On Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December, modern-day abolitionists will gather with students, teachers and the general public concerned about human freedom and human trafficking at various venues in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Activities will include an art exhibition, a screening of the popular Civil War film Glory, workshops, lectures, and a closing reception following historian David Blight’s keynote address on Saturday night. (Full schedule follows.) Read more
Seventy-five years later, it remains a spectacular drive and a great family excursion. But the macadam highway to the summit almost never came to be, and New Hampshire’s Mount Washington nearly had a New York counterpart.
Since the mid-1800s, men had planned various strategies to access the top of Whiteface Mountain. There were footpaths, horse trails, and designs drawn for a carriage road. But on a much more ambitious scale, railroad access was once planned to the summit. Had it been completed, it’s possible the present highway would never have been built.
The idea for a rail line to the top of Whiteface surfaced regularly in the early 1890s, when the famed hostelries of Lake Placid catered to a growing clientele. Attractions were needed to ensure that visitors would return, and an easy view from atop Whiteface would be a great amenity for the growing tourism industry.
The idea gained momentum in 1892 when a group of New York City financiers, led by Mirror Lake Hotel manager Charles Martin, purchased the summit of Whiteface. Martin’s plan included a carriage road to the top, and facilities providing for overnight stays. The carriage road, he said, would follow “French’s old route,” a reference to Samuel and Russell French, who operated a hotel at the village of “French’s,” later known as Forestdale, northwest of Whiteface.
In the following year, Albert Putnam, a member of the same syndicate, confirmed those plans, adding that a railroad would be built to the summit from the Lake Placid side. The goal was to match the success of Mount Washington’s cog railway, the only such line east of the Rockies. Construction was set for spring 1894, but an economic depression (the Panic of 1893) ended the ambitious, expensive venture.
The Panic was a terrible time, rated by many economists as second in severity only to the 1930s. While the Great Depression was linked to bank failures, the financial problems in the 1890s stemmed from massive railroad failures (which toppled many banks as well). It was not a great time to be looking for funding to create a tourism-related rail line.
A cog railway is the only safe train option for steep ascents and descents. The motor drives a cog gear, and the gear’s teeth catch in a toothed rail that lies between the two outer rails, controlling the train’s movement and preventing wheel slippage on steep inclines. The total cost for the special line was estimated at $100,000 ($2.7 million in 2012). The scheme never got beyond the planning stage, however, and was subsequently abandoned.
In 1901, the resurgent economy brought renewed interest in the project, but with revisions. Instead of focusing solely on visitors already in the Wilmington area, the new idea was to develop a regional transportation system beginning on the shores of Lake Champlain. A trolley was planned from Port Kent to Lake Placid, with a second line leading to the top of Whiteface.
Leases were secured on the mountain, providing a circuitous four-mile route to the summit for the cog-wheel road. The cost was again estimated at $100,000. But problems arise with any project, and this one was no different. Not all of the mountain’s owners were enthusiastic about a rail line to Lake Champlain, instead favoring local connections between Lake Placid village and the mountain’s summit.
Those who conceived the original project saw steamboat and rail traffic along Lake Champlain as the keys to success, providing easy access for tourists. Successfully establishing leases for linking to the lake might convince the mountain owners to climb aboard for the entire project.
The mountain’s owners still envisioned a rail line up Whiteface, but the plan that was halted by financial conditions in the 1890s now fell victim to time and technology. Though the railroad idea was frequently revisited, the growing popularity of automobiles suggested an alternative plan better aligned with the future. Through the 1920s, the rail concept gradually morphed into a paved-highway initiative, culminating in the memorial highway to the summit.
Photos: Mount Washington’s cog railway- ferry dock at Port Kent (1907)- cog railway across the ridges of Mount Washington.
Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and more than 100 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
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.
The two men first met in Massachusetts in 1848, a decade after Douglass successfully escaped from slavery on a Maryland plantation and eleven years before Brown’s history-changing raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. By the time they met, Douglass had become one of the most eloquent and sought-after champions of freedom and equal suffrage for women and men, regardless of race.
Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, Morris will also discuss the Foundation’s work today to create a modern Abolitionist Movement in schools all over the country through the vehicle of Service-Learning.
