Slavery in New York, Slavery Today Event

Teachers, librarians, local historians and teaching artists are invited to explore slavery in New York State, historically and today, with guest scholars, curriculum specialists, and front-line investigative reporters on Friday, December 3, 2010, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Heaven Hill Farm, on Bear Cub Road in Lake Placid, New York.

This conversation on slavery and human trafficking in the Empire State, will include special guests:

Margaret Washington, Professor of History at Cornell University and award-winning author of Sojourner Truth’s America, a groundbreaking biography examining the harsh realities of Dutch New York slavery that helped forge one of the nation’s greatest and most widely admired reformers.

John Bowe, prize-winning journalist and author of Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy, an eye-opening look at labor abuse and cases of outright slavery in the U.S. today.

Cost: $55 per person includes a box lunch, lesson plans, and other resource materials. Reduced rates are available at $100 for 2 people or $150 for 3 people per institution. Books and other teaching tools will be available for purchase.

SLAVERY IN NEW YORK? SLAVERY TODAY? is part of the Anti-Slavery Convention in the Adirondacks on December 3-5, 2010 and is a joint program of John Brown Lives! and Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh.

For information and to pre-register contact Martha Swan (518-962-4758 [email protected]) or Lindsay Pontius (518-962-8672 [email protected]).

Whiteface Memorial Highway Celebrates 75 Years

The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, in Wilmington, N.Y., turns 75 tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14th. Whiteface, its staff and the town of Wilmington, will celebrate the occasion by rolling back prices to $1 per person, the same rate as it was in 1935. And since the Highway is dedicated to all veterans, they will be admitted free.

Once at the top, guest will have the opportunity to enjoy historical displays at the castle, a specially priced barbeque, and at 1 p.m. a ceremony which will include the reading of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech, which dedicated the highway to all the fallen veterans of World War I. Other speakers will include New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer and Town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston.

Opened to automobile traffic July 20, 1935, the Highway “officially” opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 14, 1935 which was attended by President Roosevelt, who was New York’s Governor when ground was broken for the eight-mile long stretch of roadway. During the ceremony, the United States’ 32nd President dedicated the highway to all the fallen veterans of the “Great War,” but in 1985, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo re-dedicated the highway to all veterans. It has recently been slated for upgrades.

Whiteface Mountain is the fifth largest peak in the Adirondack Mountain range and it’s the only mountain in the Adirondacks that offers accessibility by vehicle. Today, from mid-May to early-October, visitors to the area can take a drive or cycle up the five-mile long scenic highway, from the toll booth to the top. Along the way there are scenic lookout points and picnic areas where visitors can stop and enjoy views of the Adirondack region.

Once at the top of the 4,867-foot high Whiteface Mountain, guests can enjoy a spectacular 360-degree, panoramic view of the region, spanning hundreds of square miles of wild land reaching out to Vermont and Canada. Guests can also visit the castle, built from native stone, where they will find a gift shop and restaurant. For those who are unable to reach the summit on foot, an elevator is available that will take guests the final 26-stories to the summit’s observation deck.

The Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Histories of Essex County Go Online

Jay (Essex County) author and editor Lee Manchester has published a number of volumes on the history of Essex County and its communities. The free, downloadable PDFs include five volumes compiled from the files of the late Lake Placid public historian Mary MacKenzie, a two-volume definitive anthology of 19th and 20th century materials on the McIntyre iron works and the Tahawus Club colony in Newcomb, better known as &#8220the Deserted Village,&#8221 and two collections of Lee’s stories about history and historic hikes in and around Essex County.

For complete information, including download instructions, visit the Wagner College website. Print versions of all the volumes can also be ordered, at a cost that includes no markup, with the exception of Mary MacKenzie’s &#8220The Plains of Abraham: A History of Lake Placid and North Elba&#8221- royalties for print copies of &#8220Plains&#8221 go to the Lake Placid Public Library, which maintains the Mary MacKenzie Historic Archives.

Warhorse’s Olympic Bronze at Olympic Museum

The Lake Placid 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum has added another piece to its collection of artifacts from last February’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, Andrew Weibrecht’s men’s Super-G bronze medal.

