A Shot of Prohibition History: Schroon's The Silverspruce Inn

The 2017 Schroon-North Hudson Historical Society's  Victorian Tea this year promises to be full of fun and surprises. The high Tea, will take place in one of the area’s most famous and history rich bed and breakfasts: The Silver Spruce Inn.

In the 1920a, during prohibition, the Inn was owned by Sallie Miller Smith, well known to enjoy a tipple or three with her sister Margaret.

The tea will feature a talk and book signing by author Maureen Werther who recently completed her novel called "Them that has" .. based on the time when the famous sisters operated the Innand made it something special.

Guests we will be able to tour the wonderful old Inn and see firsthand some of the amazing additions that Sallie Miller Smith made to what once was a ramshackle shed, before transforming it into one of the most beautiful and most talked about Inns in the Adirondacks.

Maureen Werther’s book is rich with detail and great yarns about the flamboyant sisters, includinghow seriously they took their drinking.  In fact they had their own secret speakeasy.

From Maureen Werther:

The original home dates back to the 1790′s and is of post-and-beam construction, and now is the innkeeper’s quarters. In 1926 a seventeen-room addition was added to the original country home by Sallie Smith, which now includes the Inn’s guest quarters of six guest rooms, six full private bathrooms, and a prohibition area Speakeasy Bar from the original Waldorf Astoria. The “speakeasy”, which is located in the basement, and was formerly known for many years as The Tavern, is now an inactive museum piece, and is part of the Inn’s activity area.

One of the most intriguing things about Sallie’s “tavern,” constructed on the lower level of the house: you could get to the lower level by descending a long wide staircase that had very low risers – much shorter in height than average staircase risers.

Phyllis Rogers, current owner of Silver Spruce, explained to me that Sallie had a very good reason for keeping the stairs so shallow, instead of building them to more standard specifications.

Because Sallie and her sister, Margaret were big drinkers and partyers, they did not want to injure themselves if they happened to take an intoxicated tumble on the way up or down the stairs!

There are dozens of other stories about the goings on in and around Schroon Lake during Prohibition. The Adirondack region was rife with “rum-runners,” “moonshiners” and bootleggers, and the area offered prime locations for hideouts, transfers of money for alcohol, and mad dashes to the Canadian border to escape “revenuers.”

Victorian Tea on Wednesday, July 19 from 1pm to 3pm at the Silverspruce Inn, located on Rt 9, North of Schroon Lake.  Not only will have a wonderful time attending. To make reserve your tickets today please call the museum at (518) 532-7615 or(518)795-0495

 

Happy Birthday Adirondack Park

Adirondack Council Celebrates  the 125th Birthday Of the Adirondack Park 

By Kyle Plaske

Adirondack Council Clarence Petty Intern- Albany Office

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Adirondack Park! On May 20, 1892, the New York State Legislature and Governor Roswell P. Flower created the Adirondack Park Enabling Act which essentially created the Park’s Blue Line boundary.

Sadly, after the Europeans arrived, a short history of the Adirondack region is a story of natural resource exploitation. But these events compelled forward-thinking conservationists to work to protect those resources and led to the Adirondack Park we know and love today. A place with breathtaking landscapes, rare ecosystems, pure waters, magnificent and adorable wildlife, expansive Wilderness areas, and unique communities.

Come along as I tell the story of our Adirondack Park to celebrate its 125th Birthday!

The first users of the Adirondack landscape were two Native American tribes, the Mohawks and the Algonquins. However, it is up for debate whether either tribe actually settled in the Adirondack mountains due to their harsh climate and rugged landscape. Nevertheless, the tribes did use the lands for hunting and fishing, and as a thoroughfare to other areas of the state.  In fact, it has been said that the word "Adirondack" means “Barkeater” or "those who eat trees" in the language of the Mohawks. It is assumed by many to be a pejorative term used to describe the Algonquins that settled to the North.

