Tag Archives: Historic Preservation

New Exhibit: Photography of the Landmarks of New York City


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On December 14, the New-York Historical Society will present The Landmarks of New York, an exhibition exploring the history of New York as revealed by its historical structures.

The exhibition’s 90 photographs of landmarks are critical documents that chronicle the city’s journey from a small colonized village to a city at the center of the world from the 17th through the 20th centuries and includes the newly acquired set of 30 photographs by Christine Osinski, Steven Tucker, Reuben Cox, Julio Bofill, Michael Stewart, Michael Stewart, Andrew Garn, Richard Cappelluti, Adam S. Wahler, Eric C. Chung and others. Continue reading

Roberta Brandes Gratz Recieving Landmarks Lion Award


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The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, buildings and open spaces, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 5 to advocate, author, journalist and urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz.

Participating in the ceremony will be Ronald Shiffman, co-founder of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, Richard Rabinowitz, president of the American History Workshop, and Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Center for the Living City. Since 1990 the Landmarks Lion Award has honored those who have shown outstanding devotion in protecting New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. Continue reading

NYC Documentary Film Screenings Set


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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) of New York City will host a film series, “Across New York”, that highlights stories from across the City’s five boroughs on how the city came to be and the people who helped shape it.

All screenings will be held at the TRIBECA Film Center at 375 Greenwich Street, NYC; tickets can be purchased online. The cost is $5 per program for Friends of HDC, Seniors and Students, and $10 for the general public.

AT HOME IN UTOPIA
Thursday, November 1, 6PM
The acclaimed documentary At Home in Utopia. was written and directed by Michal Goldman. This film tells the story of the Eastern European, Russian and Polish garment workers who joined together to create a “Bronx Bohemia” known as the Coops. This cooperative apartment complex was built in 1925 on the corner of Allerton Avenue across from Bronx Park. The Coops were what some would consider the ideal community; based on the philosophies of communal living and designed with the ideas of a bucolic setting in mind, the Coops were a “dream home” to many. The residents wanted a design aesthetic that was uncommon in New York at the time; bright, airy and spacious, which was representative of the change that was sought to promote public health, safety and a sense of community. The residents of the Coops were also politically active as advocates for racial equality during a time of severe distress, violence and social injustice. Join us for this special screening and panel discussion of At Home in Utopia, where several of the former residents will discuss their lives in the Bronx. Directed by Michal Goldman, 2008, 133 minutes.

FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEATMARKET
Thursday, November 8, 6PM
Join the Historic Districts Council for a night of nostalgia as we view the documentary film Florent: Queen of the Meat Market. Florent, a 24-hour diner located in the Meatpacking District, was once the place to be. This legendary spot attracted artists, club-kids and the blue-collar workers who sought decent French-American cuisine at the wee hours of the morning, but who mostly flocked to
this space because of the energy the owner, Florent Morellet, exuded and brought to the establishment. Florent was also one of the leaders of the movement which successfully got the Gansevoort Market neighborhood landmarked in 2003. Florent was unfortunatelyforced to close down in 2008 due to rent increases and development in the area that would not allow for the business to sustain itself. Following the screening, Florent, will discuss his time owning his successful namesake business in an area that has drastically changed over the past twenty-five years as well as how he has remained an activist and leader within his community and beyond. Directed by David Sigal, 2009, 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is not rated.

CONEY ISLAND
Wednesday, November 14, 6PM
“Coney Island” is an award-winning documentary that delves into the extensive history of this seaside community, from its discovery in the 17th century to its ongoing and sometimes heartbreaking evolution. The film illustrates the affinity that the public had for Coney Island as a summer getaway, as evidenced by the 250,000 people that once populated its shores
on any given summer weekend. Also covered in the film is the development of the three major amusement parks (Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland) that once inhabited Coney Island, along with the sometimes bizarre and fascinating stories that go with them. There will be a discussion following the film. Directed by Ric Burns, 1991, 1 hour.

This series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by Council members Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile,
Stephen Levin and Rosie Mendez.

William Seward Biographer Visting Seward’s Hometown


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Walter Stahr, author of a new biography on one of America’s greatest statesmen, William Henry Seward, will be visiting Florida, NY (Orange County) on October 14. The visit will include a lecture and book signing at the school founded by William Henry’s father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, which today still bears his name, the SS Seward Institute.