Weibrecht’s bronze medal helped spark the U.S. alpine ski team to a record eight medals in Vancouver. Overall, the U.S. Olympic squad celebrated its best Olympics ever, claiming the overall medal count with 37.

“The medal was turned over for display and for safe keeping between appearances,” noted museum curator Liz Defazio. “It’s so nice for these athletes to have a place where they can share their accomplishments with others… sort of their home away from home.”

Nicknamed the “Warhorse” on the international alpine ski tour, Weibrecht began skiing at the age of five at Whiteface Mountain and began racing with the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) program by the time he was 10. He had only been on the World Cup circuit since 2006 and Vancouver was his first Olympic Winter Games.

There are quite a number of artifacts on display in the museum from the 2010 winter games donated by several of the 12 area athletes who competed, as well as coaches and officials. The artifacts include race gear, Opening Ceremony clothing, official U.S. Olympic team clothing, event tickets, programs and pins.

Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum features the largest collection of winter Olympic artifacts outside the International Olympic Committee’s museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of the artifacts include the first Winter Olympic medal awarded, gold in 1924 in Chamonix, France, to Lake Placid native and speedskater Charles Jewtraw, equipment worn by U.S. goalie Jim Craig during the 1980 winter games, parade clothing from the 1932 winter games, athletes participation medals and Olympic medals from every winter Olympics.

Admission to the museum is $6 for adults and $4 for juniors and seniors. Admission is also included when purchasing an Olympic Sites Passport. The Passport gives visitors access to each of ORDA’s Olympic venues—from Whiteface Mountain to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of our ticket offices, the Passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value. For more information about the Olympic Sites Passport, log on to

Photo: Andrew Weibrecht’s Super-G Bronze Medal. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Lake Placid, NY.

John Brown Lives! Honors Juneteenth With Event

June 19th commemorates “Juneteenth”, the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, and is observed in more than 30 states. It is also known as Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day. Join us in honoring “Juneteenth” with an author reception for Scott Christianson, author of the critically acclaimed book Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War (University of Illinois Press, 2010).

Scott will speak about the life and dramatic rescue of a captured fugitive slave from Virginia, Charles Nalle, who was liberated by Harriet Tubman and others in Troy, NY in 1860.

Of note, Freeing Charles has been featured in The New York Times Book Review and excerpted in The Wall Street Journal. An award-winning writer, scholar, and human rights activist, Christianson’s interest in American history, particularly slavery, dates back to his boyhood in upstate New York, when he discovered some of his ancestors’ Civil War letters.

This event will be held on The Rooftop Terrace of The Northwoods Inn on Main Street in Lake Placid and is co-sponsored by the Lake Placid Institute for the Arts & Humanities, John Brown Lives! and John Brown Coming Home.

The reception begins at 4:00 pm and is free and open to the public. The Northwoods Inn will open a cash bar during the author reception and offer an optional Adirondack-style BBQ on the terrace for $10 per person (tax and gratuity included) following the event. Freeing Charles will be available for purchase and Christianson will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

This year, June 19th follows on the release of a new U.S. State Department report released yesterday citing &#8211 for the first time &#8211 that despite the end of slavery, human trafficking is a serious problem in the United States.

Secretary Clinton (June 14, 2010): &#8220The 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report outlines the continuing challenges across the globe, including in the United States. The Report, for the first time, includes a ranking of the United States based on the same standards to which we hold other countries. The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America. This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it.&#8221

The full report and announcement can be found online.

This is the first event in a series of anti-slavery conventions sponsored by John Brown Lives! and John Brown Coming Home.

For more information or to make reservations, call 518-962-4758 or 518-523-1312. Also visit

Olympic Bobsled Track Named to National Register

The National Register of Historic Places has listed the 1932 and 1980 Olympic bobsled track, located on Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y., on its national registry for historic places.

Clearing for the original one and a half, 26-curve course began in August 1930 and the track, specifically built for the 1932 winter games, was open to the public just 148 days later, Christmas Day 1930. More than 27,000 cubic yards of earth and stone were used for the straight-aways and curves, while 8,000 feet of pipe, laid four feet underground, was buried to carry the water used to spray the ice from a pond near the base to the top. A gasoline engine and pump forced the water to the top of the run, where a large storage tank guaranteed a continuous supply of water.

