It's Tuberculosis Thursday, so we thought we'd share more about cure porch design! This week's Letter from the Porch got us thinking about porches and how their design varies, especially locally. This photograph came from a series examining the differences in cure porch architecture, and we thought it was interesting to see a porch under construction. This photograph was taken at Trudeau Sanatorium, or as it would have been called then, Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, prior to 1904.
Want to learn more about the defining features of cure porches? Visit our wiki! Do you have a cure porch on your home? What features does it have?
[Historic Saranac Lake Collection, courtesy of Ted Comstock.]
Join Chessie--on a colder day last month--for a mini tour about the statue of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. These days, the statue is located behind the Trudeau Institute. We hope you'll join us in person for a tour in the future!
Learn more about the statue on our wiki.
Long after people die, the buildings where they made their lives often remain. Many visitors to the museum follow the footsteps of a family member who came to Saranac Lake with tuberculosis. Often the only trace that remains is the address of a cure cottage and a porch where their relative once took the fresh air.
Places anchor the past. Together with our partners at Adirondack Architectural Heritage, we work to document the places that anchor the history of the Saranac Lake region — from cure cottages to churches to great camps — these structures stand as lasting memorials to the humans who built and cared for them over generations.
About 40 years ago, one of Historic Saranac Lake’s first projects was to do a survey of the cure cottages of Saranac Lake. The primary feature of a cure cottage is a cure porch, and so volunteers counted up the number of buildings that had evidence of cure porches. They identified over 700 structures!
Over the seventy years that Saranac Lake prospered as a tuberculosis health resort, cure porches were built as part of the design of new cure cottages, and they were added on to existing buildings. Our porches exist in many sizes and forms, upstairs and downstairs, on the grandest of sanatoria like Prescott House, and the most modest home, renting to one patient for extra income. The porch was the key feature of the Saranac Lake treatment — a place where a patient could sit out — and preferably sleep out — to benefit from the fresh air. They were places where sick people who had been banished from society could find community with other patients and with the outside world.
Porches are places where private life and public life safely mingle. Today, as we navigate the solitude of quarantine times, even avowed introverts notice the value of social contact. A porch is a good place to find a balance between private and public life, if just by providing a spot for a casual wave at passers-by.
Porches also contain stories from the past. As I drive past one cure cottage on Lake Flower, I often think of a remarkable man who died nearby over 100 years ago. The house at 245 Lake Flower, along with a neighboring cure cottage, no longer standing, catered to African American patients and boarders. One of those health seekers, Hunter C. Haynes, was born in Alabama, two years after the end of the civil war, to parents who had lived in slavery. In his lifetime he worked as a barber, inventor, manufacturer, entrepreneur, and motion picture producer and director. He invented the Haynes Razor Strop and developed the product into an international business. He died of TB at the age of 51 in Saranac Lake on January 1, 1918. The glassed-in porches of 245 Lake Flower stand today as a quiet memorial to Hunter Haynes and other African American patients whose stories have gone unrecorded.
Across the lake is a house that reminds me of another story. Back in 2003, Howard Riley interviewed Olive Lascore Gardiner, who lived at 56 Riverside Drive (now 135 Kiwassa.) It is a nice old house on the water with a big wrap-around porch. Olive’s father was a carpenter, and he carefully built the house for his family of six daughters. Olive, the youngest child in the family, remembered the night the house was completed in the winter of 1923. She and her mother walked across the ice on Lake Flower to the new house, carrying a Bible and a freshly baked loaf of bread. Olive’s mother placed the bread and the Bible in the attic rafters and said, “This house will never be without faith or bread.” Olive Gardiner lived in the house her whole life, and she died one year after telling Howard that story.
The house, still standing, reminds us of Olive’s story, and Olive’s story brings the house to life.
Historic Saranac Lake
- Priscilla Bergren and Louis Mackay. Courtesy of Priscilla Mackay Goss
- Hunter C. Haynes advertisement
- 245 Lake Flower Avenue (Ramsey Cottage, formerly 24 Lake Flower)
- Olive Gardiner yearbook entry
- 135 Kiwassa Avenue (formerly 56 Riverside Drive)
As we return to sharing local history, we want to highlight some resources that HSL staff are using to inform our discussions and research on Black history in the Saranac Lake area. Sally Svenson's 2017 book, Blacks in the Adirondacks, highlights untold stories of Black individuals throughout the area, including TB Patients coming to Saranac Lake. Her book can be purchased from our museum store, or you can check your local library for a copy! The Adirondack Explorer reviewed Svenson's book in 2017, if you want to learn more.