Beginning in the early 1600s, European explorers struggled for control over the region’s waterways, valuable fur trade and plentiful timber. This also marked the beginning of nearly three centuries of relentless deforestation in the Adirondacks. Great white pines along the region’s lakeshores were taken for shipbuilding, and other softwoods were cut to construct major French and British forts. While the Europeans fought over the region’s water routes – essential for navigation and commerce – the Adirondack wilderness was generally viewed as a wasteland. Its winters were long and cold, and its rough mountainous terrain rendered travel difficult.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, soon after reclaiming all the lands once held in the hands of the British Crown, the state began auctioning off tracts of Adirondack forestland for next to nothing per acre. The state also established “military tracts,” which it offered up as bounty lands to soldiers who fought in the Revolution. But because of the remoteness of the Adirondacks – and likely because of the day’s attitudes toward wilderness, in general – few people took up the offer. Until the early 1800s, the Adirondacks remained little explored and largely uninhabited.

By the early 19th century, as the gears of the Industrial Revolution began to turn, wealthy industrialists began to view the Adirondack wilderness as a money making opportunity. Huge swaths of forestland near the region’s eastern fringes were bought up by the timber industry and promptly decimated. And while the timber companies removed only softwoods, the iron industry did not discriminate: they cut down any and all kinds of trees they could find and used the wood to make charcoal used to fire its iron smelting operations.

 

In the early to mid-1800s, lumbering was difficult and dangerous work. Using crude axes and handsaws, lumbermen worked round-the-clock through the cold winter months, clear cutting entire conifer, spruce, pine, and fir forests. The logs, cut into thirteen-foot lengths, would then be floated down the region’s major rivers to the sawmills during the springtime flood. The lumbermen’s hard work earned the timber industry enormous profits, and by mid-century, New York State was producing one fifth of the nation’s timber.

Unrestrained by regulations, the Adirondack region quickly became a stomping ground for wealthy industrialists hungry for profit. Advances in the paper pulp industry began to exacerbate the region’s widespread deforestation, and the advent of railroads brought even the most remote corners of the Adirondacks within industry’s reach.

Also in the 1830s, wealthy travelers began seeking refuge from New York City’s industrial-driven noise and pollution and started visiting the Adirondacks by rail. These vacationers traveled north, and for the first time, the destruction wrought by deforestation was laid bare to public view.

Verplanck Colvin - Adirondack Survey of Hurricane Mountain

Verplanck Colvin - Adirondack Survey
of Hurricane Mountain

 

The Adirondack region was (and still is) a major watershed for most of the state, including New York City. By the early 1860s, it was evident that unrestricted clear-cutting was beginning to have serious effects on downstate water supplies. The denuding of large areas of forest canopy, which protected the region’s soils and waterways from the sun, caused major rivers to muddy and evaporate in the summer months, and to flood in the springtime.

Most notably, the Adirondacks supplied much of the water that filled the Erie Canal – which was, and still is, the only easily navigable water route from the Great Lakes to the eastern seaboard, and which transformed New York City into a major hub for import and export traffic in North America.

The urgency of environmental protection in the Adirondacks quickly evolved into an economic and political issue. Verplanck Colvin, surveyor of the Adirondacks, first proposed in 1871 the creation of an “Adirondack Park or timber preserve, under charge of a forest warden with deputies,” adding: “The interests of commerce and navigation demand that these forests should be preserved; and for posterity should be set aside, this Adirondack region, as park for New York, as is the Yosemite for California and the Pacific States.” One of the loudest proponents of Adirondack environmental protection, Colvin, too, saw the economic peril poised by unregulated deforestation for private economic gain. Two years later, in 1873, Colvin was appointed by the state to lead a committee to study the protection of New York’s watershed. He would later write to the State Legislature recommending “the simple preservation of timber as a measure of political economy.”

