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Litchfield Park history

February 18, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY (hjriley@adelphia.net) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

When any given subject pops ups, maybe after years, it seems that subject inevitably pops up again right away.

Case in point: In this space on Jan. 28, I mentioned that Floyd A. Hutchins was retiring as superintendent of Litchfield Park after 35 years. That story was carried in a copy of The Enterprise from January 1959.

Days later as I scanned old copies of the Enterprise there in front of me is a picture of John Stock, the long-time superintendent of Litchfield Park giving a talk on the history of the park at the Beth Joseph Synagogue in Tupper Lake.

Article Photos

So I copied the story and gave it to my nephew, Kevin Littlefield, who is superintendent of Litchfield today. He succeeded Mr. Stock, went to work there right after college, and was named superintendent in 1983. Kevin then gave me copies of a long series of Litchfield stories Mr. Stock had written for the Watertown Daily Times.

Mrs. Kevin Littlefield is Patty Sparks, whose father, the late John Sparks, was a former Tupper Lake mayor and long-time Franklin County legislator and one of my best friends, so isn't it the coolest irony that newly-elected Tupper Lake town councilwoman Patty is now my niece?

Pieter Litchfield is president of Litchfield Park Corporation, and among many other positions, is a trustee of Paul Smith's College. My standing at the college was quite enhanced when I was director of public relations there because when the board of trustees would meet Pieter addressed me as "uncle" Howard now sometimes we think so much about mistakes that might happen we make them happen, as Pieter did so when Pieter was married at the Litchfield Castle the official performing the ceremonyyou guessed it called him Pieter Littlefield.

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Park history

Ok, ok, hold your horses, I'm trying to get to the Litchfield story. The estate is located south of Tupper Lake on more than 12,000 acres on the shores of Lake Madeline. The property was purchased in 1893 by E. H. Litchfield and construction on a huge stone mansion of nearly a hundred rooms was started in 1911. Hundreds of Italian workers were brought in to do the construction.

Following then are short pieces from the John Stock series:

"In the late 1800's logging operations on the Raquette River involved the use of dams to back up water to improve the waterway for log drives. One dam in particular at the Setting Pole Rapids backed up water as far as Tupper Lake and the area known as the Junction was flooded. Early settlers eyeing the flat lowlands blew a hole in the dam and began to build houses in the area. But timber operators added onto the dam and the junction began to flood again. Tupper Lake settlers miffed by the rising waters blew another hole in it.

[You see, those people are the ancestors of today's ARISE members in Tupper Lake, so I would caution not to get them further ticked off about the rails to trails controversy.]

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Litchfield to the rescue

"Litchfield then came to the rescue. Concerned about flooding on his lands as well as at the Junction, Litchfield took operators to court [The family fortune had been founded in the legal profession in New York City] to prevent them from making the dam higher. His legal team won and the ruling is still known today as the Litchfield Injunction which saved the Junction.

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Stocking with game

"In the early part of May 1896, after most of the snow had gone, five blacktail bucks arrived from Hagenbeck, the German zoo supplier. These were released and immediately disappeared. One of them was seen the next year but the rest vanished." [The estate was then 8,000 acres, fenced and patrolled daily by men who would repair damages to the fence caused by falling threes.]

"Later in the month, he received 13 fox squirrels that someone had trapped in Kentucky and 25 jackrabbits from Kansas. They stayed around the farm and were seen for the next month and then, they too, were gone. Seven English pheasants were released and an additional 100 fertile pheasant eggs were set to hatch under broody hens. Nothing more was ever recoded about them, but five more pheasant were released the next July.

 
 

 

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