There are an estimated 27 million men, women and children held in some form of slavery in the world today, generating billions of dollars along the supply chain of labor and products that make much of our daily lives possible.
Joining Morris will be Renan Salgado, a Human Trafficking Specialist based in Rochester, who will shed light in his remarks about slavery and trafficking in New York State today. According to the U.S. State Department, there are approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year. Along with California, Texas, and Florida, New York ranks among the states with the greatest incidence of documented slavery in the country.
Young, award-winning orators from the Frederick Douglass Student Club in Rochester will recite from Douglass’ speeches and excerpts from Brown’s letters. The folk quartet The Wannabees and the hip-hop recording artist S.A.I. will also perform.
John Brown Day revives the tradition dating back to the 1930s of making a pilgrimage to remember and honor Brown by laying a wreath at his grave. Over the last 13 years, the grassroots freedom education project John Brown Lives! has worked to keep that tradition alive and relevant.
John Brown Day 2012 is free and open to the public and it is held outdoors. A brief reception will follow in the lower barn at the site. Donations will be appreciated.
For more information, contact Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives! at 518-962-4758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the John Brown Lives! Friends of Freedom on
Billed as the first of its kind anywhere in the world, the museum will feature the history of the sports of bobsled, luge and skeleton and will also exhibits tracing the evolution of equipment and sections of past and present sliding tracks with a display explaining how those tracks were built. Plans are being developed for a historical walking tour of the 1932/1980 track and the new combined track with informational signage creating a self-guided exploration of the venue.
Organizers hope to build a comprehensive sliding display that will include historic race sleds, equipment, video, photographs, medals and trophies. Several of these items are already on display at the Olympic museum.
Photo: Steven Holcomb (center) with (L-R) Ted Blazer, ORDA president/CEO- Jack Favro, associate director of Lake Placid Olympic Training Center- Joe Lamb, community organizer- Craig Randall, Village of Lake Placid mayor- and Mary Lou Brown, chairman of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
“Visitors to the museum often said the collection represented more than the two Games held in Lake Placid and we agree that the name should reflect that,” said New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer. “The museum’s collections have grown over the years to encompass representation from each of the Olympic Winter Games, as well as the Olympic Games. With that expansion we felt it was important that the name of the museum mirror the breadth of the museum.”
Established in 1994, the Lake Placid Olympic Museum is the only one of its kind in the United States. In fact, it holds the largest Winter Games collection outside of the IOC’s Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s also the only museum to have received the Olympic Cup, which is the oldest award given by the IOC.
“As the collections have grown and the presentations have become wider in scope, so has the need to change the name,” added museum director, Liz De Fazio. “As we move forward in getting this museum to be a full member of the IOC’s Olympic Museum Network, I feel this will bring us closer to that international look and feel.”
While touring the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, guests can view the first Olympic Winter Games medal ever won, a gold medal, earned by speedskater and Lake Placid native Charles Jewtraw during the 1924 Winter Games. Displays also feature athletes’ participation medals from every modern Olympic Games and Olympic Winter Games, as well as Olympic Team clothing and competition gear from several Games, including the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The museum’s collection also includes costumes from Olympic figure skating legend Sonja Henie and several world cup and world championship trophies captured by U.S. bobsled and luge athletes, artifacts from the famed 1980 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team, as well as Olympic medals.
The Lake Placid Olympic Museum is located at the box office entrance of the Olympic Center at 2634 Main Street and is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for juniors and seniors, while children six and under are free. For more information about the museum, log on to
Dedicating his life to eradicating slavery, Brown eventually risked all attacking the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. Captured by troops led by Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart, Brown’s trial and execution are considered by many historians as a spark that help ignite the Civil War 150 years ago.
Climate Justice is a growing global movement that recognizes that poor and disenfranchised peoples around the world bear the least responsibility for climate change but face a disproportionate burden from its attendant effects, such as compromised health, economic hardship from rising energy costs, and displacement, destruction of property, and death due to extreme natural disasters. Here in the United States, the global campaign for Climate Justice is deeply linked to the Environmental Justice Movement, which is entering its third decade of militant opposition to environmental racism.
