Category Archives: Natural History

The Woodlands Historic Site of Philadelphia


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ben_franklins_worldWilliam Hamilton built The Woodlands mansion in Philadelphia in the 1760s. The estate stands as a tribute to the significant architectural and botanical contributions Hamilton made to Philadelphia and the young United States, including a part in the Lewis and Clark expedition.

This week on the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast we speak with Jessica Baumert, the Executive Director of The Woodlands Historic Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/011 Continue reading

An Update On The Finger Lakes Museum


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Finger Lakes MuseumIn December, The Finger Lakes Museum was awarded two New York State agency grants through Round IV of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. The awards totaled $254,500.

In two separate letters to museum board President John Adamski, Empire State Development President and CEO Kenneth Adams wrote that the Finger Lakes Regional Council had recommended a $200,000 grant award for capital construction work at the museum’s campus in Branchport and an additional $54,500 through its Division of Tourism for marketing and promotion through the state’s I Love New York program. Continue reading

Designate Adirondack Park A National Heritage Area


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Entering-Adirondack-ParkI’ve been to the Rockies, and clearly, a visitor can’t help but be awestruck by their height and views. Yet the Adirondack Park is where I prefer to go.

I’ve had decades of pleasurable visits to the Adirondack Park to hike, climb, ski, canoe, enjoy the scenery and go to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Whether my visit is to recreate or debate park management policy, I’m drawn to the region’s history and ongoing politics as well as its lakes, ponds and rivers. Continue reading

Areial Photos: New York Rural History From Above


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aerial photograph centered in Syracuse Onondaga County New York 1938Aerial photos can be helpful research tools for historians. Google Earth, which provides access to a vast collection of aerial photography stretching back 20 years, is just a sampling of the many aerial photos that have been made since French balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as “Nadar”, took a photo over Paris, France in 1858.

Much of New York Sate was photographed with the camera pointing straight down, an oblique presentation that is less useful to some historians. An effort to capture all of New York in an orthophotographic perspective (corrected to a uniform scale) started in 1936 with a contract to C.S. Robinson of Ithaca, NY. These images are particularly valuable resources for historians of all stripes. Continue reading

Philip Terrie On Adirondack History


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Philip G. Terrie, author of the book Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2008). Terrie has been researching and writing Adirondack history since 1971. He is an emeritus professor at Bowling Green State University and has been a visiting professor at SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. He was a consultant to the PBS documentary on the Adirondacks. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
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The Greatest Adirondack Rescue Story


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NYH1A CurtissCondorThis December marks the seventy-ninth anniversary of perhaps the greatest Adirondack rescue story ever. With all the inherent dangers of hiking, rock climbing, and navigating treacherous river rapids by canoe or kayak, this incredible incident, ironically, was unrelated to the most popular mountain pursuits. But when accidents occur while enjoying those pastimes, one factor above all can turn any outing into a life-or-death drama: weather. Continue reading

NYC: Original Central Park Plan On Exhibit


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central park map 1863The Museum of the City of New York has put on public display the rarely seen Greensward Plan for Central Park – the original 1858 design by Central Park superintendent and future leading landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and English-born architect Calvert Vaux that won a public design competition to improve and expand the park.

This four-by-twelve-foot map depicting Central Park’s framework in pen and ink has permanently left its imprint on the park and the visitor experience. On loan from the New York City Parks Department, the Greensward Plan for Central Park is now on view at the City Museum through January 2015. Continue reading

Can You Identify These Photos?


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Fairview home album photo 5 uknown mill complex009An old photo album of the Fairview Home For Friendless Children was recently rediscovered while beginning an inventory process of materials in the Collection of the Town of Colonie Historian’s Office and Historical Society.

In the album were these three photos depicting a deep gorge with either a train or trolley trestle in the background, and a view of a very interesting mill complex that may have existed in the Capital District area.  Continue reading

Kirk Douglas: Amsterdam Native’s 1960 African Safari


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Kirk Douglas in the navyAmsterdam native and movie star Kirk Douglas, who will turn 98 next month, killed a leopard and other big game during a 1962 African safari.

According to an article in the men’s magazine True, Douglas, 46 at the time, said at the end of the trip, “I’m hooked. I don’t know how I got along all those years without hunting.”

History enthusiast Emil Suda, who lives in Amsterdam’s East End where Douglas grew up as Issur Danielovitch or Izzy Demsky, provided a copy of the magazine’s account of Douglas’s safari written by Ralph Daigh. True folded in 1975. A chapter called “Killer Douglas” is devoted to the actor’s hunting trip in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son. Continue reading

Memories of the Way We Were and Are


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Dont ForgetLong time readers of my posts may recall the importance of Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl.” Her explanation of how she originated the idea for the corporate merger is a classic expression of the serendipity of the unexpected juxtaposition leading to thinking.

