Tag Archives: Saranac Lake

Adirondack History: A Dogged Pursuit of Justice


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If you like a little humor mixed in when reviewing events of the past, you’ll love this Saranac Lake story from a century ago. It had all the earmarks of a spectacular trial: bitterness between neighbors; a vicious, bloody assault; a fearless victim who nearly beat his attacker to death; two very wealthy opponents; and a pair of noted New York City attorneys handling the prosecution and defense. It was potentially a North Country showdown of mammoth proportions.
Court proceedings were held in the boathouse of Dr. Samuel B. Ward, a founder of the Upper Saranac Association. Ward was famous in his own right as past president of the NYS Medical Society; dean of Albany Medical College, and a 40-year faculty member; and regular Adirondack fishing and hunting companion of President Grover Cleveland.

Judge Newell Lee of Santa Clara was saddled with handling court opponents who were famous, wealthy, and certainly accustomed to getting their way. The defendant, Emil Ernest Gabler, was heir to and CEO of the Gabler Piano Company, one of the top players in the industry for the previous fifty years. The plaintiff was Mrs. Edgar Van Etten, whose husband was a vice-president of the New York Central, president of the Cuban Eastern Railway, and had partnered with John Jacob Astor and W. Seward Webb in other enterprises.
There was no shortage of cash among the participants, and each side hired some of the best legal representation available. Defending Gabler was New York City’s George K. Jack, who had spent many hours arguing cases before the NYS Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Prosecuting on behalf of Van Etten was Lamar Hardy, Corporate Counsel from New York City and a partner in the firm of Bothby, Baldwin, and Hardy.
The makeshift courtroom was filled with an unusual mix of spectatorschauffeurs, maids, groundskeepers, guides, touristsand tongues wagged as the tale was told. Oddly enough, the only one absent from the proceedings was the attacker. By US law, that just didn’t seem right. After all, a defendant has the right to face his accuser.
But this was no ordinary case. Incredibly, the bloody attack had come from the side of the accuser, Van Etten, and it was the defendant, Gabler, who had been attacked. And, despite all those interesting details, the focus of all the attention was on the sole non-attendee, the insidious attacker, identified as … a dog.
In 1911, Gabler and the Van Ettens were not-so-friendly neighbors among the luxurious camps along Hoel Pond near Upper Saranac Lake. For all their wealth, it apparently didn’t occur to them to build a fence. On October 4, Van Etten’s prize French bulldog entered the grounds of Gabler’s camp and attacked his dog.
The chauffeurs from both camps managed to separate the combatants, and Van Etten’s chauffeur retrieved the bulldog to return it to its owner. Gabler, without pause, grabbed the dog, which firmly latched onto his thumb and refused to let go. He reacted by beating the dog over the head.
When Mrs. Van Etten was told of the incident, she went to Gabler’s camp and reportedly said, “I hope you get hydrophobia.” She then filed a complaint with the SPCA, and Gabler was arrested for cruelty to animals.
A few days later the celebrated trial was helda serious case among the wealthy, but conducted to the great bemusement of many spectators. The combatants doggedly argued over points of law as if it were a life-and-death homicide case. And the bitterness that had developed between the two families surfaced frequently during testimony, despite many admonitions from Judge Lee to do nothing more than stick to the issue at hand.
Among the evidence entered was the cudgel (a stick or club) used to hit the dog (it was charged that the dog was “cudgeled”); the dog’s collar; and the extent of Gabler’s hand injuries. An important witness for the defense was the fetching Mrs. Gabler, who testified for nearly an hour.
The prosecution was best served by Van Etten, who was on the verge of tears as she described her prize dog when she saw it, “ … unconscious, with his tongue black and protruding, his body apparently stiffened in death.” The dog did, in fact, survive, but did not appear in court because, as the dog’s attorney stated, “It was feared he might attack his old enemy, Mr. Gabler, in court.”
But alluring as she was, Van Etten’s conduct otherwise did little to help her case, and she was soon in the judge’s doghouse. Her lawyer, Hardy, tried to keep her on a short leash, but to no avail. Displaying little regard for court etiquette, she constantly hounded the judge and witnesses, prompting constant warnings by Judge Lee and both attorneys to remain silent.
Finally, frustrated with the entire process and sensing she was about to lose, Van Etten put her tail between her legs and left the courtroom. She was still absent an hour later when Gabler was acquitted of “cruelly and maliciously beating a prize French brindle bulldog” (brindle refers to the lightly striped fur).
With great interest among the higher breeds of society, the full story was reported on the social pages of the New York Times. Despite all the wealth and fanfare, the case boiled down to common-sense justice voiced by Judge Lee, who said Gabler did, in fact, beat the dog, but only after he was bitten. The entire incident lasted 23 days, which translates to several months in dog years.
Photos: Mrs. Edgar Van Etten; Emil Ernest Gabler; a French brindle bulldog.
Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Saranac Lake’s Hobofest Set For Sunday