John Brown Day keynote speaker and Environmental Justice leader Cecil Corbin-Mark will describe the evolution of the Climate Justice Movement and give voice to the rights and concerns of the people who are usually the first and often the hardest hit by the impacts of global warming.
Corbin-Mark is Deputy Director of the Harlem-based organization, WE-ACT for Environmental Justice. In addition to his work in New York, Corbin-Mark has been active in United Nations and alternative global climate conversations from Copenhagen to Cochabamba to Cancun.
“Like slavery in antebellum America, climate change is one of the most important moral issues of our time,” said Martha Swan, director of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! which organizes the yearly event.
“Brown surely would have recognized that it is the world’s poor who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change, so it is fitting that Climate Justice will be the focus of John Brown Day 2011. In this Sesquicentennial Year marking the start of the Civil War, we are honored that Cecil will be with us at this critical time.”
Other speakers at the annual event include David Goodman, brother of civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, murdered by the Ku Klux Klan during Mississippi Freedom Summer in
1964, Alice Kesey Mecoy, great-great-great granddaughter of John and Mary Brown, and Brother Yusef Burges. A trustee of the Children & Nature Network and an outdoor educator, Burgess will speak about the power of nature to transform youth. A frequent paddler on Adirondack waterways and former outreach and diversity coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Burgess works to connect Albany-area youth with the natural beauty and environmental issues of the Adirondacks.
John Brown Day 2011 is possible with the cooperation of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held outdoors under a tent.
For more information, contact Martha Swan, Director of John Brown Lives!, at 518-962-4758 or email@example.com.
Do you have a story to tell about that day? If you do, submit your story to the United States’ goaltender Jim Craig, firstname.lastname@example.org, for your chance to tell your story in an upcoming book of the memories about that game with the Soviets.
What do you remember about the morale of the country at the time of the victory? Maybe you remember where you were and what you were doing. Or maybe this win served to inspire your life.
The two winning stories will receive a Miracle movie poster, personally signed by Craig. The deadline is May 31, 2011. By submitting your essay, you’re granting permission to publish your story.
As the Syracuse Post Standard recently reported, it is as close as the New York State Fair held every summer. According to the Post Standard, a restaurant vendor from Queens was charged earlier this month with allegedly trafficking workers from Mexico to work at the Fair, mistreating and barely paying them, if at all.
“We have both the past and the present to reckon with,” said Martha Swan, Director of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! “Although largely erased from official history and collective memory, New York “promoted, prolonged and profited from” slavery from the 1620s through the 1850s. It continues today, often hidden in plain sight.
“We have organized a two-day Anti-Slavery Convention to put slavery “on the map” as a reality not solely of the South but of New York- and not as a relic but a legacy and crime against humanity still with us today.”
The Convention will be held in Lake Placid, NY, on December 3-4, 2010 and will feature experts on contemporary slavery and human trafficking, scholars, historians, victims advocates, lawyers, artists, and musicians joining with the general public to examine slavery and trafficking in New York State and ways to end it.
The Convention will include a full-day workshop for educators, teaching artists, and librarians at Heaven Hill Farm on Friday, December 3. Advance registration and a $55 fee are required. Call 518-962-4758 to register.
Later that evening at Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Dr. J.W. Wiley from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion will show film clips and lead a lively conversation on how film has shaped American’s perceptions of slavery and race. The event, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., is free and open to the public.
From 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, the Convention will continue at High Peaks Resort on Main Street in Lake Placid with keynote addresses and panel discussions ranging from historical slavery in New York State to up-to-the-minute reports and analysis on slavery and trafficking today.
Dr. Thomas Hopkins, descendent of Harpers Ferry Raider John A. Copeland, will help bring the Convention to a close with a candlelight wreath-laying ceremony at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site at 5:00 p.m..
Partners in the Convention with John Brown Lives! are John Brown Coming Home, the National Abolition Hall of Fame, SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion, and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.
The Anti-Slavery Convention is funded, in part, with support from the New York Council for the Humanities. For more information or a full schedule of events, call 518-962-4758 or go to