History comes alive
Four days and 109 years ago, the Enterprise of Jan. 26, 1911
What a find … I have an intact copy of that 1911 Enterprise, a Winter Carnival edition. There is very little news, but it is loaded with photos and clever advertisements.
Also, one had to have long arms to read the Enterprise of that day. Open up the double truck, and they were 3 feet across … 18 inches a page.
Mount Baker boasted a Coaster Run, which we would later call sliding; here is caption under a photo of a bunch of men and women [in long dresses and coats dragging in the snow]: “Making the Ascent of Baker Mountain to Slide Down on a Coaster at the rate of 50 Miles an Hour.” I wish it would have reported the length of the run.
So that sets a scene, but here is the …
Big story of the carnival
“The mid-winter carnival idea in Saranac Lake has grown to be a fixed event. For thirteen years visitors have been attracted to the village in the dead of winter by the great fete provided by the townspeople. The extent of the carnival has grown with the years and its scope has been amplified, each succeeding carnival being greater than the last, until the ‘greatest ever’ was reached in the fete of 1911.
“The first carnival was held in 1898 and was a modest affair, probably outside the area visitors, numbering in the hundreds, compared with the fete of 1911. The festival now draws thousands of visitors, many of them coming long distances. Originally the idea was to have a celebration annually, but after a year of two it was deemed best to skip a year and make the carnival a biennial event. The carnival of 1911 is the eighth event of its kind to be held in Saranac Lake.” [This was always a big question — also, how many did we skip during World War II?]
“The carnival of 1898 was followed by a second carnival in 1899. The third was held in 1901, and since that time one has been held every two years. In the more recent carnivals, the national and international skating races have been added to the sports and these, together with the advent of Edmund Lamy as a skating champion in 1897 have given a flavor of keen competition and have attracted interest to the event from all parts of North America.
“With the growth of the village has come added possibilities in the way of carnival attractions. Thus for the 1911 carnival, coasting races, a sport promoted by the Saranac Lake Coasting Club of Saranac Lake, were added to the program of competitive events.
“Another carnival may see ski races and championship ski jumping, one of the most exciting and spectacular sports known on the continent. This touch of the alpine winter sports is the distinct novelty offered by the present carnival.”
Saranac Lake was probably then the Winter Sports Capital of the East. In addition to the “bobrun” on Mount Baker, ski jumps were located where the Harrietstown Housing Building is located today at the beginning of Main Street. Remember, there were no Olympic Winter Games until the first were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924.
“In no other town of village in the state is there such systematic and successful effort made for the promotion of winter sports as in Saranac Lake.”
Here is the backup for the above
“No other town in the United States has the variety of winter sports offered the visitor and resident in Saranac Lake. Probably no other town in the United States has the natural facilities for the varied enjoyments to be found in Saranac Lake. Possibly in no other town or village or city on the American continent, with the notable exception of Montreal, do the residents and their guests get as much fun out of the long cold winters as do those in Saranac Lake.
“The hills raising above the lakes and ponds provide the ideal, natural coasting slides; the ponds themselves, and the Saranac River where it is confined within the limits of the Pontiac Club, furnish the best skating in the State; any of the hills, woods and fields give the snow shoer and ski artist free room for the testing and exhibition of his powers. The highways leading from the village are manifold, and winter driving, whether with Alaskan dogs, Siberian reindeer or American horses, finds the acme of enjoyment on the picturesque roadways, from which are visible the lofty ranges of the Northern Adirondacks, all brilliant in the sunlight or cloud-capped or half hidden by far-away snowstorms.”
The photos and ads tell it all.