This will be Stahr’s third visit to Florida. His first two visits took place while he was researching his latest book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, which took four years to complete. The biography, released in September, has already received highly favorable reviews. Continue reading

Jay Heritage, County Reach Agreement on John Jay Property


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Responsibility for the full restoration and long–term maintenance of the historic John Jay property in Rye, NY, the boyhood home of a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), under terms of a license agreement announced late last week by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino at a news conference at the site.

According to a statement issued to the press the agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. “It will also advance shared goals of New York State, Westchester County and non-profits like JHC to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public,” the statement said.

“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay property, saving it from demolition,” Astorino said. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”

The property is located adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy. Westchester County and New York State jointly own 21.5 acres of the site; the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel, which contains the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father grew up.

The new license agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501(c)3 and also apply for grants. Tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations will be accepted to help restore the historic meadow, the gardens, the apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries.

At a press conference at the site, Astorino was joined by Rye City Mayor Doug French and Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), as well as New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth to announce the agreement, which must be approved by the county’s Parks Board, the Board of Acquisition and Contract, and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.

Most recently in 2009, it became 1 of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said the JHC’s Clary.

Deputy Commissioner Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”

The main terms of the agreement are:

· The county and state, as owners, will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for the use of the property. This will give the JHC the ability to raise funds to operate the park and make improvements.

· The county and state will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property.

· The property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the general public. The JHC may establish admission fees, subject to approval by the state and the county consistent with county fee structures.

· JHC will create and pay for a specific maintenance and restoration schedule detailed in the agreement, dealing with landscape, invasive plant removal and restoration of historic structures, among other things.

· The county will continue to police the property.

· The county will no longer spend approximately $25,000 annually to maintain the property, and JHC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and the capital improvements that the property requires.

· The county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. Any environmental remediation required as a result of JHC’s restoration work will be the responsibility of JHC.

Photo:Top Row: JHC Board members Emma Hanratty, Jim Kelsey (JHC Vice President,) Lauren Lambert, Michael Kovner (JHC Vice President); Bill Mooney, Senior Assistant to County Executive, Joe Sack ,Rye City Council

Second Row: Deputy County Executive, Kevin Plunkett, Frank Sanchis, World Monuments Fund and JHC Advisory Board, JHC Board member Cathy Rosenstock, Julie Killian, Rye City Council and Tom O’Handley, Audubon NY

Third Row: JHC Board Member Charlene Laughlin, Anne Van Ingen, Preservation League of NY State, Patricia Mulqueen, Con Edison Community Relations Westchester, JHC Founder, Kitty Aresty, Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye

Front Row: Tom Alworth, New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, Suzanne Clary, JHC President and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.

Art and Preservation at the Park Avenue Armory


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Armory Armoire. Carol Hepper

Architectural white elephants are a specialty of large urban areas, and armories form a particular subset of these: rife with possible new uses, dauntingly expensive to reclaim. In recent years New York City’s Park Avenue Armory Conservancy has refurbished its 1881 building and turned it into an exciting new space.

Its theatre programs have featured amazing performances with audiences moving on rails for Die Soldaten, or viewing the vast Peter Greenaway multimedia interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Dance companies, concerts and artistic programs are flourishing and a partnership with the Williamsburg, Brooklyn Art and Design High School gives high school students access to a historic preservation program. Continue reading

Bridges And New York History


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New York State has approximately 17,000 highway bridges. They are essential for traveling around our state and connecting our communities. About 37% are “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient,” according to DOT, a reminder of the need for continuing investment to maintain valuable resources.

Bridges – old and new – are part of community and state history. The story of three historically significant bridges shows various connections to history. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Bowling Alone in 2012


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“Harlem Loses Its Bowling Alley” was part of the headline for an article in the New York Times on August 6, 2012. The article told the story, not of some hallowed bowling alley from the time when life was simpler, but from 2006 when with great fanfare and former President Clinton in attendance, Harlem once again had a bowling alley decades after its last one closed in the 1980s. Continue reading

Lake Placid Olympics 1932 Rink Renovation Underway


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Renovation to the facade of the Lake Placid Olympic Center’s 1932 rink is underway. The contractors, J.T. Erectors, are restoring the structure to its original appearance in the 1930’s. Some of the work includes the installation of windows that have been enclosed by brink since prior to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

The revitalization project is being financed through the remaining funds from a grant through Empire State Development, which funded the construction of the newly completed Conference Center at Lake Placid.

