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‘Knights’ needed

March 11, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

We have a "knight in shining armor" inside the Adirondack Blueline! Remember in the days of yore when the weak and helpless were watched over and protected by those knights on their great steeds? Well, in modern times, there came a day when the unprotected needed protection in Adirondack country.

Our story begins at the Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb . The 1892 complex is now owned by you and I, the people of the state of New York. It contains a Gatehouse Complex, a Farm Complex, and a Main Camp Complex, along with 12,900 acres of Adirondack forest lands. Some 45 rustic log and shingled buildings made up the wealthy Adirondack estate that is open today for camping, education, and interpretation. It is an ideal setting on the 507-acre Newcomb Lake and the 173-acre Moose Pond. Two small mountains, Moose and Baldwin, round out the site, and Santanoni Peak is nearby. Today, it is being preserved but that was not always the case.

Great Camp Santanoni was a favorite hiking destination for our family back in the 1970s. Once owned by the Robert C. Pruyn family of Albany and the Melvin families of Syracuse, it became state-owned in 1972. Once it became part of the NYS Forest Preserve, it was destined to be torn down. It sat idle for some 20 years and we watched it slowly deteriorate. Buildings were allowed to fall down or were taken down. Vandals did their dirty work including ripping off all of the on-site blacksmith-made unique door knobs. It was a gem of Adirondack history and a part of our Adirondack inheritance that was crying out for protection.

On our trips to Santanoni we met one of our Adirondack heroes-Caretaker Frank Porter. He loved the wilderness complex and did his best to welcome visitors and to take care of the, somewhat abandoned, state property, standing there in limbo. He once told me that when a roof began to leak, "somehow a can of tar would spill on it and stop the unwanted water from getting in." Until a final decision could be made, it was good that he watched over Santanoni.

That is where our "Adirondack Knight in Armor" came into the picture. In 1990, our knight, Howard Kirschenbaum, and his concept for creating the Adirondack Architectural Heritage to preserve the historic buildings within the Adirondack Blueline, came to the rescue. By 1993, Santanoni was an historic area within the preserve, and restoration was on its way.

Since the onset of saving Camp Santanoni from neglect, AARCH has been a major player in Adirondack preservation and education. For more than 20 years, it has been the driving force behind saving fire towers, preserving historic bridges, protecting the unique Adirondack buildings, promoting educational seminars, guiding Adirondack tours and acting as a resource and advisor for municipal and private Adirondack projects.

AARCH now has more than a thousand supporters, but the need continues to have our "knight" working to preserve our Adirondack heritage. It is time to expand the membership base so that all will have an opportunity to preserve a place called "Adirondack." Appreciating and caring of what came before us gives us roots and pride as a people, making us more of a blessing than a burden in our Adirondack homeland. (Those interested in becoming an Adirondack "knight" may send their name and address to me and I will see that they get a complimentary one-year membership, now being offered by AARCH. Send to Don Williams, 23 E. State St., Gloversville, NY 12078. Thanks!)



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