Tag Archives: Whitehall

Whitehall Filmmaking: The Girl on the Barge

Following is the story of a movie that was filmed long ago on the barge canal in Whitehall, New York, where the canal links with Lake Champlain. The details were researched and written by my partner, Jill McKee, after following up on a recollection of her beloved elderly aunt, Mary Barber (now deceased). This fortunate collaboration led to the addition of an exhibit in Whitehall’s Skenesborough Museum. In 1929, Universal Pictures released a film called The Girl on the Barge. The movie was about Erie McCadden, the illiterate daughter of a crusty, alcoholic barge captain. Erie falls in love with Fogarty, the pilot of the tugboat that is towing her father’s barge from New York to Buffalo on the Erie Canal. Captain McCadden is not at all pleased when he discovers the romance, and his anger is escalated further by the fact that Fogarty is teaching Erie to read.
Happily, in the end the captain comes to his senses, likely due in no small part to Fogarty’s rescuing of McCadden’s barge when it is accidently set adrift. Erie marries her love and the two present McCadden with a grandson.The Erie Canal proved too difficult a setting for the Universal production department to create on or near the studio’s lot. However, the Erie Canal itself was not deemed suitable either. At least that was the opinion of the movie’s director, Edward Sloman, who came to New York State with two veteran cameramen, Jack Voshell and Jackson Rose, to find the right filming location.Such location trips were rare at that time in the movie industry, but Universal was willing to invest the added time and money necessary to film the movie in the correct setting. After scouting the entire modern, commercialized Erie Barge Canal from Albany to Buffalo, Sloman felt it would not be believable to audiences. “They would swear we faked it in California,” he said.Enter a contractor from Waterford, New York, named John E. Matton. He believed the Champlain Canal was just what Universal was looking for. After seeing it, Sloman agreed and chose Whitehall as the filming location.In May 1928, Sloman and rest of the film’s cast and crew set up their headquarters at Glens Falls and took up temporary residence at the Queensbury Hotel in order to begin making the movie. The silent era was giving way to “talkies,” and The Girl on the Barge was a hybrid between the two—a silent film with talking sequences.

The film’s cast was made up of some notable stars. The title role of Erie was played by Sally O’Neil, who had found stardom in 1925 when she appeared along with Constance Bennett and Joan Crawford in Sally, Irene, and Mary. Erie’s father, the barge captain, was played by Jean Hersholt, who appeared in 140 films from 1906–1955, and served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1945–1949.Malcolm MacGregor (or McGregor), who appeared in over 50 films during his career, played Erie’s love interest, Fogarty. Erie’s sister, Superior McCadden, was played by Nancy Kelly, whose career spanned from the 1920s to the 1970s, during which time she received nominations for an Emmy and an Oscar, and also won a Tony Award. Both Ms. Kelly and Mr. Hersholt have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.The movie’s director, Edward Sloman, was no slouch either. He directed nearly 100 films and acted in more than 30, with some producing and writing thrown in for good measure. The story on which the movie was based was originally written by Rupert Hughes for Cosmopolitan magazine. Mr. Hughes was a prolific writer who saw more than 50 of his stories and plays made into movies.The entire episode apparently caused quite a stir in the Whitehall/Glens Falls area. Several Whitehall residents took part in various scenes in the movie, and a humorous incident at the Queensbury Hotel was reported in the Syracuse Herald on June 11, 1928.It seems that Mr. Hersholt arrived at the hotel after a day of filming. He was still dressed as his drunken barge-captain character and asked for his room number without giving his name. The desk clerk not so politely informed Mr. Hersholt that the hotel was filled with “those motion picture people,” and there were no rooms available. In order to gain access to his room, Mr. Hersholt had to call upon director Edward Sloman to vouch for him.

Universal had a three-tiered rating system for its motion picture productions at the time Girl on the Barge was filmed. Low-budget flicks were dubbed Red Feather, and mainstream productions were labeled as Bluebird. The Girl on the Barge was categorized as one of Universal’s most prestigious films, called Jewel. Jewel productions were expected to draw the highest ticket sales.The movie was released on February 3, 1929. Various newspaper ads and articles have been found showing the movie still playing in theatres around the country into the following fall. The movie also received many favorable reviews. The Chronicle Telegram of Elyria, Ohio, complimented the “realistic and picturesque scenes” of “the barge canals of Upper New York State” (May 20, 1929).The New York Times reviewer, Mordaunt Hall, raved about Mr. Hersholt’s make-up and costume, and stated, “The scenes are admirably pictured.” The Sheboygan Press of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, called the film “an exceptional picture,” and went on to report, “The picture actually was photographed along the picturesque Champlain Ship Canal in Upper New York State.”Photos: Top?Movie Poster now on exhibit in the Whitehall Museum. Middle: Sally O’Neil and Malcolm MacGregor in a scene near the canal. Bottom: Movie advertisement in the Ticonderoga Sentinel, 1929.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven 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 22 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George

