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The 2014 AARCH Awardees

Preservation enthusiasts gathered at The Woods Inn to honor and celebrate 2014’s six Adirondack Architectural Heritage Award winners. The awardees shared their stories of struggle and success, delivered with passion and humor.

2014 Recipients:

laboratoryHistoric Saranac Lake
For sensitive restoration of the Saranac Laboratory Museum, Saranac Lake, Essex County

Built in 1894, The Saranac Laboratory was the first lab built in the U.S. for the research of tuberculosis.  The lab was founded by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, who came to the Adirondacks in 1873, seriously ill with tuberculosis himself.

The present building was inspired late in 1893, when an imported laboratory heater set fire to the Trudeau family’s house while they were away, and burned it to the ground.  The day after the fire, George C. Cooper visited Trudeau, his doctor and his friend, to offer him “a good stone and steel laboratory, one that will never burn up. Plan it just as you want it, complete, and I will be glad to pay for it and give it to you personally.” The name “Saranac Laboratory” was a compromise between Cooper and Trudeau, who each wanted to name it after the other.

The new, state-of-the-art laboratory was designed for Dr. Trudeau by his cousin, J. Lawrence Aspinwall, junior partner of James Renwick in the New York City firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Renwick. Branch and Callanan Lumber Company of Saranac Lake built the laboratory between May and November of 1894, at a cost of $20,000, fully equipped. Trudeau and Aspinwall planned this laboratory with particular attention to fire protection, light, ventilation and disinfection.  The left wing addition—the John Black Room and upstairs offices—was completed in 1934.The Saranac Laboratory closed in 1964, with the on-going experiments transferred to the new Trudeau Institute, where Dr. E.L. Trudeau’s influence in science continues today.

The laboratory building was donated to Paul Smith’s College in 1966, during which time it served as classroom and dormitory space until the college’s new building opened next door in 1987.  Historic Saranac Lake became the owner of the former Saranac Laboratory in 1998, has painstakingly restored the building, and opened it as a museum in 2009.  Major repairs have included repointing exterior masonry, repairing the slate roof, and replacing interior roof drainage.  Wiring has also been updated, and floors have been repaired and refinished.  The historic windows and doors were repaired and recreated.  The second floor of the 1934 addition was renovated to accommodate offices and two bathrooms, and the laboratory area was converted to house a gift shop and a public research space.


croghanRailway Historical Society of Northern New York
For long-term stewardship of the Croghan Depot, Croghan, Lewis County

The home of the Railway Historical Society of Northern New York (RHSNNY) was once the Croghan Depot for the Lowville-Beaver River Railway (L&BRR).  In 1903, a group of men at the Lowville Club discussed the possibility of building a railroad from Lowville to Croghan. They thought it would be beneficial to the area as dairy, log, lumber, and paper mill products could be shipped by rail.  Construction began in the summer of 1904. On January 13, 1906, an excursion train left Lowville with 300 people on board. On Monday, January 15, 1906, the first paying passengers were carried, and the Lowville and Beaver River Railroad was established.

Business for the railroad showed a reasonably steady growth through the years, except for the depression period in the early 1930s. Eventually, much of the freight business was lost to trucking, and in 1938 the train was abandoned.  In January 1960, negotiations were started with the J. P. Lewis Company for the purchase of all the railroad stock. By the end of August 1960, the purchase of stock was complete and the J. P. Lewis interests took over the company.

The railroad is presently owned by Genesee Valley Transportation of Batavia, NY. It is used to haul feed, waste paper, and pulp and operates on an as-needed basis. The railroad is 10.9 miles long, which includes 1,100 feet of trestle across the Black River Flats.

The RHSNNY has facilitated extensive restoration work over the years, beginning in the late 1990s by completely removing the passenger area floor to replace the deteriorated sills and beams.  Hardwood flooring was reinstalled in-kind, as well as new metal roof.  A new handicapped restroom was also completed, and to create a space for book storage and displaying artifacts, a ceiling was built over the first floor baggage area.  The historic windows were repaired by the neighboring Croghan Island Mill, and the entire building was painted.  The RHSNNY works to create dynamic interpretation of local rail history, with the depot serving as their headquarters and as a space for community programming.


willsboroEli Schwartzberg
For sensitive restoration and adaptive reuse of the Former Willsboro School, Willsboro, Essex County

Built in 1927, this neoclassical building illustrates a common style for early 20th century school buildings in New York state.  The school was designed by MIT graduate Walter P. Pember, and built by John McCambly & Son of Plattsburgh.  A 1952 addition was executed by the architecture firm of Benedict, Ryan and Sayer from Plattsburgh.