Photo of Blue Mountain Lake by Seneca Ray Stoddard

Photo of Blue Mountain Lake by Seneca Ray Stoddard


By this time, the Adirondack wilderness movement had also taken hold. Following the 1858 Philosopher’s Camp at Follensby Pond, the need to protect the region’s natural landscape and resources was evolving into a widely held view. The advent of cameras and photography began bringing images of the Adirondacks’ stunning beauty – and denuded landscapes – to the wider public’s eye for the first time. Seneca Ray Stoddard and other photographers held photo exhibits and published guidebooks, leading to even greater interest in the Adirondacks as a tourist destination, and raised important questions about industry’s rampant clear-cutting practices.

By the 1880s, the New York Legislature had finally begun to enact serious preservation measures in the Adirondacks. The sale of state-owned Adirondack lands was banned outright in 1883, and a Forestry Commission was appointed one year later to study and provide recommendations on best preservation practices. These marginal efforts led to the creation of the Forest Preserve in 1885, which declared that the lands within eleven Adirondack counties “be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A Forestry Commission was set up to look after the Forest Preserve and to manage its timber, but corruption quickly seeped in. It was soon revealed that the Commissioners had close ties to the timber industry and had gone on permitting the removal of timber on the newly established Forest Preserve. Railroads also continued pre ssing for new rights-of-way.
Governor Roswell P. Flower

Public outcry had reached its peak by 1890. After the completion of a report filed by the Forest Commission in 1891, which roughly sketched the Park’s original Blue Line boundary, New York Governor Roswell Flower and the Legislature finally established an Adirondack Park on May 20, 1892.

However, this legislation that created the Adirondack Park also repealed the ban on the sale of Adirondack Forest Preserve lands, which was enacted by the Legislature in 1885.  This stirred further outrage among voters, as well as a deep fear among members of the NYC Board of Trade and Transportation, whose business dealings on the Erie Canal and Hudson River provoked a deep interest in protecting the state’s watershed.

In our next blog, we will explore how what occurred to create the protections we have on the Adirondack Forest Preserve today. Stay tuned!

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Haunted Hotels in the Adirondacks

big moose in.jpg

Looking for a great little read about haunted Adirondack joints?  Special correspondent Jenny Holt, has dug in deep to find these gems in the Adirondacks.

By Jenny Holt

If you enjoy the thrill of haunted locations, then you want to visit the Adirondacks in upstate New York. This is an area that features numerous hotels that are said to have spirits wandering the halls. While you take a tour of some of the hotels, you can usually take pictures, seeing for yourself if you can capture an image or two of the people who have been killed in the rooms or who have died in other ways.

Sagamore Hotel

This is a large hotel located in Bolton Landing. The hotel opened in 1883 and was backed by four millionaires in Philadelphia. Two fires led to the destruction of the hotel, but it was rebuilt in 1930.  The hotel simply couldn't pull together, and it closed in 1981. Now, the building as listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Even though it's closed, it doesn't mean that there aren't spirits who still roam the halls.

There is a middle-aged woman wearing a blue dress who has been seen by some of the people who have stayed in the hotel in the past. A man sometimes walks with the woman while she is in the dining room. There is a story about a little boy who was hit in the head by a golf ball while on the golf course and died, his spirit still wandering around on the course.

Beardslee Castle

This large castle is located in Little Falls. It was built in 1860 as a replica to a castle located in Ireland. There have been several gruesome events that have taken place at the castle while people have stayed there.  A common sight by those who have stayed there is blinding lights from the trees on the property. A young child has been seen walking along the side of the road in front of the castle. Some employees have heard music playing and footsteps on the stairs.

The Big Moose Inn

This is the site of the murder of Grace Brown. She is said to walk the halls of the hotel at night and can be seen walking along the edges of the lake beside the hotel. She was pregnant when she was killed in the early 1900s.

The inn is still open to guests as there are 16 rooms available. Grace was killed because she had an affair with the owner's nephew. He told Grace that he would marry her, but he returned alone after the two went out on a boat on the lake near the inn.