island of Elba, a rich source of minerals from ancient times. Other early names for the isolated mountain outpost were Great Plains, Plains of Abraham and Keene Plains. During the War of 1812 several Elba men enlisted for military duty and one, Wilson, was killed in action during the Battle of Plattsburgh. Growth continued until 1816 when two misfortunes led to a general exodus. The iron ore mined at Cascade Lakes had proved inferior in quality and the Elba Iron Works was then forced to purchase its raw material at Arnold Hill mine in Clinton County. For the purpose of transporting ore on sleds in the winter season, a road was built to Wilmington over the Sentinel Range about 1812. The whole operation proved too costly and in 1817 the works shut down, leaving many without employment. The unusually severe weather conditions of 1816 (known as “the year without a summer”), which brought ruined crops and near starvation, also contributed to the town’s abandonment. Following this, in 1817, Peter Smith of Utica, a partner of John Jacob Astor in the fur trade, and father of the noted abolitionist Gerrit Smith, purchased extensive lands in the town from the State. For some reason as yet unknown, few lots were sold out by him, and from 1820 to 1840 probably not more than ten families at a time, engaged in farming, occupied North Elba. These included a few long-term residents, namely, Iddo Osgood, who came in 1808, Simeon Avery, founder of Averyville, who came in 1817, Jacob Moody, who settled the Saranac Lake end in 1819, and Roswell Thompson, who arrived in 1824 and was a son-in-law of early settler Jonathan Jenkins. Moody and Thompson descendants still reside in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. A second tide of immigration was initiated in the 1840s, due in part to Gerrit Smith’s sudden offer for sale of his inherited lands. Among the arrivals who were to contribute much to local history were Remembrance Nash and his sons Timothy and Joseph, Thomas, Jackson and Benjamin Brewster, Horatio Hinckley, Alonzo Washburn, Joseph and William Peacock, Martin Lyon, James Merrill, Roswell Parkhurst, Nelson Blinn, Robert Scott and Hiram Brown. 24
  28. 28. In 1846 Smith also founded a Negro colony in the town as a humanitarian project, by giving away lots to free Negroes of the North. Within several years the experiment failed and but a few Negro families stayed on, including Epps and Appo. The project did, however, serve to draw the attention of John Brown, of Harper’s Ferry fame, who wished to instruct them in good farming practices. Brown moved his family to North Elba in June of 1849 and resided here the better part of ten years, using the place as a planning base for his abolitionist movements. Two of his children were married to children of Roswell Thompson (Ruth to Henry Thompson, and Watson to Isabelle Thompson), and two Thompson boys, Dauphin and William, were killed in his Harper’s Ferry raid. His hanging in 1859 and subsequent burial at North Elba focused national attention on the town and gave it considerable notoriety, and the Brown farm and grave two miles south of Lake Placid, now a state historical site, is an important tourist attraction. Iddo Osgood had opened the first inn to cater to travelers before 1833, and in 1849 this became the site of the first town post office, presided over by Iddo’s son Dillon as postmaster. The mail had previously been delivered by post rider. Osgood’s inn was later taken over and improved by Martin Lyon and became a well-known stagecoach stop. By 1850 the rudiments of the tourist trade were in evidence and a second hostelry was in business, owned by Robert Scott. This later was expanded and became famous as the Mountain View House, a favorite stopping-off place of Governor Horatio Seymour. Writers, artists, hunters, fishermen, mountain climbers and professional people, heeding rumors of its wild and primitive beauty, began to visit the area. In this year Elba was set off from Keene as a separate township with John Thompson, another son of Roswell, as first Supervisor. The inhabitants, having learned of a second Elba in Genesee County, added North to the name to distinguish the two. The 1850 census recorded 210 people living in the town, about the same as the 1810 count. Up to this time there had been no settlement around lakes Placid and Mirror, aside from Elijah Bennet’s early tenure. In 1850 the main roots of the present village were laid down with Joseph Nash’s first purchase of large tracts on the west shore of Mirror. These lands, including all of Grand View Hill, today constitute the main business section and hub of activity from Signal Hill down to the Central School. The Nash farm home, built in 1852, familiarly known as the “Red House,” began to cater to summer vacationists and became known far and wide. 25