The United States’ bobsled team was right at home on the first track ever built in North America and the first-ever one and a half mile course used in Olympic competition. The team won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Billy Fiske, who four years earlier at the age of 16 became the youngest-ever Olympic gold medalist, claimed the four-man crown, while fellow American Henry Homburger of Saranac Lake, N.Y., claimed silver. Two brothers from Lake Placid, Curtis and Hubert Stevens, won the two-man race, while their teammates, John Heaton and Robert Minton, took bronze. That event also marked the first-ever two-man race in Olympic history and the first time athletes pushed their sleds at the start.

In 1934 the International Bobsled Federation (FIBT) established a one-mile standard for all tracks. To accommodate the change, the top one-half mile was shut down above the Whiteface curve and the number of curves was reduced from 26 to 16, making the upper portion of the run unusable.

Fifteen years later, the 1,537-meter long course became the first track outside of Europe to host a world championship competition and it was then that Belgian bobsledder Max Houben was killed during a practice run when sliding through the “Shady” curve, prior to the race. Today, the four-man world championship trophy is named in Houben’s honor.

As sled technology improved and speeds grew, changes were made to the course and it took 12 more years before world championship racing returned, in 1961. Throughout the decade of the 1960’s tracks throughout the world continued to try to keep up with sled technology as the request for speed knew no limits. From time to time crashes and tragedy would strike those tracks … even Lake Placid. In 1966, Canadian pilot Sergio Zardini (1964 Olympic silver medalist for Italy) was killed when his four-man sled crashed on turns 13 and 14, better known as the “Zig-Zag Curves.”

With the improvements made and with the blessing of the FIBT, the course hosted Worlds three more times, 1969, 1973 and 1978. Other sports including luge and skeleton also began using the course before it was demolished and re-built in 1979, in time for the 1980 Olympic bobsled competition.

The re-construction included installing refrigeration piping and the building of a refrigeration plant at the base of the run, operated by electricity, with a stand-by generator for emergencies. Following the 1980 games, the track hosted the 1983 world championships before the current combined bobsled/luge/skeleton track was built in 2000.

Today, the track no longer hosts international competitions, but it remains in use. Summer bobsled rides are held on the course, where visitors can enjoy half-mile rides, while reaching speeds in excess of 50-miles-per-hour, while professional drivers steer their sleds through “Shady” and “Zig-Zag.”

Kathleen LaFrank of New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation helped to direct the research. She gathered much of the data and pictures required for the nomination of New York’s historical sites and the additional honor of being named to the National Registry as well.

“The bobsled run is internationally recognized for its association with the 1932 games and the rise of the sport in the United States,” stated Olympic Sports Complex general manager Tony Carlino. “Athletes and visitors from all over the world know of this track, and there are very few worldwide that carry this kind of history. The creation of this track helped to make Lake Placid famous as a winter sports capital.”

Photo: Construction workers lay rocks as they build the Mt. Van Hoevenberg bobsled track, in 1930 in anticipation of the 1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. (Photo Courtesy of ORDA)

Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain in Lake Placid

Adirondack Life writer Tom Henry will deliver a slide presentation entitled &#8220Exploring Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain: Curious Stories Behind Their Relics&#8221 on Saturday, October 3rd at Northwoods Inn in Lake Placid, NY. From Shelburne’s elegant passenger steamships to Bridport’s world-famous 19th-century racehorses to Moriah’s strange subterranean world of railroads and iron mines, this slideshow of now and then images from old port towns around Lake Champlain will help us visualize many of the 400-square-mile lake’s unusual early enterprises.

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s discovery of the lake. Henry’s Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates America’s most historic lake and offers stunning photos, vintage postcards, paintings, maps and military history. Tom Henry’s portion of the book “Towns Along the Lake” provides some of the book’s most interesting writing. He highlights each of Lake Champlain’s principle shoreline communities and provides their link to the lake’s history.

The evening begins at 6:30pm with a half hour cash bar cocktail reception with Tom Henry. Mr. Henry will deliver his presentation at approximately 7:00pm. Following the presentation, we invite any of our guests to join us in our Northern Exposure restaurant for dinner with Mr. Henry.

More information visit