Category Archives: Natural History

Fort Ticonderoga King’s Garden Season Begins


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birdbath iris king and poppiesFort Ticonderoga’s King’s Garden will present a new spring event “Friendship & Flowers” on May 17, 2014. This pre-season event for gardeners and their friends offers continental breakfast, a horticultural talk, giveaways, a garden tour, and plants to take home. Attendees will get a first look at the King’s Garden which opens to the public on May 24.

“Early season blooms of lilac, crabapple, columbine and forget-me-not will tempt your senses,” Heidi Karkoski, Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Horticulture, says adding that the event will be an opportunity to “learn about plans for the season and what new annuals and perennials will be added to our designs.” Continue reading

Shad: The Founding Fish Returns


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Lenapeshad[1]There was a time when Lenape fishermen – or women, since they did much of the fishing in that culture— would use nets woven from branches, saplings or wild hemp to catch huge numbers of shad in the Delaware River.  Much of their catch would be preserved by a unique smoking process that would keep them edible through the winter.  The Lenape designated March as the month of the shad and celebrated with a festival that often lasted six weeks or more.

The early European settlers learned the importance of shad from the Natives and quickly picked up the technique of smoking them to provide food for the harsh winters when game was scarce.  Some historians, including William E. Meehan writing in Fish, Fishing and Fisheries of Pennsylvania in 1893, have noted that virtually every Colonial era homestead in a broad area bordering the Delaware River “had its half-barrel of salted shad sitting in the kitchen with some choice pieces of smoked shad hanging by the kitchen chimney.” Continue reading

Master, Mentor, Master:
Thomas Cole and Frederic Church


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church-catskillcreek-1847-washingtonctymusThe new exhibition of landscape masterpieces by Frederic Church and Thomas Cole is now open at the Thomas Cole Historic Site, featuring twenty artworks from 1844-1850, focusing on the early work of Church when he began studying with Cole in Catskill, New York.

The exhibition, on view through November 2, 2014, includes plein air studies by Church when he was an 18-year-old apprentice as well as large, highly finished and stunningly skillful paintings that were completed just a few years later. Compare Church’s work to Cole’s from the same time period as they covered the same territory together. Continue reading

Talk: Proposed Dams on The Upper Hudson River


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Proposed Upper Hudson River DamsMike Prescott often jokes that “someone has to be the dam historian,” because that’s what he’s become – the historian of the various dams in the Adirondacks.

Now the Warrensburgh Historical Society is hosting a presentation by Prescott, “Proposed Dams on The Upper Hudson River” on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm in the Richards Library Community Event Room, Warrensburg, NY. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Museum Hosting Planting Days


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Finger Lakes MuseumThe Finger Lakes Museum is preparing for the opening of its Discovery Campus grounds in Branchport this July with three community planting days – May 10, 17, and 25 from 10am to 2pm.

Plant a single tree, a mini-grove, a section of a perennial garden, or shrubbery – any and all help during those days will be greatly appreciated.  Community members, friends, and volunteers are all welcome.  Continue reading

Remembering Past Adirondack Floods


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1979 EtownFloodNYHRefrigerators can float. There are many things that can be learned from flooding, and that’s one tidbit that stuck with me from when my parents’ house took on about two feet of water more than a decade ago. When the water subsided enough to safely wade across the road to their front door, I went alone to assess the damage—but the door wouldn’t budge. Finally, it began to give an inch or two at a time.

When I managed to squeeze in, I was more than a little surprised at what I found. As the water had deepened in the kitchen, the refrigerator toppled and then somehow floated through the kitchen doorway into the house entrance, blocking the front door. The rest of the first floor was similarly wrecked—everything was sopping wet and coated with mud. Continue reading

4-20: When Grass Grew in North Country Streets


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2 devharvIt’s that time of year again, when 420 events are in the news. The war on drugs that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s has been declared a failure by many officials, a sentiment echoed in recent years by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. But America’s war on drugs (if you don’t count Prohibition) began in the 1930s with the focus on marijuana.

The principal salvo in the new war was 1937’s Marihuana Transfer Tax Act, which placed strict controls on the growth and use of hemp. Many states adopted their own restrictive laws. At that time, the North Country was a pot-lover’s paradise―except that there weren’t that many pot lovers in the area to enjoy it.

With new rules in place, lawmen immediately began literally weeding out this nefarious plant that was destroying society (according to dubious … perhaps “doobie-ous” is more appropriate … testimony before Congress). Continue reading

New York’s Highest Museum Exhibit Wins MANY Award


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MANY Award - Whiteface ExhibitThe highest museum exhibit in New York won an Award of Merit in the ‘Innovation in Interpretation’ category from the Museum Association of New York (MANY). Awarded at MANY’s annual conference on March 31st, Whiteface Mountain: The Exhibit was recognized for its engaging programs that enlivened participation in the community. There was a large and diverse pool of nominations this year. Other winners include The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.

A total of 15 projects, ranging from exhibitions to educational programs, received recognition. Eight of these received an Award of Merit, the highest honor, given to institutions or individuals whose projects represent outstanding contributions to the field and overall innovation and excellence. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Bring Back the Mastodons!


