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History Matters (Historic Saranac Lake)

Pete Tanzini, Will o’ the Wisp, Part 3 of 3

Following his brush with death (as recounted in last week’s article) Pete Tanzini appeared to have settled down. He married his second wife Gussy, and they settled into their new home at the end of Olive Street. A couple of years later, however, Pete became the proud owner of a giant ...

Pete Tanzini, Will o’ the Wisp — Part 2

Last week, local historian Phil “Bunk” Griffin introduced the tale of Pete Tanzini, one of Saranac Lake’s notorious rum runners. What follows is the second part of this story. --- As prohibition continued and bootlegging took hold in the North Country, organized gangs soon demanded ...

Pete Tanzini, Will o’ the Wisp (Part 1)

On Jan. 29, 1919, the government enacted the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. This act created a lucrative, new and illegal enterprise for the North Country. Saranac Lake, with its maze of back roads and its close proximity to the Canadian ...

Big bands and Spanish connections — Saranac Lake in the 1940s

Last week, we brought our “Letters from the Porch” series to a close. It was a fun way to stay in touch during quarantine times. Now we are starting a new weekly article series called “History Matters” that will present history on a wide range of topics relating to the rich history ...

The show must go on

During this quiet summer, one of the things we are missing is the theater. From Broadway in New York City to Pendragon in Saranac Lake, stages have gone dark. Actors are a lively, irrepressible bunch, and so it’s a testament to the seriousness of the situation that theaters are closed. ...

Doctors in the garden

In a time when compassion and logic often seem in short supply, many of us have a newfound appreciation for doctors and scientists. Saranac Lake’s history is full of professionals in medicine and science who had a passion for learning and an intense curiosity about the natural ...

The sad side

The fresh air cure wasn’t all a bed of roses. Firsthand accounts left behind in letters, photographs, diaries and memoirs paint a picture of life in Saranac Lake during the tuberculosis years. It’s an incomplete record that can lead us to believe curing was an overwhelmingly positive ...

Fresh Air School

As autumn approaches, schools are thinking about ways to keep students safe by maximizing time outdoors. The concept of outside instruction is not new. Leading up to World War II, open-air schools were built in the United States and Europe to protect children from tuberculosis. Even in ...

Running together

A winning sports team, like a beautiful ice palace, grows out of a strong community. It’s no surprise that Saranac Lake has a long tradition of athletic achievements. From team sports like bobsledding, baseball, hockey, football and curling to individual competitions like speedskating and ...

An interior life

One of my favorite stories in our local history is about a meteor shower over Mount Baker and a tuberculosis patient named Isabel Smith. Ms. Smith spent 20 years of her life sick in bed at the Trudeau Sanatorium. She wrote a book about her experience titled “Wish I Might.” Her book ...

Hunting for health

In the past months, scientists have speculated that the coronavirus may have jumped for bats to humans, and the virus has spread quickly around the globe. The world suddenly seems much smaller. The situation reminds us of our connectedness to the animal world and to each other. Such an ...

Love and cousins

“The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” — W. Somerset Maugham - Before antibiotics, one of the most powerful medicines against tuberculosis was love. Happy patients tended to be more successful in overcoming the disease, so health care ...

In the company of graduates

This June, the graduates of the Class of 2020 have walked through Saranac Lake High School one at a time to receive their diplomas with no other classmates beside them. It might be comforting to know that this is not Saranac Lake’s first lonely graduation ceremony. At the high school’s ...

Are you a Trotty Veck?

“Are you a Trotty Veck?” This was the question posed to readers of the first Trotty Veck Messages pamphlet, “Good Cheer.” These small booklets contained quotes, poetry, jokes, local sayings and more, intended to boost the spirits of their readers. Trotty Veck Messengers were ...

People and porches

Long after people die, the buildings where they made their lives often remain. Many visitors to the museum follow the footsteps of a family member who came to Saranac Lake with tuberculosis. Often the only trace that remains is the address of a cure cottage and a porch where their relative ...

Life in the graveyard

Graveyards are for the living. It’s something I think about every autumn when Pine Ridge Cemetery comes alive with children on our annual fifth grade field trip. Ahead of time, the students research a person buried there. As we walk down to the graveyard from school, excitement builds. Upon ...

The luxury of health

Since we first opened our museum doors in 2009, thousands have come to learn about Saranac Lake’s history as a center for tuberculosis research and treatment. Visitors often ask about the cost of care and who was able to afford it. Was Saranac Lake’s fresh-air treatment just for rich ...

Animal friends

During these days of solitude, many of us are finding great comfort in our animal friends. Blissfully unaware of troubles in the world, our pets are thrilled that their humans are spending more time at home. Pets are a source of companionship and joy for us now, just as they were for the ...

Lessons in public health

Today, the planet is taking a crash course on the limitations of modern medicine and the complications of human disease. It is a good time to look back and see what Saranac Lake’s history might teach us about public health. From our place in the world of modern medicine and science, it ...

Essential workers in history

Saranac Lake’s tuberculosis economy depended on the labor of many essential workers. In honor of today’s heroes, here are a few favorite stories of brave helpers in local history. Nurses and doctors risked their own health providing care and companionship to tuberculosis patients far ...