Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lake George souvenir china

Editor’s Note: The following is a sample of an “Adirondack Attic” story by Andy Flynn originally published in newspapers in 2008 and re-printed in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 6.”

In addition to Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington and a historic hill in Ticonderoga called Mount Defiance, Prospect Mountain near Lake George is the only other mountain in the Adirondack Park where you can drive your car to the top. However, Prospect Mountain was the only one in the Park with a railroad built to its summit.

In 1954, New York Gov. Thomas Dewey signed legislation creating the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway but did not include a means to pay for the construction. In 1966, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller signed legislation approving the funding, and the road opened to the public in 1969. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation operates the road, which is open from May to mid-October.

In September 2008, curators at the Adirondack Museum acquired a memento from the heydays of Prospect Mountain, at a time when there was a hotel on the rocky summit. The museum now has two souvenir china pieces, both made in Germany for the Adirondack tourist trade, which feature color paintings of the Prospect Mountain House on the front. One is a small teapot and the other is a small vase. Both are several inches tall and can be lumped into the knickknack category. In addition to the illustrations, they are painted blue and green with gold accents.

In 1877, Dr. James Ferguson, of Glens Falls, bought Prospect Mountain and constructed a hotel on the summit. The hotel burned in 1880, and it was soon re-built. In the 1890 issue of Lake George Illustrated, Glens Falls photographer and publisher Seneca Ray Stoddard referred to the building as the Prospect Mountain House, “formerly the Mount Ferguson House,” and announced that “the house will be enlarged, a new observatory built, and a telephone line run to connect with the telegraph and hotels at the lake shore.”

In the summer of 1895, a 1.4-mile “cable road” or “incline railway” brought travelers from the village of Caldwell (later changed to Lake George) to the top of the mountain.

The Prospect Mountain House featured a restaurant, billiards, a bowling alley and a rifle range. By the turn of the century, the railway was declining in popularity. In 1902, the Otis Engineering and Construction Company acquired the railway and operated it through the 1903 season. George Foster Peabody bought Prospect Mountain in 1904 and subsequently gave the land to the state of New York.
Iron gears from the Otis cable road remain on the summit today, and part of the 1.7-mile hiking trail from Lake George village to the top of Prospect Mountain follows the old railway bed.

(Read more about this Adirondack Museum artifact in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 6.” Buy now. $18.00.)

Copyright 2008 Andy Flynn/Hungry Bear Publishing

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