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Peale's Exhuming the MammothIt is time for New York State to boldly go where no state has gone before and go back to the future to resurrect the now extinct mastodon. The effort to bring the mammoth back from extinction recently was the cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Russia and Japan are working to create mammoths. New York should not be left behind in the de-extinction race. I hereby challenge Governor Cuomo to launch a new “Manhattan Project” so we are the first to bring the paleolithic era to life through the creation of Mastodon Park, our own Ice Age animal, the mastodon. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Museum Appoints Executive Director


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Finger Lakes MuseumThe Finger Lakes Museum’s Board of Trustees made a new appointment at its March 18th board meeting. Philip Lentini, of Penfield, who had been serving as the Museum’s Vice President for Advancement since late 2013, was elected to a seat on the board and appointed to the position of Executive Director.

He will be in charge of managing the Museum’s day to day business operations and will continue to direct its fundraising programs. He previously served nine years as a Vice President of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Continue reading

Gotham Unbound:
The Ecological History of Greater New York


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Gotham Unbound Ecological HistoryGotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon & Schuster, June 2014) is Ted Steinberg’s sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth, from Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy.

This is a heavily researched and well-written book that recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation’s population – that’s 64,464 people per square mile.

Steinberg brings a unique view of the metropolitan area, not just one of a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales and blueberry thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught of humanity managed by thousands of ecological actors from Governor John Montgomerie, who turned water into land, and John Randel, who imposed a grid on Manhattan, to Robert Moses, Charles Urstadt, Donald Trump, and Michael Bloomberg. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga’s Dendrochronological Research


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Dendro PavilionFort Ticonderoga has announced that it has received a grant from The Perkin Fund which will support dendrochronological research on the 19th-century Pell house located on the Fort Ticonderoga peninsula.

According to Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO, the grant will provide funding for vital research to help Fort Ticonderoga date the construction of the Pell home, known as the Pavilion. The result of the analysis will help inform the future interpretation and use of the historic structure. Continue reading

History Lecture Series at Whallonsburg Grange


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The-GrangeAn Adirondack history lecture series continues at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, 1610 NYS Route 22 in the Champlain Valley. Presentations on the early settlement, the philosophy and invention of the wilderness ideal, the history of the forest preserve and boats and boating are included in the schedule.

The series “Our Wild Home” will take place on Tuesday nights at 7:30. A donation of $5 is requested, students always free. More information is at www.thegrangehall.info. The schedule of talks is: Continue reading

Environmental History:
The Great Atlantic River Fish Migrations


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Running SilverEver wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.

John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters. Continue reading

Exhibit of Glens Falls Winter Scenes Opens


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South StreetThe Chapman Historical Museum has opened a new exhibit of fourteen S.R. Stoddard original albumen photos featuring local winter scenes.

Included are views of snow-covered streets in Glens Falls as well as two stereo views of Lake George. Titled “Frost Work,” a term used by Stoddard, the small exhibit features images of the 1870s — a time when winter transportation consisted of sleds and sleighs.  Even the horse drawn trolley ran on runners.  Continue reading

NYC’s Water Supply:
An Environmental and Political History


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Empire of Water  - History of NYC Water SupplySupplying water to millions is not simply an engineering and logistical challenge. As David Soll shows in his history of the nation’s largest municipal water system, Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of The New York City Water Supply (Cornell Univ. Press, 2013), the task of providing water to New Yorkers transformed the natural and built environment of the city, its suburbs, and distant rural watersheds.

Almost as soon as New York City completed its first municipal water system in 1842, it began to expand the network, eventually reaching far into the Catskill Mountains, more than one hundred miles from the city. Empire of Water explores the history of New York City’s water system from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, focusing on the geographical, environmental, and political repercussions of the city’s search for more water. Continue reading

Groups Oppose Proposed Easing Of Cell Tower Rules


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Cell Towers on Prospect MountainA coalition of 10 New York environmental and historic preservation organizations yesterday urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to take away the rights of state and local governments to regulate the size, shape and visibility of communications towers – especially in scenic and historically significant areas.

The groups sent a joint letter to the FCC, urging federal officials to recognize that scenic beauty and historic significance are the backbone of local tourism.  They asked the FCC to reject the notion that expansions of 10 percent or more in the height or width of cell towers would have no impact on the environment or historic preservation. Continue reading

Ageless Billy Spinner, Folk-Weather Specialist (Part 2)


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02 Spinner NYHSpinner was known for his long-range predictions, but when he nailed the latest one―the mild winter he predicted came true, and six inches of snow fell in central New York in March 1937―he gained many new admirers.

On the heels of that success, Billy predicted that July would be hot and dry, and no rain would fall until the second Friday of the month. When a light rain fell early Saturday morning, he commented, “I was off just a couple of hours.” The summer played out as predicted, and his star continued to rise. Continue reading

The History, Sea Life, and Environment of NY Harbor


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Heartbeats in the MuckThe award winning book, Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor has been updated and reissued in paperback. In Heartbeats, author John Waldman covers the arc of history of New York Harbor from its pristine origins through the ravages of the industrial era to its remarkable comeback today.

First published in 1999, the volume won a New York Society Library Award. The revision includes an epilogue that brings the story of the Harbor to 2012, the 40th Anniversary of the critically important Clean Water Act, and includes the ambitious ongoing oyster restorations; alien species such as Asian shore crabs, zebra mussels, and snakehead fish; the effects of climate change; rehabilitation of the legendarily polluted Gowanus Canal, and even a return of bald eagles to Manhattan. Waldman’s work on New York Harbor also resulted in a Norcross Wildlife Conservation Award and, in 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Conservation Award. Continue reading