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The Fourth Annual Hobofest, an all-day music festival “at-the-tracks” in Saranac Lake NY celebrating railroad culture and the “hobo spirit,” is happening on Sunday, September 2nd. This year’s Hobofest will take place under the “big top,” to assure against the variables of weather, from noon until 11pm. Eat and Meet Grill & Larder will serve local fare, also a children’s activities booth and festival & artist merchandise tables.

This year’s special guest is Washington State legend, Baby Gramps. A former street musician and train buff, Gramps plays antique resonator National Steel guitars, and sings his own unique arrangements of rags, jazz, & blues songs from the 20’s & 30’s, and many originals with wordplay, humor, and throat singing. His appeal is to a wide range of audiences from “jam-band” – having toured with Phish and the Flecktones- to punk to old timey traditional and to kids of all ages. He has performed across the States, Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Several unsigned, fully-realized ensembles, all “invested” in Hobofest, offer distinct takes on roots music: The intricate groove-grass pulse of Big Slyde, this year with the smoky vocals of Hanna Doan. The Adirondack-Brooklyn hybrid, Frankenpine, craft a modern take on bluegrass, with a colorful palette and original voicing. Crackin’ Foxy distinguish themselves with a post-vaudeville vintage of styled song, elegant female three-part harmony, and swinging arrangements. This year’s appearance of the young and grizzled Blind Owl Band, follows their recent romp through the Northeast, diving headlong into the mosh-pit of old-time as dance music.

The day traditionally kicks off with bluesman Steve Langdon hollerin’ and pickin’ ala John Henry against the din of the first arriving train. New to this stage this year are Eddy and Kim Lawrence, with their wry sense of humor, and deft fretwork from the Canadian border, Keene resident Stan Oliva, and Quinn Sands from Cleveland, OH.

50th Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race:Largest Gathering of Adirondack Guideboats Ever?


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On Sunday July 1, 2012 will mark the 50th annual Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race commemorating Willard Hanmer the preeminent Guide Boat builder of his era. The race has been celebrated every year since 1962 on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July.

This year, to celebrate the craftsmanship of this uniquely Adirondack craft, the organizers are planning a display of over 50 guideboats in a guideboat parade on Lake Flower prior to the race. Following the parade will be guideboat, canoe and kayak races.

This year the one-person guideboat race will follow the traditional route on Lake Flower, carry around the dam and down the Saranac River to the Fish and Game Club where there will be food, refreshments ands festivities for the whole family. Canoes and kayaks will be following the one person guideboat course, also going down the river. For those wishing to race in either the guideboat, recreational canoe or kayak classes contact: 50thhanmer@gmail.com.

According to the Historic Saranac Lake Wiki (a great local online history source) Willard J. Hanmer, the son of Thoedore J. Hanmer “began working in his father’s boat shop as a child in about 1910, sticking tacks, caning seats and sanding hulls. He built his own shop in the 1920s.” The guideboat parade will be open to anyone wishing to display their guideboat. Natalie Bombard Corl Leduc, a participant in the inaugural race invites all past participants of the race to row in the parade. For those wishing to display their guideboats or participate in the guideboat parade contact: 50thhanmer@gmail.com.

Historic Saranac Lake Offers Lecture Series


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Historic Saranac Lake announced a new seminar series, titled “History Matters,” to be held in May in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory. The three Thursday discussions will focus on various topics of interest in Saranac Lake’s past.

The talks are presented by Historic Saranac Lake in collaboration with Paul Smith’s College. The series begins on May 17, with “The Development of the APA”, a panel discussion with Sandy Hayes and Steve Erman, moderated by Jim Hotaling. On May 24, the topic will be “History of Homesteading in the Adirondacks,” with Brett McLeod of Paul Smith’s College. On May 31, the theme is “Remembering the Olympics,” a panel discussion with Howard Riley, Jack LaDuke and Jim Rogers.



Three Thursday Discussions beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory, 89 Church Street, Saranac Lake. Entrance is $5 / person, members of Historic Saranac Lake free. Light refreshments will be provided.