The rise of local and specialist history publishers such as Arcadia and History Press has been a boon to local history and an opportunity part-time writers and historians to have their work published outside the vanity press. One of those part-timers is George Kapusinski, long time denizen of Huletts Landing on Lake George and publisher of The Huletts Current blog. His second effort for History Press (his previous work Huletts Landing on Lake George was published by Arcadia) has just been published, and it’s a fascinating and well-written account of the devastating fire at the Hulett Hotel 1915. Even more revealing is the well-researched tale of the trial held in the aftermath of the fire.

Broken into 12 chapters, which include short, readable and informative sub-chapters, The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George (History Press, 2012) features a set of unique photos of the events surrounding the fire and the fire’s aftermath, only recently discovered taped to the back of an Abe Lincoln lithograph. But this is more than the tale of the fire and the rebuilt hotel’s preeminence among early 20th century Lake George resorts. After the hotel was rebuilt, a mysterious figure claimed that the hotel’s owner, William H. Wyatt, had paid him to start the fire. Kapusinski investigates the resultant arson trial in detail, including the burning of Wyatt’s former Glenwood Hotel just three years earlier at Lake Bomoseen.

In a wide ranging narrative, Kapusinski takes us into the time period, explores the places (including Wyatt’s Trojan Hotel in Troy where he was arrested), and explores the motives and character of the those involved. A great read.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Lawrence Gooley: Missing Aunt Mary

It has been a year now since the death of a friend and her burial on the last day of 2010. The friend, Mary (Pippo) Barber of Whitehall, was nearly four decades my senior, but acted so young that she made me feel old. I first met her around ten years ago when she came 100+ miles north to Plattsburgh with a friend and stood with us in line for three hours at a job fair. She was there as moral support, talking and joking all day long. I had no idea she was 84 at the time. As I would learn, she never looked anywhere near her age.

My partner, Jill, is from Whitehall (at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, where the barge canal begins). It is through her that I met “Aunt Mary,” a very important person in Jill’s life. On every visit to Whitehall during the past decade, Aunt Mary was on our schedule of stops. She was always nice, friendly, inquisitive, and fun to chat with … just a classy lady.

Her memory was as sharp as anyone’s, and our interest in history often prompted us to steer the conversation in that direction. As many of you know (but many of us neglect), elderly citizens provide an invaluable connection to the past. When we republished Whitehall’s pictorial history book several years ago, it was Aunt Mary who readily answered dozens of questions, helping us correctly label many buildings when we prepared the captions.

At one point in our conversations over the years, she mentioned that a movie had once been filmed in Whitehall. That was news to me and Jill, and we had to wonder if maybe she had made a mistake. It would have been easy to believe that she was a little mixed up—after all, she was about 90 then, and nobody else had ever mentioned a movie. Still, we just couldn’t believe she was wrong.

Jill’s faith in Aunt Mary drove her to keep digging, and much to her surprise, delight, and amazement, it was true! After much time and considerable research, she was able to uncover the entire story, a tale that may have been lost except for the teamwork of Jill and Aunt Mary.

It strengthened the already solid bond between them, and it didn’t stop there. A poster re-creation of the original movie advertisement is now an exhibit in the Whitehall museum, donated by Jill in Aunt Mary’s name.

Aunt Mary’s passing was certainly a sad loss, but it offered a reminder of the wonderful people and great historical resources that are often neglected—our elderly, whether they are relatives, friends, or nursing home residents. If you have considered talking to any of them and asking all kinds of questions, do it. They’ll enjoy it, and so will you. Don’t put it off and eventually live with painful regret.

We still miss her, and I’m certainly glad we asked Aunt Mary all those questions over the years, learning about her life and Whitehall’s history. It was not only a smart thing to do. It was respectful, educational, and just plain fun.

Photo: Above, Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 1943- Below, Mary (Pippo) Barber, circa 2005.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten 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 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Champlain Canalway Trail Plan Unveiled

At the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership meeting yesterday, Hudson Crossing Park announced the release of the Champlain Canalway Trail Action Plan for the 62-mile corridor between Waterford and Whitehall in Saratoga and Washington
Counties.