  29. 29. In 1871 the first village hotel, Brewster’s, later called the Lake Placid Inn, was constructed by Benjamin Brewster at the head of Mirror Lake. Though originally a very primitive affair, it grew in size and luxury and attracted many famous names until it burned in 1920. Its erection was followed in rapid succession by Joseph Nash’s Excelsior House (later the Stevens House under the proprietorship of John and George Stevens), Grand View, Allen House and Mirror Lake House, ushering in the golden ago of summer hotels. On the larger lake, Placid, other hotels were built, notably the Ruisseaumont and Westside (now Whiteface Inn), and beginning in 1872 with the building of the Hall, Gray and Sands camps, palatial summer homes began to dot the shores, numbering over 100 by 1910. The Cascade House on Cascade Lake, and Henry Van Hoevenberg’s great log structure at Heart Lake, Adirondack Lodge, were also well- frequented resorts of the period. The latter was destroyed in the great fires of 1903 which scarred many sections of the town. Lake Placid was now established as a major summer resort and playground of the wealthy and prominent. At this time motor and sail boat races and water regattas sponsored by the old Lake Placid Yacht Club were major activities. Steamboat tours were also popular. Some of the early steamers were the Mattie, Water Lily, Ida, Nereid and Doris. In 1895 the renowned Lake Placid Club, founded by Dr. Melvil Dewey, State Librarian and originator of the Dewey Decimal System, opened its doors in a modest farmhouse known as “Bonnieblink.” Over 75 years it mushroomed into a vast resort complex and is still a major factor in village economy. By 1904 it had introduced the novelty of winter sports to the North American continent. From this period, the growth and fame of the village as a winter sports resort was rapid, leading to its selection as the site of the III Olympic Winter Games of 1932. This was the first time the Games had been awarded to the North American continent. The great speed skating era of the village, which brought unprecedented national publicity, lasted roughly from 1910 to 1925. A list of those who have vacationed in Lake Placid over the past century would yield a cross-section of the most eminent names in America. Among the best loved of Lake Placid’s one-time summer residents was the composer Victor Herbert, who wrote a number of his popular operettas at his Camp Joyland. For a time, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, large lumbering operations in the surrounding forests, with log drives on the streams, had a pronounced effect on village life. On Saturday nights when the lumbermen came roistering in, the town took on somewhat of the 26
  30. 30. flavor of Dodge City and the rough Western frontier. During this period lumber camps sprang up, traces of which can still be found in forest clearings, and a small community was established at South Meadows, little evidence of which now remains. Mercifully, passage of the “forever wild” constitutional amendment and further acquisition by the State of extensive forest lands in North Elba silenced the lumberman’s axe. After 75 years of church services held in private homes and schoolhouses, the citizens banded together and raised money for the first formal church building, dedicated in 1875. Known as the “White Church” or Union Church, it served both the Baptist end Methodist denominations and was in general use until shortly after 1915. It was sold to the Grange in 1929. Now it stands idle end empty on the Old Military Road. Commercial enterprise on Main Street commenced in 1878 with Frank Stickney’s store, also housing the first village post office, and swiftly expanded as Joseph Nash released his lands for purchase. On this street and in this era the industrialist Henry J. Kaiser began his career as a photographer. The business section continued to grow and today boasts many retail shops of high quality and national prominence. The early Victorian hotels have vanished and beautiful, modern hotels and motels have taken their place. The village was incorporated in 1900, with John Shea as its first president, and two trustees. Today’s Mayor, Robert Peacock of pioneer North Elba stock, governs with four trustees. The village maintains a municipal electric power plant, and water supply is plentiful. The Town of North Elba, William J. Hurley, Supervisor, controls the Park District which directs the Olympic Arena and handsome new convention hall, municipal Craig Wood golf course, and major sports meets and conventions along with the Chamber of Commerce. Once exclusively the resort of the wealthy and famous, Lake Placid now attracts all classes of vacationists as new modes of access and general prosperity have evolved. Sumptuous camps and estates, quality hotels and courts are supplemented by numerous attractive vacation homes, inns, rooming houses, cabin colonies and motels, offering a wide range of accommodations for conventions and the general summer and winter tourist trade. The railroad, first coming to Lake Placid in 1893, has now discontinued passenger service, and the old station is occupied by the local Historical Society’s museum. Mohawk Airlines at Lake Clear Airport provides daily transport to metropolitan centers, as do major bus lines. There is also a local airport with unpaved runways of 2,500 and 3,500 feet. 27