 When complete the 1932 facility, along with its conventional use for skating and hockey and akin to the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, will join the conference center to provide nearly 100,000 square feet of convention space. The fresh look will complement the conference center, which opened for business May 2011.

Secret Lives Tour: One Wall Street, Manhattan


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The Historic Districts Council is presenting a series of tours highlighting some of the most original and rarely-seen spaces in New York. The Secret Lives Tours take attendees inside some of the most unique and spectacular landmarked spaces in the city, both big and small, to learn about their history and
preservation.

On September 19, at 5 pm, the group will tour three spaces in the Art Deco tower at One Wall Street.  Built across from Trinity Church as the Irving Trust Building, the limestone skyscraper is a private wonder occupied today by The Bank of New York Mellon. 
Visitors will explore the bank’s museum, 49th floor reception room, and The Red Room,
with its red and gold mosaics. The museum’s artifacts illustrate the architectural and institutional history of Bank of New York Mellon in Lower Manhattan. On the top floor, gilded shells from the Philippines decorate the angular ceiling of the three-story reception room. The adjacent observation decks provide splendid views in four directions. 
The Red Room next to the New York Stock Exchange greets the bank’s clients. Named for an intricate mosaic design glittering along the walls and ceiling, the room was designed by artist Hildreth Meière (1892-1961) with architect Ralph Walker of Vorhees, Gmelin and Walker. She is regarded as the foremost muralist of the Art Deco style in the 1930s. Her daughter Louise Meière Dunn and granddaughter Hildreth Meière Dunn will join the tour as special guests and speak about the International Hildreth Meiere Association, the group they lead to preserve her artistic legacy.
Louise Meière Dunn is the only child of a remarkable woman – Hildreth Meière, an artist who forged a successful career in architectural art, a field then dominated by men. Louise is President of the International Hildreth Meière Association, founded to conduct activities to promote and perpetuate the
legacy of Hildreth Meière. She has been speaking on the work of her mother since 2003 at venues in New York and internationally.

Hildreth Meière Dunn, granddaughter of the artist, is the official photographer for the International Hildreth Meière Association. She was the principal photographer and photography editor for both the exhibition and catalogue Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière. She is strongly committed to the permanence of the artistic legacy of Hildreth Meière, in the preservation and re-location of decommissioned works and in maintaining the quality and accessibility of the visual record of the artist’s entire body of work through the dissemination of photographs to numerous publications.

Christine McKay, historian of BNY Mellon, will guide visitors through the historic building. Price: $100 Friends of HDC, $125 for Guests Location and directions for this tour will be provided upon registration. Business or business casual attire is requested. To purchase tickets, call 212-614-9107, ext. 14 or e-mail ashedd@hdc.org. Advance reservations are required and space is limited to 25.

Peter Feinman: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2012)


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Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, in the fair village of North Tarrytown (later to be renamed Sleepy Hollow), there was a beacon of light in the river that ran two ways.

Located a quarter mile from the shore of village on the river, this lighthouse had been built in 1882-1883 by strong and sturdy men back in the day when strong and sturdy men built and made things along the Hudson River and before it became a valley of ruins with a book of a similar name. Continue reading

Annual Fulton Chain of Lakes House Tour by Boat


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Whether a historic site or a spectacular new design, individuals with noteworthy homes will host tours during the Annual Fulton Chain of Lakes House Tour by Boat to benefit View, the former Old Forge Arts Center.

Beginning in Old Forge, participants will ride party barges from house to house as they explore local waterways and get the rare chance to view inside the beautiful homes along them. The House Tour will be held on Saturday August 18. Departure will be from the Old Forge Town Docks, at Lake View Ave, in Old Forge, NY promptly at 10am and will return in the middle of the afternoon. To ensure a smooth departure, guests should arrive early, beginning at 9am.
This year’s House Tour By Boat will feature six great camps and homes including Berkeley Lodge, which was once President Benjamin Harrison’s Adirondack Residence. What appears to be just a boathouse from the lake is actually just the beginning of Berkeley Lodge. Former President Benjamin Harrison (of Indianapolis) purchased the 20 acre peninsula between First and Second Lakes in 1895 from Dr. William Sweard Webb.