Historic Saranac Lake to Hold Annual Meeting


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Historic Saranac Lake will hold its Annual Meeting on November 1 at 7:00 PM, in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory Museum in Saranac Lake. The meeting will feature a presentation of historic films by Jim Griebsch, featuring newly digitized footage of the Trudeau Sanitorium in 1929. The Kollecker film footage is shown courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library.

An independent film and video director, Jim has spent time digitizing, restoring and editing 16mm spools of film from the 1920’s through the early 60‘s which have been archived in the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Adirondack Room.

Born in Saranac Lake, Jim is an award winning producer, director and director of photography with numerous film, television and interactive credits to his name during his 40+ year career. He co-founded and owned Heliotrope Studios Ltd., in Cambridge, Mass. He worked on the feature film Cold River in Saranac Lake. His work has taken him around the world. Jim and his wife Carol have returned to Saranac Lake to live and as he continues to travel to Boston to work with MediaElectric Inc., on a variety of projects.

Jim Griebsch recently joined the Board of Directors of Historic Saranac Lake. In its 31st year, Historic Saranac Lake is an architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from its center at the Saranac Laboratory Museum.

The meeting is open to all members of Historic Saranac Lake and the public at large. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact Historic Saranac Lake at (518) 891-4606.

Enhancing Main St: Making Upper Floors Work Again


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Enhancing Main Street: Making Upper Floors Work Again is a free workshop that will be presented by the Preservation League of New York State on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm at the Saranac Laboratory, 89 Church Street, Saranac Lake, NY.

This program will provide immediately useful information for property owners, developers, and preservation professionals including historic site managers, architects, consultants and accountants dealing with preservation project financing.



This workshop is in very high demand across New York State and this is the only time it is being offered in the North Country in 2011. While the workshop is free, seating is limited, and participants must register by Friday, September 16, 2011 for the 9/20 program.

The workshop’s featured presenters will include:

* Historic Preservation Program Analyst William Krattinger from the NYS Historic Preservation Office, who will discuss the advantages of Historic District designation;

* Joe Fama, architect and Executive Director of the Troy Architectural Program in Troy, who will explain how New York’s building codes and preservation can work together;

* Karl Gustafson of NYS Homes and Community Renewal, who will provide information on the New York State Main Street Program; and

* Gary Beasley, Executive Director of Neighbors of Watertown, who will discuss making the best use of upper floors.

Enhancing Main Street: Making Upper Floors Work Again is presented by the Preservation League of New York State and sponsored by Historic Saranac Lake; Adirondack Architectural Heritage; Empire State Development Corp., NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation; and NYS Homes and Community Renewal.

Historic Saranac Lake Unveiling Photo Exhibit


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On June 22, 2011, Historic Saranac Lake will unveil a new John Black Room Exhibit, “The Little City in the Adirondacks: Historic Photographs of Saranac Lake.” Created in collaboration with the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library, the exhibit features almost fifty framed historic photographs of Saranac Lake residents and buildings during the early part of the twentieth century.

The exhibit portrays a vibrant little city with a prospering and diverse economy. Saranac Lake grew quickly in the early 1900s to accommodate thousands of health seekers that came to the village seeking the fresh air cure for tuberculosis, made famous by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. The exhibit features the unique architecture of the village as well as photos of local residents at play and at work.

The photographs represent only small portion of the rich photo collection of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. Library curator, Michele Tucker graciously loaned the photos to Historic Saranac Lake, and a team of dedicated volunteers has worked to install the exhibit. Many of the photos were originally printed and framed by the late Barbara Parnass, who was one of the founding Board Members of Historic Saranac Lake in 1980.

The photograph exhibit replaces an earlier exhibit on World War I in Saranac Lake. The exhibit will be on display for twelve months. Plans are underway for a new, comprehensive exhibit on Saranac Lake history to be installed in the John Black Room in 2012.

The Saranac Laboratory Museum opens June 22. The public is invited to visit the new photo exhibit and the laboratory museum space during regular hours through October 7, Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 to 2:00, or any time by appointment. Admission is $5 per person, members and children free of charge.

Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Room, Saranac Lake Free Library.

Historic Tour of Saranac Lake Cure Sites


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Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) and Historic Saranac Lake (HSL) are offering a “Pioneer Health Resort Tour” in Saranac Lake, NY on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The tour will be led by Mary Hotaling, former executive director of HSL, and current director, Amy Catania. It will include many of the buildings and sites that made Saranac Lake America’s “Pioneer Health Resort.”