  31. 31. The Northway has substantially reduced automobile travel time to and from all urban areas. Lake Placid offers some of the finest scenery in North America, every variety of spectator and participant sport, both summer and winter, and has the only bobsled run on the continent. There are three movie houses. a cultural center for music, art and the theatre, and the new $3 million Uihlein Mercy Center, with the most advanced concepts of nursing care and rehabilitation far the aged in the nation. The great new Alton W. Jones Cell Science Center will soon open its doors. A short distance away are the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, a number of other fine ski runs, the World War I Memorial Highway leading to the summit of Whiteface and the entrance trails to the mountains. About 75% of North Elba’s area is owned by the State as part of its Adirondack State Park “forever wild” lands, and the problems of overpopulation and urbanization are nonexistent. Zoning ordinances are strictly enforced and the vigorous watchdog policies of the Shore Owners’ Association have been effective over a period of 77 years in preserving the natural beauty of the island and mainland shores of Lake Placid. 28
  32. 32. A local history primer FROM THE PLACID PIONEER, SUMMER 1969 Your editor, as town historian, receives many inquiries on local history during the course of a year. The following are typical. This feature will appear from time to time in the Pioneer as an aid to the understanding of our roots and growth. 1. When did the first settler arrive in the town of North Elba? Elijah Bennet of Orwell, Vermont, arrived in 1800. He settled on land now within the corporate limits of Lake Placid. 2. Was North Elba ever known by other names? Yes, it was once called The Plains, the Great Plains, the Plains of Abraham, Keene Plains, and lastly Elba. 3. How did “North” happen to be added to “Elba”? When North Elba was set off from the town of Keene in 1849-50, the residents learned there was another Elba in Genesee County, and used the designation “North” to distinguish between the two. 4. Why was the town originally named Elba? The settlement assumed this name from the old Elba Iron and Steel Company, which established a rather large iron works here in 1809. The company took the name from the island of Elba, which from ancient times had been a rich source of minerals. 5. Who was the first supervisor of the town of North Elba? John Thompson, of the pioneer Roswell Thompson family, which settled here in 1824. 6. Did the state of New York build the first road into North Elba — the Old Military Road? No, this was a primitive road built (apparently prior to 1800) by landowners of the great Macomb’s Purchase in St. Lawrence County. It extended from Northwest Bay (Westport) on Lake Champlain through North Elba to Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County. 7. When did the state take over the Old Military Road? The Old Military Road was made a state road by a legislative act of 1810, and was an improvement and alteration of the old road from 29
  33. 33. Westport to Hopkinton. Road work was started by the state in 1810 and completed in 1816. 8. Was the Old Military Road ever used for military purposes during the War of 1812? No, it never saw military use and, contrary to a widespread belief, it was not built by soldiers for use during the War of 1812. 9. If the Old Military Road was not used for military purposes, why was it so called? Because it passed through lands designated as the Old Military Tracts. These were set up by the state as bounty lands for men who would be willing to serve as a militia for guarding the Canadian border. 10. What is the earliest tombstone in the North Elba Cemetery? The earliest tombstone is that of Eunice Needham, a four-year-old child who died here on January 2, 1810. 11. Was this the first death in the town? No, the first to die was Arunah Taylor, who perished by cold in the woods. 12. What was the first inn or boarding house to cater to tourists or travelers in North Elba? Iddo Osgood’s on the Old Military Road. It apparently occupied the site of the later Lyon’s Inn, now owned by Guy Haselton, and was in existence as early as 1833. Iddo Osgood settled in North Elba on March 4, 1808. 13. When was the first post office established in the town of North Elba, and who was the first postmaster? November 19, 1849. The first postmaster was Dillon C. Osgood, born in North Elba in 1819, son of Iddo Osgood. 14. Was there ever a permanent Indian settlement in the town? No, but by tradition there was a large Indian summer village here. From arrowheads and other Indian relics collected there in the past, the area of the Rollie Torrance farm appears to have been the location. 15. Is there any truth to the legend that Major Robert Rogers, of the famed “Rogers’ Rangers,” destroyed this summer village at North 30