Berkeley Lodge was designed by a Herkimer architect, Charles E. Cronk, and built in time for Harrison’s return in the summer of 1896 after his 2nd marriage to Mrs. Mary Lord Dimmick. The Lodge living room is flanked by twin octagonal towers at either end. The exterior of Berkeley was sheathed with spruce logs at the bottom and shingles below the eaves. Attached to Berkeley was a cottage containing a kitchen, dining room, and office. The camp also had a house for guides and a boathouse.

In 1910 the property was sold to a New Yorker and then later in 1915, it was purchased by Horace S. deCamp. Horace owned the Harrison property until his death in 1954 and the property was sold at auction and purchased by the Cohen family. The Cohen family sub-divided the property into several parcels before selling Berkeley Lodge. The Lodge, and several other buildings survive to this day. The great camp is owned by Bob and Diane Wallingford, who have renovated a portion of the lodge that was added on in the 1950’s by the Cohens, made the icehouse/carriage house into a bunkhouse, added a garage and renovated the boathouse keeping all of the same flooring and beams.

Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets are $65/$50 for View members. This is a rain or shine event which typically sells out, so call View to reserve your ticket at 315-369-6411. For further questions email Info@ViewArts.org, or visit www.ViewArts.org.



Photos: Above, Berkely Lodge today, and below, at the time Harrison owned it.

Odetta, Richard Wright Being Honored Today in NYC


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Today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012 the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center in New York City will unveil new cultural medallions for two pioneers in the fields of literature and music.

First at 11:00am, in collaboration with the Fort Greene Association, author Richard Wright will be celebrated with a medallion unveiling at 175 Carlton Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Then at 2:00 pm their will be an unveiling of a medallion commemorating the life of Odetta, the legendary singer, songwriter and political activist, at her longtime residence, 1270 Fifth Avenue, in East Harlem. The public is invited to both events.

Odetta: The Voice of the Civil-Rights Movement, 1930-2008

Odetta Holmes, born on December 31, 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama was a true activist, performance artist and musician. Her powerful image and robust voice was and continues to represent the politically driven folk-music of the 1950’s and 1960’s. As an African-American female performance artist during a time of political and racial upheaval, Odetta was a leader and voice for the civil rights movement; marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and performing a show for John F. Kennedy. The ability she had to convey meaning and life into her music inspired others to follow in her pursuit of fairness, equality and justice.

Author Richard Wright, 1908- 1960

Born in Mississippi, Richard Wright spent the majority of his childhood living in poverty in the oppressive racial and social atmosphere of the south. Wright escaped familial and social constraints by immersing himself in the world of literature, and became one of the first great African American writer’s of his time. Richard Wright relocated to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood and was living here in 1938 when he drafted his first novel, Native Son. He wrote several controversial novels, short-stories and semi-autobiographical accounts that reflected the brutalities often inflicted on the African American people of the south during this period. Wright eventually left New York City for Paris. His grave is located in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

About the Ceremony and Cultural Medallion Program

Distinguished scholars, artists and elected officials will be participating in both of the cultural medallion ceremonies. The Richard Wright program will include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, celebrated playwright Lynn Nottage, Paul Palazzo of the Fort Greene Association, musician and author Carl Hancock Rux, and Howard Pitsch will read a message from Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright, who currently resides in Paris. Pianist Dave Keyes will perform Odetta’s signature piece, This Little Light of Mine, at the Odetta ceremony.

The Cultural Medallions are a program of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the HLPC, created the Cultural Medallions program, and will lead the ceremony. The HLPC has installed almost 100 medallions around the city to heighten public awareness of the cultural and social history of New York City.

A Bronx Preservation Volunteer Opportunity


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The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum is looking for people who are up for an adventure – an adventure in preservation. For the past four years, the museum has partnered with Adventures in Preservation to recruit volunteers to spend a week doing hands-on restoration work at the National Historic Landmark in the Bronx. This year, volunteers will be restoring interior wood shutters. The adventure begins Monday, July 30 and lasts through Friday, August 3.