The village’s late 19th- and early 20th-century history is closely tied to the treatment for tuberculosis developed by Dr. Edward L. Trudeau. The tour will include the Trudeau Institute, where we will see the first cure cottage, Little Red, and the bronze sculpture of Trudeau by Gutzon Borglum. We’ll visit the former Trudeau Sanatorium, Saranac Laboratory, the Cure Cottage Museum, and the Béla Bartók Cottage.

The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. Be prepared for uphill walking. The fee is $35 for AARCH and HSL members and $45 for nonmembers. Tour attendees will also receive a copy of Cure Cottages, by Phillip L. Gallos. Reservations are required for all tours by calling AARCH at 834-9328.

Photo: Little Red cure cottage, Saranac Lake.

Farmers’ Museum Exhibit: New York’s Good Eats!


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Do the words “Buffalo Wings” make your mouth water or do you prefer Shredded Wheat? Either way, you can thank New York State for bringing you both of these foods and many others as well. A new exhibition at The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown tells the story of the foods that got their start in New York State. New York’s Good Eats! Our Fabulous Foods opens this Saturday, May 28th.

Several foods commonly eaten everyday across the nation were invented or first produced in New York State. Buffalo wings and potato chips are probably the most famous, but Thousand Island dressing was also created in the Empire State, and celery was first commercially farmed here. The exhibition will profile over a dozen foods – everything from Jell-O to Lifesavers to ice cream sundaes.

“New York has a rich agricultural and culinary history,” says Museum Curator Erin Richardson. “The whole family will enjoy learning about their favorite foods, discovering how they got their start, how they’ve changed, and the impact they have had.” In addition to fun food facts, New York’s Good Eats! will showcase important objects and artifacts, such as the oldest known tomato ketchup recipe, classic Jell-O molds, and an original packing crate for Shredded Wheat.

This new exhibition promises to be popular—not only because of the topic, but also because of how it is designed. “The Farmers’ Museum has developed an innovative, hands-on approach to engage visitors of all ages with this exhibition,” says Richardson. “From recipe sharing to an interactive family guide to trivia quizzes and coloring stations, there is something fun for everyone.”

New York’s Good Eats! Our Fabulous Foods opens Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday, May 28th in the Main Barn of The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. The exhibition will run through October 2012. It is sponsored in part by Price Chopper, The Tianederrah Foundation, WMHT, Savor New York, and The New York State Council on the Arts. Visit FarmersMuseum.org for more information.

Illustration: The Saratoga Specialties Company makes potato chips according to the original recipe used by George Crum. The chips are made by hand and packaged in replica Moon’s Lake House take-out boxes. Ccourtesy of Saratoga Specialties Company.

Wife of Abolitionist John Brown Subject of Performance


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Author-historian Sandra Weber and musician David Hodges will present a dramatic performance of the life of Mary Day Brown, wife of radical abolitionist John Brown.

The Adirondack Museum‘s Cabin Fever Sunday series will return to Saranac Lake, New York on February 27, 2011. “Times of Trouble” with Weber and Hodges will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The time will be 2:00 p.m. The presentation will offered at no charge to museum members, residents of Saranac Village, and children of elementary school age or younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00.

Dressed in period costume, Weber and Hodges will weave narrative and song to share the little known life of Mary Brown. The poignant piece illustrates the significant role this plain woman played as wife of the radical abolitionist John Brown.

The program will present Mary’s early life and marriage as well as later tragedies involving bankruptcy, accidents, and death. The presentation closes with Mrs. Brown’s most difficult “times of trouble” in the aftermath of the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Sandra Weber has spent ten years researching the life of Mary Day Brown.

Weber is an author, storyteller, and independent scholar with special interest in the Adirondacks, Mary and John Brown, as well as women’s history. Her publishing credits include eight books and numerous articles in periodicals such as Civil War Times, Adirondack Life, Pennsylvania Magazine, and Highlights for Children.

In 2004 and 2005, Sandra Weber toured with folksinger Peggy Lynn performing stories from their book, Breaking Trail: Remarkable Women of the Adirondacks.

David Hodges has played guitar and bass for more than twenty years. He has performed with bands throughout New York, Texas and Pennsylvania and recorded CDs with “Mad Factory” and “Evil Twin.” Hodges currently plays with “Mr. Freeze,” a blues-rock band, and accompanies Sandra Weber in folk music performances.