  34. 34. Elba in the absence of warriors — and that on their return the Indians pursued Rogers and gave him battle on the banks of the Bouquet River? No one has ever been able to authenticate this obscure tradition. No account of it appears in Roberts’ “Journals,” first printed in 1765. 31
  35. 35. Dates in Lake Placid- North Elba history CIRCA 1965; UPDATED THROUGH 1981 The date when this “history calendar” was compiled is uncertain — no date was written on the copy in Mary’s files — but my guess is that it was made in 1965 and updated periodically until around 1981. The last-dated entry is for April 25, 1965. Another entry refers to the tenure of a local politician as extending through 1981 — but no mention was made of that same politician’s election in that year to a higher position, one in which he served until 1995. Yet another entry refers to the “new” Whiteface Inn of 1915 as “the present building,” but that building was demolished in 1985. — L.M. JANUARY January 1, 1937 The United States government inaugurated house-to-house mail delivery in Lake Placid. Timothy Fitzgerald and Jack Shea were the first carriers. January 5, 1907 The first Lake Placid Board of Trade was organized, with George A. Stevens the first president. January 6, 1919 The great Main Street fire of Lake Placid occurred on this date. Four wooden business buildings on the north end of the street were burned to the ground. Mrs. Charles Buck fell four stories to the Mirror Lake ice and died of her injuries, and four others were severely injured. Mrs. John Crowley threw her baby 2½ stories. The child landed in a snowbank and survived. It was the worst fire in the history of the business section. January 16, 1932 The Olympic Arena, built for the III Olympic Winter Games, was officially opened and dedicated at an evening ceremony. Ground had been broken for the structure on August 31, 1931, and the huge building was completed in less than five months, just in time for the Winter Games. 32
  36. 36. January 18, 1935 The A&P ad in the Lake Placid News featured some food prices that are almost unbelievable today. Butter was 33¢ a pound, sugar 48¢ for 10 lbs., bread 9¢ a loaf, flour 21¢ for 5 lbs., and 2 lbs. of coffee for 35¢. January 24, 1939 The Devlin Block at 2541 Main Street, housing apartments and a restaurant, was destroyed in a three-alarm fire. Twelve people escaped from the burning building. A fire had previously gutted the interior in 1926. Built in 1903, the Devlin Block was one of the pioneer structures on the east side of Main Street. It was formerly the Town Clock Livery Stable. In its early years it housed from 30 to 40 horses and vehicles to transport visiting notables about the village of Lake Placid. January 26, 1924 Charles Jewtraw, a native of Lake Placid, won the 500-meter speed- skating race in the First Winter Olympics, held at Chamonix, France. He received the first gold medal ever awarded at an Olympic Winter Games. January 30, 1935 A birthday ball marking President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 53rd birthday was held at the Olympic Arena, sponsored by 10 local organizations. A birthday square dance was also held at the Grange Hall. Proceeds were donated to the Infantile Paralysis Fund. This became an annual affair held not only in Lake Placid but throughout the nation during President Roosevelt’s lifetime. FEBRUARY February 3, 1914 Lake Placid’s very first Mid-Winter Carnival opened and continued for three days. Elaborate events planned by the Board of Trade and widely advertised were witnessed by large crowds. The railroads gave special rates to those coming from the cities. The program included a parade of decorated floats, toboggan and speed-skating races, horse racing on Mirror Lake and folk dances by school children. February 4, 1932 Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt officially opened the III Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. The first event held that opening day, 33
  37. 37. the 500-meter speed-skating race, was won by Jack Shea of Lake Placid. February 4, 1951 The Placid Memorial Hospital [now Adirondack Medical Center- Lake Placid], one of the finest equipped in the North Country, opened its doors to the public. It was built at a cost of $636,000, largely contributed by the public. February 7, 1922 The Lake Placid Hardware Company was started this date. The business was originally the partnership of William Hovey Sr. and Luke Perkins Sr. It has been housed in the same building since its beginning in 1922.1 The firm installed the first oil burner in the village, in the residence of Matthew Clark Sr. on Wilmington Road. February 9, 1935 The first radio broadcast from a racing bobsled was made at Mount Van Hoevenberg by Eugene Darlington, a General Electric engineer. The broadcast was aired over Schenectady radio stations. Such a broadcast had been suggested for previous races in Lake Placid and Europe, but radio engineers had said it could not be done. February 10, 1932 Hubert and Curtis Stevens, Lake Placid natives, won the gold