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History Matters (Historic Saranac Lake)

Bartók’s birds

“I have been so upset by world events that my mind has been almost completely paralyzed.” — Béla Bartók - In the midst of the dark days of World War II, a frail man named Béla Bartók came to Saranac Lake for his health. Although he was one of the greatest composers in human ...

Historic forest fires of the Adirondacks and Saranac Lake

While the coronavirus pandemic rages like a figurative wildfire all over the world in 2020, actual wildfires are setting horrific records out west this year. The combined acreage of burned area surpasses the size of the state of New Jersey. The loss is not just to forest land, but to homes ...

Writers of Saranac Lake

Having lived in Saranac Lake my whole life, I must say that it is a cultivating environment for all pursuits. My views may be skewed by a heartfelt bias, but with such a history of doctors, Olympians, artists, actors and writers being nurtured in this village, I can’t help feeling that ...

Humble spirits

October is a good month for a ghost story. So here is the tale of a humble spirit who for years haunted a cure cottage up on Charles Street. I heard this story from Eileen Black, who has lived in the house for many years and raised her family there. A ghost visited their home several ...

Fresh air and fresh food

“Ample food is necessary to health.” This adage was a founding principle of the fresh-air cure for tuberculosis. The fresh-air cure had three tenets: fresh air, good food and plenty of rest. Saranac Lake was famous for its clear mountain air, but we also knew a thing or two about food. ...

Memories of camping at Fish Creek

Starting in the summer of 1953, I spent several weeks every August camping with my family at Fish Creek Ponds Campsite. Those summers cemented a love of the Adirondacks in my mind, and in my 50s, I made the move to Saranac Lake. I spent my summers at Fish Creek with my older brother and ...

Little boxes

What’s not to love about a house in a box? In the first part of the 20th century, thousands of Americans ordered their homes out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. The homes were shipped in railroad cars, all parts ready to assemble — little boxes, just like the Pete Seeger song. ...

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 ...