The eureka moment occurs not when one expects it but when things click in one’s mind. That’s why I enjoy thumbing through a newspaper rather than simply extracting predetermined information from the web – you never know what connections will be made…nor do the editors of the newspaper who are examining each article in isolation. Continue reading

Campuses Celebrate NYS Wilderness Act Connection


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image0035Through the efforts of a statewide grassroots committee, public and private colleges and universities throughout upstate New York have been spending this fall commemorating the Empire State’s role in inspiring federal wilderness preservation.

These activities are occurring in celebration of the anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon Johnson of the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964, legislation that created the legal definition of “wilderness” in the United States and now makes provisions for wilderness management on more than 109 million acres of federal land. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Museum Receives Gift of Land


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Townsend-Grady Wildlife PresserveThe Finger Lakes Museum has more than doubled the size of its campus in Branchport.

Thanks to a generous gift of land donated by sisters Anne Salisbury and Molly Sujan and to a cash contribution from their neighbors Rolf Zerges and his wife Lynda Rummel, the museum now owns the 16-acre wetland adjacent to Crescent Beach at the north end of the west branch of Keuka Lake. The parcel comes with more than 1,400 feet of water frontage on Sugar Creek, which is a navigable inlet to the lake. Continue reading

NYS Open Space Conservation Plan Comments Sought


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NYS Open Space PlanThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) have released the 2014 State Open Space Conservation Plan for public comment.  The plan guides State Environmental Protection Fund investments in open space protection.  Public comments on the draft plan will be accepted from until December 17 and a series of public hearings will be held across the state from October 21 to October 23.

What follows is a recently issued press release: Continue reading

In Change of Course, Finger Lakes Museum Relocates


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Finger Lakes MuseumIn an unexpected change in direction, the Finger Lakes Museum’s board of trustees voted to move the project from its proposed location in Keuka Lake State Park to the site of its Discovery Campus in Branchport.

The resolution was unanimously adopted at a special board meeting on August 12th. According to a statement issued to the press Thursday, the public announcement was delayed while museum administrators discussed the change in plans with government officials, state agencies already funding the project, and current and potential benefactors. Continue reading

Fred Kerslake’s Famous Pig Circus, Part 2


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PB1 FK PosterThe three mains stars hogging the limelight from Fred Kerslake were pigs Jerry, Peggy, and Pete, whose antics were irresistible. Recognizing the possibilities, booking agents sought them for summer tours and winter vaudeville circuits. Rave reviews followed in Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other stops in between. Audiences couldn’t get enough of watching pigs play leapfrog, read, and count―it was both bewildering and hilarious at the same time.

Professionals were taking notice as well. Among them was Germany’s Carl Hagenbeck, who pioneered the displaying of animals in their natural habitats rather than in caged enclosures. Hagenbeck emphasized properly selecting animals with the right temperament for training or display choosing only a few prospects from a large group, and then using what was described as “constant patience, firmness, and kindness” to train them. Still, there’s no denying that whips were used to tap or give a quick sting to animals during training. Continue reading

Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island


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Joey ScavoneLong Island Traditions will present “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” in collaboration with the NY Marine Trades Association “Tobay Boat Show” in Massapequa, New York on September 26 through September 28, 2014. “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” will present to the public first-hand accounts about the contemporary and historic traditions of commercial and recreational fishermen, the factors affecting these traditions and their future on Long Island in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the decline of the bays.

The program is the culminating event of ongoing documentation by Long Island Traditions folklorist and executive director Nancy Solomon. Since 1987 Solomon has been documenting the culture and traditions of Long Island maritime tradition bearers, ranging from decoy carvers and driftwood painters to trap builders, boat model makers and net menders. Continue reading

Fred Kerslake’s Famous Pig Circus


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PA1 Austin & Stone's“That’ll do, pig.” It’s a line I’ve heard more than once from my wife and business partner, Jill (we’re always razzing each other about something or other). It is, of course, the famous line near the end of Babe, a movie we both enjoyed. We’re also fans of Arnold from Green Acres, and of the pigs who played leadership roles in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, Animal Farm. You can see a theme developing here―a bunch of very smart pigs who, in fantasy worlds, did all sorts of things that a reasonable person knows a pig can’t really do.

Can’t really do? Not so fast. Yes, Orwell’s pigs were the smartest animals in the barnyard. Arnold could get the mail and understand English. Babe could herd sheep as well as any sheepdog. But in the real world, the North Country once had something to rival them all. I give you Fred Kerslake’s pigs. Continue reading

ADK 46er History Doc Being Shown In Elizabethtown


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Grace HudowalskiThe Adirondack History Center will conclude its summer lecture series with a showing of the documentary The Mountains Will Wait for You at 7 pm on Tuesday evening, August 26 at the museum in Elizabethtown, NY.

The film tells the story of the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks and a founder of the Adirondack 46ers hiking club. Grace Hudowalski was born in Ticonderoga and recently East Dix, one of the 46 High Peaks, was renamed Grace Peak in her honor.  Continue reading