NEW YORK, NY — August 22, 2013 — On Sunday, September 8, the Open Space Institute will hold a
ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Upper Works Blast Furnace (also known as McIntyre) in the former village
of Adirondac to celebrate the installation of new interpretive signs at the Tahawus
blast furnace—the first phase of a comprehensive interpretative plan that will
grow to extend throughout the village.
The interpretive panels—four in this first phase—will offer
visitors historical insight into the nearly
193,000-acre High Peaks Wilderness Area, where, in the heart of the Adirondack
Park, sits the famed 10,000-acre “Tahawus” tract that OSI acquired in 2003.
“We have a tremendous historical resource up there that most
people don’t know about,” said Bob McNamara, who created the interpretive
panels for OSI. “There are so many stories that are waiting to be told.”
In private ownership
since the early 1800s, the natural and historic jewels of the Tahawus property
are many. Henderson Lake, the centerpiece of the parcel, marks the beginning of
the Hudson River as it winds its way 315 miles south to New York Harbor. Elsewhere
in the midst of the wilderness that has reclaimed much of the site lies the
remains of the village of Adirondac, the iron mining town that in its heyday
was home to more than 100 people and included a church, sawmill, dining hall, the
blast furnace and dozens of houses.
Between 1828 and
1855, Adirondack Iron Works and a successor company extracted iron from a portion of the Tahawus site
near Henderson Lake. After the mine closed, the property was leased to a fish
and game club, now known as the Tahawus Club, which occupied the site until
1941 when National Lead acquired the property and started mining titanium
dioxide a few miles south of the original iron mine. NL Industries, the
successor to National Lead, closed the mine in the 1980s and for some 20 years
the fate of the property remained uncertain.
In 2003 and 2004,
working in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC), the Open Space Institute acquired the Tahawus tract for
$8.5 million. Using a nearly $6 million loan from the New York State
Environmental Facilities Corporation and other internal resources, OSC acquired
more than 10,000 acres in all.
In the years since,
OSI has teamed up with McNamara—a landscape architect turned environmental
artist—and a group of partner agencies to create an interpretive plan for the
entire site, which includes the blast furnace and the village of Adirondac.
Having completed the construction of viewing decks this summer, the first phase
of the plan is now ready to be introduced to the public.
“Most people are
used to seeing these signs at parks,” McNamara said. “Here, I want people to
gain knowledge about what was here, and the multi-faceted history of what
happened at this site. There are so many stories that are hidden here, and
these panels will reveal some of those stories.”
Even the viewing
decks built for the signage recall the history of Tahawus. The wood used
for the decks is virgin hemlock, salvaged from an 1850s-era barn. The
design of the decks and rails suggests the same structural details that
were used on the charging bridge and the buildings that used to cover the
furnace and wheelhouse. Finally, the construction methods and fasteners used
were the same as what would have been used in the 1850s: mortise and tenon
joints, pinned with wooden dowels, cut nails, and square-headed bolts
panels being unveiled on September 8 tell the story behind the blast
furnace—the imposing stone tower that represents the culmination of a 30-year
effort in the early 19th century to make iron from Hudson headwaters
bedrock. Even though those efforts ended in calamity over 160 years ago,
the monument to those dreamers and builders still stands.
Plans call for
installing up to 15 more interpretive panels in the coming years throughout the
village of Adirondac and near the headwaters of the Hudson River.
Future panels will
relive stories such as that of Vice President Teddy Roosevelt, who in 1901 was
a guest of the Tahawus club staying in a residence known as McNaughton Cottage.
His vacation was cut short when President McKinley took a turn for the worse
after being shot by an assassin in Buffalo. From Adirondac, Roosevelt took his
historic “midnight ride to the presidency” via three teams of horses and
carriages to a train that was waiting for him in the village of North Creek to
take him to Buffalo.
OSI thanks the funders who assisted with the costs related
to the interpretive plan: the New York State Council on the Arts; the New York
State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; the New York
State Department of Environmental Conservation; the Overhills Foundation; the Prospect
Hill Foundation; the Walbridge Fund, Ltd. and the town of Newcomb.
Download a copy of Adirondac Interpretive Plan