medal for the two-man bobsled race in the III Olympic Winter Games, held at Lake Placid. February 10, 1954 The first Pilgrim Holiness Church, which stood on the site of the present church on Sentinel Road, was destroyed by fire. The church, completed in 1902, was formerly St. Hubert’s Episcopal Church. The building had been sold to the Pilgrim Holiness congregation in 1927. February 11, 1915 The first North Elba Town Hall, which stood on the site of the present building, burned to the ground. It was a steel-coated structure originally erected in 1903. The fire was discovered at 5:30 p.m. as 1 The Lake Placid Hardware Store, 2487 Main St., was first run by Frank Walton, who had moved the business from Mill Hill in 1906 to the desanctified St. Agnes Church building. The hardware was closed in 1990. Part of it became a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream store. As this note is being written in the summer of 2004, a developer has bought the building and is altering it in such a way that its original shape is unrecognizable from the exterior. 34
  38. 38. the Women’s Club was preparing a banquet in the building. At 10 p.m. the clock and fire-bell tower crashed through the roof to the Opera House below. No town records were lost, as they were housed in a fire-proof vault. February 12, 1932 Despite evident anxiety on the part of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt rode the last mile of the Mount Van Hoevenberg bob run during the III Olympic Winter Games. The sled was piloted by Henry Homberger, an Olympic medalist from the Saranac Lake Red Devils. February 13, 1914 An earthquake caused buildings to tremble for several seconds all over Lake Placid. The shock was most severe in Dr. Jackson’s office, cracking the walls and causing many objects to crash on the floor. February 14, 1925 A brilliant fancy-dress ice carnival and parade of floats took place on Mirror Lake, with an exhibition of figure skating. Prizes were awarded for individual costumes. The prize for the most artistic boy was awarded to George Hart (now Dr. George Hart) for his Dutch Boy costume. February 15, 1918 The second Lake Placid Board of Trade was organized, with F.B. Guild as president. This organization was the predecessor of the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, which later evolved into the Lake Placid-Essex County Visitors Bureau. The first Board of Trade was formed on January 5, 1907, but ceased to function in 1916. February 18, 1926 The first airplane to fly into Lake Placid in the wintertime landed on Mirror Lake. A big orange and yellow Curtiss biplane, it was equipped with skis. Winter guests enjoyed the unique thrill of ski- joring behind the air monster. February 19, 1919 The original George & Bliss boathouse, shop and garage, along with many famous speedboats, were consumed by fire. The buildings stood on the site of the present Lake Placid Marina, on Paradox Bay. 35
  39. 39. February 19, 1931 Miss Nellie LeRoux (later, Mrs. Leo Dashnaw) and Milford Dietz, star skater of Saranac Lake, were crowned King and Queen of the annual Like Placid Winter Carnival at the Palace Theatre. Jack Shea, retiring 1930 Carnival King, presided at the coronation. February 21, 1919 The first U.S. Eastern speed-skating races awarded to Lake Placid were held on Mirror Lake. This was the biggest skating meet held in the United States that year. Every senior event was won by Lake Placid’s Charles Jewtraw, the new star of the speed-skating world. February 22, 1922 On this day ground was broken for the erection of a new building at 2421 Main Street to house the meat market of Tobin and Webb. February 22, 1927 Lake Placid’s first coronation of a King and Queen of Winter was held on Mirror Lake. On this day also, in 1935, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard, of radio fame, were crowned King and Queen of Winter by Lowell Thomas. Nelson and Hilliard later became famous on TV in the “Ozzie and Harriet” serial. February 25, 1918 The famous pioneer Henry Van Hoevenberg died at Lake Placid. In 1880 he had opened his famous log hotel on Heart Lake, known as Adirondack Lodge, which burned down in the great forest fire of 1903. An inventor who held 100 patents, he later became the first postmaster and telegraph operator at the Lake Placid Club. He was famed for the suits he wore, made entirely of leather. The bobrun mountain, Mount Van Hoevenberg, is named in his honor. MARCH March 5,1850 The electors of the new town of North Elba, which was cut off from Keene on December 13, 1849, met at the Little Red Schoolhouse to organize the town. John Thompson was elected the first supervisor, Dillon Osgood was elected town clerk and justice of the peace, and Simeon Avery was also elected justice of the peace. Martin C. Lyon was elected “overseer of highways.” 36