During five days of work, the two groups hope to complete as much work as possible and move the project one step closer to completion. Volunteers of all ages are welcome; no experience is necessary, just a willingness to work. A conservation expert will teach and guide the volunteers as they work.

The week also includes behind-the-scenes tours of the museum and lunchtime lectures on local history. The $295 fee covers lunches and snacks, materials, insurance and instruction. Full details and registration information are available at online.

Volunteers have contributed significantly to restoration projects at Bartow-Pell since 2008. They restored the walkways in the historic terrace garden, learning the traditional art of galleting as they reversed decades of inappropriate repairs. In 2011, they turned to the interior and began work on the shutter project that continues this year.

Bartow-Pell, an 1840s Greek Revival mansion, is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, operated by the Bartow-Pell Conservancy, and is a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City. It is located at 895 Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, New York. For more information, see www.bpmm.org.

Adventures in Preservation is a non-profit organization connecting people and preservation through enriching experiential programs. Participants have the opportunity to travel, experience their destination, and learn hands-on skills while preserving a valuable community resource. Learn more about how AiP volunteers combine their power with the strength of local communities to make a difference at www.adventuresinpreservation.org.

Photo: Volunteers remove layers of paint as part of the shutter restoration process (courtesy Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum).

Secrets Beneath the Walls of Fort Ticonderoga Tours


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Have you ever wondered what lies beneath Fort Ticonderoga’s stone walls? Fort Ticonderoga’s curator, Christopher Fox will lead explorations of Fort Ticonderoga’s hidden past to see remarkably preserved evidence of the Fort’s original structures and catch a glimpse at some of the systems that keeps the Fort running today.

This special behind-the-scenes tour will take visitors into five areas of the Fort not accessible to the general public. In these areas visitors will see original French stone foundations of barracks buildings and cavernous spaces beneath the parapet walls preserving clues to how the Fort was built over 250 years ago and then preserved over the last century.

This hour and a half tour is scheduled at 1:00 pm each Thursday in July and August. Space is limited, advanced reservations are recommended or tickets, as available, can be purchased on the day of the tour at the Guest Services Desk in the Log House Welcome Center. Price is $35 per person with regular general admission.

The tour will begin at the Guest Services Desk located in the Log House Welcome Center. Climbing stairs and passing through narrow spaces is required on this tour and it is not handicap accessible or appropriate for those who have difficulty walking.

Fort Ticonderoga was constructed beginning in the fall of 1755 by the French to protect the outlet of the La Chute River and the short overland portage between Lake Champlain and Lake George. It was captured by the British in July 1759 who held it until its capture by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys in 1775. The British recaptured the Fort in July 1777 and then abandoned it later that fall. After suffering the ravages of time and the elements, the Fort was restored by the Pell family beginning in the spring of 1909.

Preserving Camp Santanoni Great Camp Tour


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There will be a tour of Adirondack Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb (Essex County), NY this Thursday, June 28, 2012. Santanoni was built for Robert and Anna Pruyn of Albany beginning in 1892. The estate eventually included 12,900 acres and nearly four-dozen buildings.

Led by AARCH staff, the tour will include stops at the Gate Lodge, Santanoni’s 200 -acre farm, and the Main Camp on Newcomb Lake where we’ll see the ongoing restoration of the camp complex and learn first hand about the conservation planning and restoration work.

The Santanoni Preserve is a State Historic Site, on the National Register of Historic Places, and a National Historic Landmark. AARCH has long been associated with the protection, interpretation and restoration of this regional treasure.

The round-trip walk is 9.8 miles on a gently sloping carriage road. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $20 for members and $30 for non-members. There will be another tour on September 14.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the nonprofit historic preservation organization for New York State’s Adirondack Park. AARCH was formed in 1990 with a mission to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondacks unique and diverse architectural heritage.

Photo: Camp Santanoni Gate Lodge in Newcomb, NY, built in 1905 and restored in 2007.

