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Olympic bobsled track added to National Register of Historic Places

July 13, 2010
By NATHAN BROWN and CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Staff Writers

LAKE PLACID - There are more than 80,000 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, but only one bobsled run.

Built in 1930 and still in use, although no longer for international competitions, the 1932 and 1980 Olympic bobsled track on Mount Van Hoevenberg was added to the register Monday afternoon at a ceremony attended by numerous state and local officials, including Gov. David Paterson, who said the track "really evidences a lot of (Lake Placid's) great history.

"It's a recognition that's very well deserved," Paterson said.

Article Photos

Gov. David Paterson, right, shakes hands with local bobsledding legend Forrest “Dew Drop” Morgan, on Monday during a celebration of the listing of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic bobsled track at Mount Van Hoevenburg in the National Register of Historic Places. Dew Drop’s son, bobsledding broadcaster John Morgan, stands behind his father.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

As well as the Olympics, the track has seen five world championship races. It was built specifically for the 1932 winter games and was the first ever built in North America. It is steeper than European tracks were at the time were, allowing for faster speeds, said Ruth Pierpont, director of the state Historic Preservation office.

It is also the only mile-and-a-half track; the International Bobsled Federation standardized tracks at 1 mile in 1934, and the top half-mile of Lake Placid's bobsled track was then shut down.

The track helped bring "fame and prosperity to a remote corner of Essex County," Pierpont said.

Several people in the audience recalled competing on the track.

"The approach to the sport was different in those days," said Robert Storey, president of the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation, who raced on the track from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. "It was far less technical and far more casual. You got your sled, you got your athletes and you'd go down and race. There was a greater element of risk in those days. I think most of all I remember the camaraderie."

Although most of his memories are "positive," Storey was involved in a notable tragedy that occurred at the Lake Placid track. He was part of a Canadian four-man bobsled team that crashed in the track's dangerous "Zig-Zag" turn in February 1966, killing driver Sergio Zardini, an Italian who had moved to Canada two years earlier, and seriously injuring another bobsledder.

The Morgan family of Saranac Lake, which has had a long association with the Lake Placid track, was also on hand for Monday's event. Forrest "Dew Drop" Morgan, 87, who won three world championships as a manager and coach for the U.S. Bobsled Team, listened to the speeches from a shady spot next to the track and later shook hands with Gov. Paterson.

His son, NBC bobsledding broadcaster and producer John Morgan, said it was a special day for the family.

"My father went to the 1932 games with my grandfather, and for us, this has been my Yankee Stadium," he said. "We've been coming out here all our lives. I've got nephews and nieces now bobsledding. For us it's a historic day, especially for my father to see this."

Pierpont gave out plaques to Liz DeFazio, director of the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum, and Phil Wolff, the museum's founder and also a former bobsledder, who also spoke Monday. The state Olympic Regional Development Authority also announced that it is in the early stages creating a sliding sports museum at Mount Van Hoevenberg. ORDA encouraged sliders and their families to donate items to the museum and collect oral histories.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said Mount Van Hoevenberg brings New York state and Lake Placid together "in a united effort to bring world-class and international sports to this region." Politi also said he hopes Paterson takes with him "the passion and the enthusiasm" people in North Elba have for the venue and for sports.

The ceremony was followed by guided tours of the track.



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