Other resources for Black history in the region:
-Online exhibits/educational resources from the Adirondack History Museum, including "Dreaming of Timbuctoo" and "On the Trail of John Brown: What Mary Brown Saw"
-Fulton Fryar's Closet at Seagle Music Colony. The "closet" can be seen at the Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake.
-North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association.
-John Brown Lives!
Is there a resource we missed? Let us know in the comments.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture's work includes an Oral History Initiative chronicling the stories of African American history. Visit their website to listen to some stories from the initiative, including the Civil Rights History Project. The Museum worked with the The Library of Congress over five years to record the voices of activists in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Be sure to check out these important stories today!
Today we’re sharing this article from earlier this year, which offers an in-depth look at the work being done to preserve African-American historic sites. The article also addresses the complicated history of race and historic preservation.
“Since its founding, the N.H.P.A. has identified nearly two million locations worthy of preservation and has engaged tens of millions of Americans in the work of doing so. It has helped to generate an estimated two million jobs and more than a hundred billion dollars in private investments. But, because many biases were written into the criteria that determine how sites are selected, those benefits have gone mostly to white Americans. One of the criteria for preservation is architectural significance, meaning that modest buildings like slave cabins and tenement houses were long excluded from consideration. By the time preservationists took notice of structures like those, many lacked the physical integrity to merit protection. Destruction abetted decay, and some historically black neighborhoods were actively erased—deliberately targeted by arson in the years after Reconstruction or displaced in later decades by highway construction, gentrification, and urban renewal.
While state and federal institutions were largely neglecting these areas, communities of color began protecting them on their own.”
For our weekly Wednesday tour, we're sharing this interactive tour of Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York. Villa Lewaro was home to Madam C.J. Walker, an American businesswoman, philanthropist, and activist. Walker made her fortune with a line of hair care products and cosmetics for black women, and was the first female self-made millionaire in America. This fascinating tour is narrated by Walker's great-great granddaughter, A'Lelia Bundles, and offers a rare behind-the-scenes view of this important property.Take the tour by clicking the button below!
Thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for sharing this tour as part of their Virtual Preservation Month series. To learn more about the National Trust's initiatives, including their African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, visit their website: www.savingplaces.org
Today we want to share this helpful new resource created by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism and racial identity. The "Talking About Race" portal is free to access online, and includes digital tools, videos, scholarly articles, and over 100 multimedia resources.
Spencer Crew, the interim director of NMAAHC said, "Since opening the museum, the number one question we are asked is how to talk about race, especially with children. We recognize how difficult it is to start that conversation. But in a nation still struggling with the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and white supremacy, we must have these tough conversations if we have any hope of turning the page and healing. This new portal is a step in that direction."
You can access the portal for free by clicking the button below.
In recognition of the national situation of protest following the death of George Floyd, we would like to share this statement from Lonnie G. Bunch, III, the Smithsonian's 14th Secretary and the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture: "It Is Time for America to Confront Its Tortured Racial Past.”
This week, following the lead of other museums around the nation, instead of our usual local history programming, we will be sharing content from other historical organizations that amplify the voices and stories of African American and minority communities in history. We will be taking the time to step back and educate ourselves about the history of marginalized groups in the Saranac Lake region and think about ways that we can work to better present and document those stories.
Historic Saranac Lake
This Tuberculosis Thursday, we want to share more about one of the women whose voice is featured in "This Was Heaven, Really..." (check our videos here on FB to watch!). Elise's is the second female voice in the video, and she describes what the days were like as a patient.
Elise came to Saranac Lake for the cure in 1935, and after she recovered, she married Mott Chapin. The Chapins operated the Pot Shop on Main Street from 1950 to 1959, selling Mott's pottery with Elise's designs. Elise was active in the community throughout her life, including as a founding member of Historic Saranac Lake.
This photograph shows Elise and Mott at work in the Pot Shop. To learn more about Elise Chapin, visit our wiki: https://localwiki.org/hsl/Elise_Kalb_Chapin
[Historic Saranac Lake Collection, TCR 446. Courtesy of David Chapin and Sarah Wardner.]
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