Roller Coaster Landmark: The Comet Marks 85 Years


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Summer means warm weather and visits to the amusement parks. This year, The Comet, a classic wooden roller coaster and without a doubt the most beloved ride at the Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, NY, turns 85. The Comet is such an icon that it was named a Roller Coaster Landmark three years ago by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

“The Comet is truly a special roller coaster that was able to get a ‘second lease on life’ (or in this case, a third as it was part of a previous roller coaster at Crystal Beach). The coaster is fast paced from beginning to end, featuring tremendous ‘air-time’ (that ‘out of your seat feeling’) that coaster lovers craze the most,” explains Dave Hahner, the Historian with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization. “We are indeed fortunate to be able to still ride the Comet years after its original park had closed forever.”

“The Comet continues to be our most popular attraction at the Park,” explains Rebecca Close, Communications Manager for the Six Flags Great Escape. “Each year there are over 400,000 rides on the Comet, above all other rides. Another measure of the Comet popularity is that it has been the setting for many weddings for park goers and coaster enthusiasts.”

The Comet was first constructed in 1927 by legendary coaster builder Harry Traver. It was first named the Cyclone, and was thought by many to be the most intense coaster ever. “A nurses station was built near the exit of the ride to assist riders who may have been overcome by some of that ride’s intensity!” said Hahner. It had a laminated wood track and a steel superstructure, but was considered to be a wooden coaster by definition. The Cyclone’s first home was Crystal Beach Amusement Park, a short distance from Buffalo, NY in Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada. The Cyclone enjoyed a robust life until 1946 when decreased park patronage and increased ride maintenance led the Park to dismantle it.

Crystal Beach then contracted with the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) and Herbert Schmeck, considered one of the best coaster designers of all time, for the design and construction of a new, larger coaster. To save money, the new coaster was built with steel salvaged from the Cyclone. It featured a low-profile layout, which saved on materials, and produced the unbridled speed that riders crave. Unveiled in 1948 as The Crystal Beach Comet, the new coaster was thought by many to be the best of its kind because of its classic profile and thrilling interplay of G-forces.

When Crystal Beach Amusement Park closed in 1989 after its 101st season, enthusiasts mourned the loss of The Comet. A month later, the coaster was rescued from destruction when legendary Charles R. Wood, owner of The Great Escape Fun Park in Lake George, NY, purchased The Comet for a record $210,000.

After a lengthy approval process and several years of storage, reconstruction of this world-class wooden coaster began in earnest in October, 1993. More than 49 tractor-trailer loads of steel crossed New York state, while more than 1,000 concrete footers were poured at The Great Escape. The complex process of sandblasting, restoring, priming, and reassembling thousands of steel subassemblies was handled entirely in-house by park personnel. Hahner explains, “the ride reopened to the public in June of 1994 and is considered a great act of historic coaster preservation, which is also one of the reasons that ACE chose to classify it as a landmark roller coaster.

“This is our signature attraction and each year we invest significant dollars to keep it running smoothly,” said Close. “In the last two years we have replaced a significant portion of the wooden track to maintain its fantastic ride.”

The Comet stands 95 feet tall and reaches speeds up to 60 mph never ceasing to surprise riders with its gut-wrenching hills and drops along its 4,197 foot long track. The Comet is an icon, a classic, a universal favorite that perennially is chosen as one of the top ten roller coasters in the world.

“There are currently 28 roller coasters designated as an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark, with a 29th, Whizzer, an Anton Schwarzkopf steel coaster at Six Flags Great America, to be dedicated in August at our national ACE Preservation Conference,” said Hahner. “The purpose of the landmark award is to make the public aware of the historical significance of those rides that we feel are important to the evolution of roller coaster design or of special historical significance to the amusement industry.”

“We are honored to have such a high profile and historical attraction on our Park. The Great Escape loves to hear the feedback from park guests each year,” said Close. “Guests from all over the world come to ride the Comet and tell us about their first trip, when it was here or while it was at Crystal Beach. The Comet means a lot to The Great Escape and we look forward to providing many more years of thrills at The Great Escape.”

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga in the Upper Hudson Valley.

Ulster County: The Many Lives of Selah Tuthill’s Gristmill


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In 1788, the same year as France was moving closer towards revolution and the United States Constitution was being ratified, a young man made his way to the area that would one day bear his name. His name was Selah Tuthill. He founded what would become known as the Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. Once the mill started churning out stone ground flour, it would do so continuously for over two hundred years until its second life as a restaurant and distillery. Continue reading