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Warning from health commissioner

January 22, 2011

The men in the Village of Saranac Lake Water Department came up with a few more fragile documents when cleaning the "pump house" at 10 Main St.

Among the time sheets, building permits and pay checks was a letter from the New York State Health Department dated April 29, 1918. It was addressed to the Board of Water Commissioners. The letter is torn but the State Health Commissioner appeared to be a Dr. Briggs, his deputy was Dr. Nicoll, Jr. and the Secretary was Dr. John Smith. The Chief Engineer was Theodore Horton.

Right under the seal of the State of New York on the official stationery was this strange declaration:

Article Photos

In November 1922, William M. Demers received a (pay?) check from the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners for $311.50; quite a piece of change in 1922. Of course, it could have been a month’s wages.

"Public Health Is Purchasable. Within Natural Limitations Any Community Can Determine Its Own Death Rate"

Maybe that 'natural limitations' phrase takes into account those who get run over by a bus.

I believe I actually talked to that fellow who wrote that line on the New York State stationery: a few years ago while in the land of my ancestors I asked this old gentleman what the death rate was in Ireland and he answered: "One per person".

However, back to the letter, which was a warning that the village water supply might be breached by connections to other water supplies. Here are excerpts from the letter:

"I wish to call your attention to a matter in connection with the protection of the sanitary quality of your public water supply

"Many outbreaks of typhoid fever have occurred in the past in certain municipalities in this and other states, which investigation has shown to be due to infection of the public water supply through connections with auxiliary supplies from polluted sources, particularly fire supplies at mills or other manufacturing establishments where these auxiliary supplies have been cross connected with the public water supply in the street or the water pipes in the factories.

"Furthermore it is essential in all these cases that the sprinkler and fire system within the factory grounds be entirely separate from the rest of the mill supply except through the one or two check valve connections referred to later."

Saranac Lake had no manufacturing; it was world famous as a health resort and there is anecdotal evidence that the water and sewer systems were so uniquely designed that engineers from many cities would come here to see our state of the art setup.

Building permits

There was some construction going on here in 1932 according to the building permits unearthed at the pump house.

The applications are all hand written so I may not have some of the names spelled correctly. It appears that Anna Cohen of Bloomingdale applied to remodel an apartment house at 81 Lake Street and located on the North side of the street.

Under "Class" on the permit it was checked off as Apartment House and Store with a concrete foundation and a half basement. It had only a stove for heat, an iron roof, one living room, two bedrooms and one bath pretty small apartment house.

The permit was first signed by Boyd Hayes, that signature was crossed out and then signed by Ms. Cohen. She was probably connected with Arnie Cohen who owned the hardware store in Bloomingdale and Mr. Hayes probably was their employee.

Another permit was for a garage to be built at 62 Lake Flower Avenue, for Bernard G. O'Neil of 10 Circle St. and the contractor was W. G. Dora of 41 Main St. The permit was dated Jan. 2, 1932 just a little more than a month before the 3rd Olympic Winter Games opened in Lake Placid.

Then in March 1932, Hugh J. McCabe of 35 Franklin Ave. was building a new house on Franklin Avenue, no address given, maybe also at number 35. It was described on the permit as a bungalow with a garage, frame construction, hot water heat, one bedroom, one bath and a living room with hardwood floors and a basement with a cement floor.

Also in March 1932, A. W. McDonald of 215 Broadway obtained a permit to construct an outside stairway on his "present dwelling."

Other names difficult to read but if you live at 2 Fawn St., then here is information for you. The garage there was constructed in April 1932; the contractor was someone whose last name was Gregory and the owner was someone with a first name of Gus and the last name looks like Frey.



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