  40. 40. March 20, 1922 Thomas F. Roland, father of Peter Roland, purchased the Homestead Hotel from Charles Green. The Roland family operated this hotel for over 50 years. The famous old Homestead stood on the site now occupied by the Hilton. March 23, 1943 A bill authorizing the building of a ski center on Whiteface Mountain after the war was passed by the state Assembly. APRIL April 2, 1946 A wrecking crew started dismantling the Lakeside Clubhouse at the Lake Placid Club. April 10, 1929 Lake Placid was awarded the III Olympic Winter Games by the International Olympic Committee at Lausanne, Switzerland. Godfrey Dewey of Lake Placid was the village’s sole delegate. April 12, 1925 The first mass was said by Father Daniel E. Cahill in the new brick St. Agnes Catholic Church at the top of Stevens Hill (now called Signal Hill). April 23, 1905 The second St. Agnes opened its doors, and the first Mass was celebrated. This was a white wood building that stood on the site of the present church. The first St. Agnes, built in 1896, is now the Lake Placid Hardware building.2 April 25, 1965 The last passenger and mail train of the Penn Central Railroad arrived at Lake Placid, and service was discontinued. April 30, 1940 The village board of trustees held a hearing for the budget for the coming year. The budget was set at $59,000 for all expenses. Twenty years later, in 1960, the budget was $654,000. [In 2005, the village budget was $4.9 million.] 2 See earlier footnote in this chapter re. Lake Placid Hardware. 37
  41. 41. MAY May 4, 1909 The Bank of Lake Placid was instituted and started serving the people of Lake Placid. May 6, 1935 The cornerstone of the new $300,000 addition to Lake Placid High School [the north wing] was laid. Sealed in the stone was a collection of articles that may prove interesting to future generations, including III Olympic Winter Games material, 1934 coins, and school yearbooks and programs. May 6, 1952 A violent twister whirled through the upper part of the village, across Mirror Lake and through the Northwood School area, causing $25,000 in damages. A plate-glass window in a drugstore was shattered, a glass-enclosed porch at the rear of a restaurant was demolished, and a Main Street retail building lost half its roof. May 7, 1854 Henry Thompson of North Elba reported that the ground was still frozen hard, the ice was still on Lake Placid, and one of his roosters froze to death during the night. May 9: John Brown’s birthday John Brown, the famous abolitionist, was born on this date in 1800. On May 9, 1922, the first annual pilgrimage to his grave at North Elba took place, with a large gathering of people from all over the United States to honor his birth date. On May 9, 1935, about 2,000 people attended the unveiling of the bronze statue of John Brown and an African-American boy at the Brown farm and grave. Conservation Commissioner Lithgow Osborne accepted the statue on behalf of the state of New York. Lyman Epps Jr., a Lake Placid man who had sung at Brown’s funeral in 1859, again sang at the unveiling. May 10, 1916 The Bank of Lake Placid moved into its new home, the present [NBT Bank] building on Main Street. The structure was a year in the building. May 16, 1936 The cornerstone of the present Lake Placid Post Office was laid by Mayor George C. Owens, preceded by a parade on Main Street led 38
  42. 42. by the Lake Placid High School band. Postmaster Fred Dennin was chairman of the program. May 20, 1884 Joseph V. Nash, founder of Lake Placid village, died. The Nash farm had been subdivided and developed, becoming most of the upper part of the village, and his farm home — known as the Red House — had been the first inn for tourists in what is now Lake Placid. May 20, 1909 The famous old Whiteface Inn burned to the ground. A new hotel was erected on the site and opened in the summer of 1915. [That building was demolished in 1985 to make way for a condominium development.] May 23, 1883 The first Lake Placid Post Office was established, and was located in Frank Stickney’s store at 2431-2433 Main Street. Mr. Stickney was the first postmaster. During the Klondike craze, Mr. Stickney left Lake Placid for the gold regions. Word was later received that he had been devoured by wolves. May 26, 1891 The second post office was established in what is now Lake Placid village. It was called “Newman Post Office” in honor of Miss Anna Newman, and was located in George White’s general store, now the Station Street Grill, at the corner of Station Street and Sentinel Road. The Newman Post Office was discontinued in 1936 and combined with the Lake Placid Post Office. May 26, 1924 Victor Herbert, the famous composer of operettas, died suddenly in New York City. He had been a summer resident of Lake Placid for 25 years, and his Camp Joyland, where he composed much of his music, is still standing. May 29, 1926 The Palace Theater first opened its doors. It was erected and equipped at a cost of about $100,000. 39