The Action Plan is intended to help focus and coordinate locally-based efforts to complete the Champlain Canalway Trail. It uses narrative, maps and photographs to describe the existing conditions, issues and opportunities along the proposed trail route. Each segment of the Action Plan can be used as a stand-alone by an individual community, to help focus attention and prompt constructive dialog.

The 62-mile Champlain Canalway Trail, together with the 9-mile Glens Falls Feeder Canal Trail, comprise one leg of the planned statewide Canalway Trail system. The 348-mile Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo is the longest trail in the system. Now more than three-fourths complete, it is actively used by people in local communities, and is rapidly becoming a world-class recreational trail, attracting visitors from across the country as well as from abroad.

In the Champlain Canal corridor, about 17 miles of trail are complete, and another 14 miles are either in planning stages or expected to be completed within the next few years. Similar to the Erie Canalway Trail, the Champlain Canalway Trail is envisioned as an off-road trail wherever possible, with some on-road linkages. Once completed, the trail will provide connectivity between residential areas, business districts,
schools, parks and communities while reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

The Champlain Canalway Trail will be used by bicyclists, walkers, historical tourists, cross-country skiers and others. Sections will also be used seasonally by snowmobilers.

The completed Action Plan was produced by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs. It was funded by a grant awarded to Schuylerville-based Hudson Crossing Park, Inc, (www.hudsoncrossingpark.org) from the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a national organization that supports trail development.
Planning assistance was provided by the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service.

For further information contact:

Southern Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Nelson Ronsvalle – nronsvalle@townofhalfmoon.org

Central Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Marlene Bissell – info@hudsoncrossingpark.org

Northern Champlain Canalway Trail representative:
Jeanne Williams – jpw.fca@gmail.com

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.

Tories: American Revolution and Civil War

In 1777, as General John Burgoyne’s army marched south, having taken Fort Ticonderoga, a temporary loyalist enclave was created in Rutland County, Vermont. While many rebel Americans fled before the British Army, a few stayed on. In Rutland Nathan Tuttle, a rebel known locally for hating and taunting loyalists, was one of them.

Tuttle’s decision to stay behind was not a very good one at a time and place when the American Revolution was a full-scale Civil War. As Burgoyne’s army passed through Rutland, Tuttle disappeared. Ten years later it was revealed by a local Tory that Tuttle had been bayoneted, his body weighted with stones and thrown into a creek. Nathan Tuttle was an American, and so were his murderers, likely men associated with the notorious Loyalist and close confidant of John Burgoyne, Philip Skene of Whitehall.

Under the grand story of the fight for American independence are finer threads, stories of people who are often assigned a mere footnote in the Revolutionary narrative. Offering a fresh look at the lives of those who sided with Britain during the American Revolution, TORIES: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War, by Thomas Allen, weaves a provocative and unsettling picture of a bloody and savage civil war that divided America and sent more than 80,000 Tory Americans — Loyalists, as they called themselves — fleeing to Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

For Loyalists, America was home- yet, when they sought to preserve allegiance to the Crown and protect their homes from the rebels, many Loyalists found themselves in a civil war raging in the midst of a Revolution. Hatred between Tories and Patriots divided families, friends, and communities. This war was vicious and personal, forcing many Loyalists to flee America. Those who chose to stay quickly realized that if they had any chance of survival, the British had to win.

Incorporating firsthand documents from archives in the United Kingdom and Canada, TORIES gives voice to little heard and Americans. TORIES also explores little known facts about Loyalists, such as: New York City and Philadelphia were Tory strongholds throughout the Revolution- at times, Georgia and the Carolinas had more trained and armed Tories than British Redcoats- Lord Dunmore, a Virginia royal governor, offered freedom to any slave that joined the British fight, creating thousands of black Loyalists- Scottish Highlanders, though onetime foes of the British, fought for the Crown in exchange for land grants- and William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, led a brutal Tory guerrilla force that terrorized New Jersey.

While historical accounts portray the Revolution as a conflict between the Patriots and the British, there is another narrative: the bloody fighting between Americans, a civil war whose savagery shocked even battle-hardened Redcoats and Hessians. From mudslinging and rhetorical sparring to water-boarding, house-burning, and lynching, here is the rarely chronicled war-within-the-war that adds a new dimension to the history of the American Revolution. TORIES introduces readers to the forgotten Americans who chose the British side—and paid dearly for their choice.

THOMAS B. ALLEN is the author of numerous history books, including George Washington, Spymaster and Remember Valley Forge. A contributor to Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Military History Quarterly, Military History Magazine, Naval History, Naval Institute Proceedings, and other publications, he lives in Bethesda Maryland with his wife, artist Scottie Allen.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.