Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Adirondack Museum: Highlights (WIP)

This is a continuation of an earlier post. For the original post, see the following link:

Very quotable sign.


Exactly one year ago this weekend, I was at the Adirondack Museum. And I just realized I never wrote a blog post about it, or showed you the very interesting pictures I took there!

I took a lot, as there are many cool things to see here, but I will try to show you readers the highlights. 

The Adirondack museum is located about 45 minutes North of our vacation house.  It's actually many smaller museums combined.  There is a large visitor center made to look like an old style inn built of logs, and once you pass through there is a big open courtyard area with about a dozen smaller buildings, each dedicated to a certain aspect of Adirondack mountain life.  There is a boat museum, one about horses and carriages, a logging museum, a building about trains and rail cars, and there are also examples of old types of tourist lodgings around a small lake.  

I will try to go in the rough order in which I visited each building, and promise not to exceed the site's image quota for a blog post. So here goes.

The Visitor Center.

An amusing sign in the first exhibit. The sign reads WARNING! Monday, July 16th--One hundred automobiles will pass along this road.  Residents should be WARNED that children should be kept off the road. Remember the day. BE CAREFUL!  (This was a sign from 1905) Seems absurd by today's standards. At this time however, only one person in the entire town owned an automobile.

Logger brands.  These were hammer-like tools that were swung into the ends of logs before floating them downstream.  At one time, there were almost 100 logging companies in New York. These marks indicated the company that harvested the log. There is a key on the wall next to this display with all the known symbols and the name of each company they represent.
This is a display showing how the Adirondack mountain men cooked their meals over a fire.  As Civil War reenactors, we are all too familiar with this already.

A sign on the wall next to this is taken from a memoir passage describing the living conditions enjoyed by the loggers, rugged men who slept together in tents, log cabins and lean-tos. I will reproduce it here for your reading pleasure.

"On a stormy day, everyone would come in all wet. The place would be full of old, dirty, wet clothes, and stinking old socks, and to top this off, the teamsters would bring in their old harness and drip them dry on the wood pile...when they got a good, big fire going, the air was not too sanitary..." (Lumber Camp News, 1850)

Handling the logs was a dirty business, and all that raw and unmilled wood was sure to cause the occasional splinter, as in an example shown below:

Yikes.  How does one "fully recover" from being impaled through the arm and chest by a 2 foot long wood spike, and go back to work the next day like nothing happened? shows you how tough these guys were.  I remember the above image from my visit to this museum as a 12 year old kid, and it still gives me the shivers.

This antique version of a modern tool is so primitive looking I almost did not recognize it.  This odd-looking piece of equipment is one of the earliest chainsaws to use a gasoline engine. It was nicknamed the "Sally Saw" and was in use from the late 1930's to the mid 1940's.  An interesting note is the ring-shaped one piece blade with teeth that spins when the motor is running, instead of a chain.  The engine is a four-stroke with a large gas tank, I cannot imagine how heavy this piece of equipment is. Needless to say, the later invention of the simpler two-stroke engine made chainsaws a lot lighter.  

This later version (from the 1950s) was used for commercial logging of very big trees, not for cutting them down but for cutting trees into smaller sections once they were on the ground.  The blade and chain is about three times longer than your average Home Depot one, and notice there is a handle on the other end for a second operator to hold and steady it. Chainsaws similar to these are still in use today in the commercial logging industry.
This is kind of interesting. Pretty much a gigantic bandsaw laid on its side.  The "blade" is a continuous loop of flexible metal with teeth on the side facing up. The museum put clear plastic tubing on the edge of the blade so kids don't cut their hands by running their fingers along the edge.
Another saw quite different from the ones we have today.
Outside the logging exhibit building. This is a tram car system for carrying logs up steep mountain slopes.  It used a braided steel cable that passed through multiple wheels, multiplying the strength of its grip on the cable. Also built-in is a safety lock to prevent the load from sliding all the way down the hill if the pulley fails or the cable breaks.


Recreation of the inside of a boat builder's shop.

This is a very popular traditional style of wooden boat used by tourists in the Adirondack lakes.  I wondered if the wood thing in the middle of the top one (labeled #16) is some kind of odd-shaped seat. But it is actually a shoulder rest for carrying the boat upside down on your shoulders! (The real seats are wicker work and on either side of the boat) This style of boat was copied elsewhere but it originated in upstate New York.

This natural decoration of uncut tree branches and sticks is a signature Adirondack style seen only in the North country. I kind of like it. Wouldn't it be cool to make a railing on a deck this way for your house?
This is a very, very early electric wiring system called post and tube wiring. Porcelain insulator posts are attached to the wood, and the wires are wrapped in an insulating tape and strung between the posts.  This dates from the early 1880's and was under a porch roof. 

The inside of a guest cabin. All the pieces of furniture are hand made from local pine. I want to call attention to the inlaid grandfather clock at center and the dresser at right paneled in sheets of birch bark.  Very nice and old timey. I would love to have a cabin like this in my backyard to go escape modern life and focus on my art.
Included in a display of vintage kitchen, picnic and food containers and utensils. Yes, that is an incredibly ornate glass bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup from the turn of the century.

This is exactly what it looks like. A snow plow meant to be dragged by a team of horses. Behind it is a large wood drum filled with water or sand, meant to flatten and compress the snow to make a better road surface.

Inside a wagonwright's shop.

No, that isn't a real horse. On the wall are many different types of horse shoes.
A very elegant stage coach, just like the ones that always got robbed by bandits.

Interesting addition to make the exhibit more lifelike, a tired coach driver. No, he's not real.
There was also a historic house on the site with some stunning examples of more Adirondack style handmade furnishings.


"This brass cannon was fired on summer Sunday mornings to call parishioners to services in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Racquette Lake. The church, built in 1880 on St. Huberts Isle, still stands." A cannon to call people to mass. Imagine that!  Racquette Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the mountains. The sound probably carried much farther than bells would.

This obviously isn't everything. But I do hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Adirondack Museum.  I had to leave some things for you to see yourself if you decide to make a trip to visit. I would recommend it if you are fascinated by old stuff. 

1 comment:

  1. Very cool, those exibits seem really neat. I like the wagonwright's shop.