  43. 43. JUNE June 3, 1908 On this day the Great Forest Fires of 1903, which raged through the Adirondacks for six weeks, came into the Lake Placid area. Starting at Tableland Farm on Bear Cub Road,3 a fire raged southward to Heart Lake, South Meadows, and up into the Klondyke region, exploding a cache of dynamite stored there for lumbering. This fire ended in the destruction of the famous Adirondack Lodge on Heart Lake, the largest log structure in the world. Another fire swept from Keene through Cascade Lakes Pass, destroying the forests on Pitchoff and Cascade mountains. Miraculously, the Cascade House hotel between the lakes was spared. June 7, 1912 Local citizens were startled by the news of one of the most daring burglaries ever perpetrated in Lake Placid. During the night, burglars had entered the local post office, blown open the safe and made away with booty of more than $2,000. The thieves were never caught. June 10, 1909 Lake Placid High School entered its first track team into competition in a meet with the Hopkins School, now known as Northwood School. Hopkins won the meet. June 13, 1903 The old Mountain View House on the Cascade Road was destroyed by fire. Robert Scott, who began keeping a wayside inn in North Elba around 1850, founded the historic summer resort hotel. New York Governor Horatio Seymour was a frequent visitor at the Mountain View House. June 19, 1927 The first service was held at St. Eustace Episcopal Church on Main Street, conducted by the Reverend Sidney Thomas Ruck. This church originally stood on the Dr. George Hart property at the corner of Victor Herbert Road and Lake Street [formerly Harbor Lane], where it was known as St. Eustace-by-the-Lakes. The building was taken apart, the windows and timbers were moved to the new site, and the church was rebuilt as the present St. Eustace. 3 Now called Bear Cub Lane, County Route 26. 40
  44. 44. June 24, 1916 The present North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid was dedicated and opened to the public during the high school commencement exercises, which were held in the Town Hall’s new auditorium. This building replaced the first town hall, which burned down in 1915. June 26, 1923 The taxpayers of Lake Placid village, in a public referendum, voted to buy the Ackerman property on Mirror Lake. This property was converted into our present village park, public bathing beach and tennis courts. June 30, 1939 Babe Ruth of baseball fame stopped off at Lake Placid and played a round of golf on the Whiteface Inn golf course. During his stay in town he visited local merchants and called on James Searles, golf pro at the Lake Placid Club. JULY July 1, 1933 A new 18-hole golf course was opened at Whiteface Inn. Two years in the making, it was designed by John R. Van Kiek, prominent golf architect of Rye, New York. July 2, 1909 One of Lake Placid’s largest summer hotels, the Ruisseaumont, burned to the ground. It was never rebuilt. The hotel stood on a tall hill overlooking Lake Placid, now the site of the Heimerdinger family’s “Humdinger Hill” estate. July 3, 1919 A huge Essex County “Welcome Home” celebration began at Lake Placid for the soldiers, sailors and marines of World War I. Events included a regatta of boats and floats on Mirror Lake, a street parade, dances and ball games. July 3, 1951 Parking meters were installed for the first time on Main Street in Lake Placid. July 4, 1886 The new Stevens House, replacing the first one destroyed by fire, opened its doors. Located on Signal Hill opposite St. Agnes Catholic Church, it became one of the most famous resort hotels in America 41
  45. 45. under the ownership of George and John Stevens. It was torn down in 1947. July 4, 1946 A welcome home celebration in honor of the World War II veterans of Lake Placid was held. The program included a band concert parade, baseball game, fireworks and a dance on the tennis courts of the Grand View Hotel. July 4, 1948 The first Fourth of July Lake Placid Invitational Ski jump was held at Intervale, sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. July 9, 1933 Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, paid a visit to Lake Placid. She called at the John Brown Farm and later drove her car up the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway. July 10, 1811 The Elba Iron and Steel Manufacturing Company was incorporated in Albany. This company operated a large iron works at Lake Placid between 1809 and 1817. It was Lake Placid’s first industry, and it was from this corporation that the town received its name. July 11, 1899 The first post office at the Lake Placid Club was established, called the Morningside Post Office. The first postmaster was Henry van Hoevenberg, for whom the bobrun mountain was named. This made a third full-time post office in Lake Placid; it was the only small village in the country with three post offices. July 13, 1942 King Peter II of Yugoslavia arrived at the Lake Placid Club with a large party of personal aides for a 10-day stay at White Birches cottage. July 17, 1923 The first operation was performed in Lake Placid’s first formal hospital. The case was an emergency — appendicitis — and Drs. d’Avignon and Holcombe did the operating while young Dr. Sam Volpert gave the anesthetic. 42

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