Sacandaga Landmarks: What’s left of yesterday?

What is a landmark? Sounds like a silly question; but one a child might ask.
The dictionary definition is: the position of a prominent or well-known object in a particular landscape. It can also be an event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depend.

Early in times a large rock could be a landmark. Or the shape of a mountain. Sometimes a particular stand of the same type of tree or even a place where a lot of the same types of things grew, such as hay or wild berries. Roads also became landmarks. In Sir William Johnsons case Nine Mile Tree Road blazed somewhere before 1760 where a tree was marked every mile on his travels from Johnstown to Castle Cumberland on the great Vlaie.

Landmark events could be gigantic like the ice age effecting the whole world or small in comparison like the flooding of a valley. In the late 1700’s through the early 1900’s the Sacandaga Valley had it’s share of both in structures and events.

Some of the landmark structures in communities were churches, hotels, covered bridges, and train stations.

There were five train stations in the valley; Broadalbin, Mayfield, Cranberry Creek, Sacandaga Park, and Northville. Through the course of time in Sacandaga Park there were three train stations if you count the first platform in 1875; then another built between that time and 1920 which was demolished to build the third in 1920 which still stands today. Broadalbin’s station first station was built in 1895 and mimicked Sacandaga Park’s station; but on a much smaller scale. No date as to when it burned After that the Husted family built the one that exits today; a quaint columned Greek revival structure. Vail Mills had a passenger structure no date as to when that ceased to exist.

Northville, Cranberry Creek, and Mayfield stations architecture was very similar resembling two story houses.

There were also five covered bridges: Fish House, Osborn, Vlaie Creek, Batchellerville, and very early on at Northville. Six if you add Arad Copelands covered bridge in Edinburg the only one standing today. These are especially useful in valley landscape photos regarding areas. Most were unmistakable. Identifying old photos is made easier if a landmark is present. So many photos have no identification written on the back.

In regards to villages: churches and hotels would be considered landmarks. Most local people would give directions by the positioning of a church or hotel.

Other Sacandaga Valley and current day landmarks include historic homes such as; Broadalbin’s Chambers Estate on Main Street that is now the rectory for St Josephs Catholic Church. Northville’s John A Willard’s home is now Inn at the Bridge, Mayfield’s Rice Homestead on Riceville Road in the town of Mayfield serves as a museum. The Shew home on Fish House Road the Arad Copeland house in Beecher Hollow in Edinburg both remain private homes . And there are many, many, more than these.

In regards to events: The FJ&G completing the line to Northville in 1875 was a landmark event in the valley and probably a most celebrated one back then.

Imagine Mayfield, Cranberry Creek, Sacandaga Park, and Northville and Broadalbin getting the mail regularly, stores getting shipments, and people being able to get back and forth to destinations in much less time than horse and wagons. The things that took days, weeks, and months before the trains arrival were shortened to hours.

In regards to business landmarks there are still a few of those buildings as well.
Allen and Palmer was built in 1885 and is still a hardware store. James A Cole building, built in 1895, houses the business of The Village Pizzeria and Dr Gruets office. The Northville 5 & 10 was built in 1913 by John A Willard as a general store and remains as such.

In Northville Hubbell’s Factory was built in 1880 along with it‘s chimney by Stephen Acker. Acker was a prominent builder in the area. The chimney is also home to a yearly event. It’s the summer residence to swifts that fly approximately 7000 miles from the Amazon jungle to get there on the same date of May 6th every year. This phenomenon was first observed by Walker LaRowe and Willard Weaver in the late 1940’s. No one really knows when or how this started. Next year the chimney will be 130 years old and is showing signs of age, and may be the only structure left built by Stephen Acker in the Village of Northville.

These landmarks are what’s left of time. A time when on January 1st of 1779 Godfrey Shew returned to the area after his release from captivity in the Revolutionary War and came back to Fish House to build the family home in 1784. When the Rice Homestead was built in 1790 and a settlement grew up around it. When Arad Copeland built the brick colonial for his bride in Edinburg in 1832. In 1888 when Husted’s built the “summer cottage” in Broadalbin. In Northville the Lobdell family home was built on Main Street in 1913. And when in 1880 two entrepreneurs Hubbell and Cole built a successful business that eventually was lost to a second fire in 1918 and nothing but the chimney remains.

Many landmarks have been lost; mostly through fire. Others were demolished and still others are in disrepair. Some of the buildings were public places. Others were private homes that still stand today and are businesses. And most of them contain an identification of what once was; and what still is. No matter what they are being used for now or what kind of toll time may have taken.

The second Sacandaga Valley landmark event probably wasn’t as celebrated as much here as it was downstate. With the flooding of the valley in 1930. But nonetheless, from that came a beautiful lake.
Columnists note: Memories over the years: The 5 & 10 Annex on Main street in Northville was the Oneida market. The Common Ground was Sweets Shoe Store; in it’s earlier history Cam Cheqers blacksmiths shop.

Sitting with a couple of friends on the curb to watch the swifts come back to Hubbell’s Chimney. Kenny’s Hardware Store next to Allen and Palmer before it was torn down many years ago. Also the Old Orchard Inn located in Sacandaga Park when it was demolished in 1965 and the Adirondack Inn and the night it burned in 1975.

The memories above are just a few and also the memories of many others. But to children they are new and different. As you look around the village, town, or neighborhood where you live; what memories could you share?

Not being aware of how much of what’s still stands regarding landmarks until they are gone is a hindsight that’s 20/20. Most of us don’t think about how much something in the village or town we live in means in the way of identification and belonging to a community.

Some mindsets are: “It was just an old building, house, or structure that burned up, fell down, or was ripped down“. Or “What’s the difference if something old is replaced with something new and modern. Isn’t that progress? Or eliminating an eye sore?”. The answer might be yes to those questions; but at what cost to history?

by Lorraine Frasier