Schools from 1810 and 1814 were present on a parcel of land that was later incorporated into the property where the present building stands.  A number of one-room schoolhouses existed around the outskirts of Willsboro before consolidation began around the turn of the 20th century, resulting in the 1927 structure.  Construction began on land that was donated by Augustus G. Paine, Jr. and students began classes in the fall of 1928.  At the time, there were still at least seven active one-room schoolhouses in the town.  The building served as the primary location of K-12 education in the town of Willsboro and portions of Essex until the summer of 2001, when the school district decided that it would be in the best interest of the students and the taxpayers to build a new school on the outskirts of town, rather than further expand the former building in its present location.

In 2008, Adirondack native and real estate developer Eli Schwartzberg purchased the property when the building was threatened with demolition, and began assessing potential uses for the building.  He successfully nominated the building to the National Register of Historic Places, and obtained funding from a variety of sources before beginning rehabilitation of the structure.  Work was completed in June of 2013, and doors opened to the Champlain Valley Senior Community.

A central goal of the project was preserving the historic fabric of the building, while incorporating modern amenities necessary for its new use.  With this in mind, Schwartzberg utilized the original layout of rooms and corridors to create residential suites, and adaptively reused the former gymnasium to create a dining room and social center.  Dropped ceilings were removed to reveal the 12-foot-high ceilings, woodwork was refinished, and the historic windows were repaired.  The original stage and bleachers were kept intact, and the balconies were converted into reading spaces.  Other character defining features, such as children’s murals and old chalkboards, have been preserved to acknowledge the building’s original use while adding to the overall welcoming atmosphere.


Indian_Lake_1Indian Lake Theater, Inc.
For long-term stewardship of the Indian Lake Theater, Indian Lake, Hamilton County

The theater was built in 1937 and was designed by Grover Ward Shippey. Over the years, the facility has housed restaurants, a drug store, an electrical appliance store, a pizzeria, a deli, and the local Community Action agency. The building was run as a seasonal movie theater until 2004, when it closed. In 2008, it was reopened as a year-round non-profit theater and community space. While the interior retains much of the original character, a stage was added to accommodate live shows and productions.

Community theater groups have packed the house for amateur productions of Hello, Dolly!, The Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar and other ambitious musicals.

The vision of Indian Lake Theater, Inc. is to provide stage and screen possibilities year-round.  This building is a prime example of how the use of a structure can be reinvented over time, and with a creative vision, revived once again to its original use as a vibrant community center.

Support from a capital campaign, and a grant from New York State have made crucial building repairs possible, including roof replacement, electrical upgrades, interior insulation, and the addition of a more efficient HVAC system. Future plans include the addition of a new marquee, keeping in complement with the original building design.


IMG_4388Ike Wolgin
For sensitive restoration and adaptive reuse of the former Fanita Boathouse, Bolton Landing, Warren County

The former Fanita boathouse was built in the late 1880s for John Boulton Simpson and his 80-ft steam yacht, the Fanita.  Simpson  was the New York City businessman who, along with four other investors, purchased Green Island and built the Sagamore Hotel in 1882. The men built cottages on the island, and spent the summers engaged in parties of various sorts, with the Fanita typically accommodating around 30 guests.  The Fanita was docked at Villa Nirvana, on the south shore of Green Island, and kept in the boathouse during the off-season.

F.R. Smith and Sons, the Bolton Landing marina, purchased the boathouse in the late 1920s.  The structure continued to house boats, but gradually fell into disrepair before the Lake George Kayak Company bought it, and owner Ike Wolgin teamed up with Bolton builder Dave McAvinney and architect Ruben Caldwell, also a Bolton native, to craft a rehabilitation plan, with the vision of preserving the historic fabric and context of the building, while incorporating harmonious modern elements.

The interior space consists of four loft-like platforms, joined by an open steel stairway.  All historic materials that were salvageable were incorporated into the building in creative ways, including using the old exterior siding to line the interior walls, and retaining the original beams and tin roof.  A new plaque reading “Fanita” was also recreated using the profile of the letters which had originally been mounted beneath the gable facing the water.  In addition, “green” elements such as solar panels have been strategically implemented.  The building currently houses a show room for new boats and a merchandise area, and exemplifies how modern design can have a successful partnership with historic preservation.


thendaraStation2The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society

For sensitive restoration and long-term stewardship of the Remsen-Lake Placid Rail Corridor and Thendara Station, Thendara, Herkimer County

The 119-mile rail corridor between Remsen and Lake Placid was first developed by Dr. William Seward Webb to access his Adirondack hunting preserve, Nehasane Park.  He began by buying a narrow-gauge shortline that ran north from Herkimer to Poland, then had it standard-gauged and extended north to Remsen.  Major construction began in 1891, with the line completed October 12, 1892.  Called the St. Lawrence and Adirondack Railroad south of Malone, it was soon consolidated with the northern line to form the Mohawk and Malone Railroad.  In 1893, the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad began leasing the M&M and merged it into its system in 1913, the same year the larger railroad became the New York Central, and this section became its Adirondack Division.

The Great Depression and World War II brought a slower time, with more abandonment resulting from the popularization of other forms of transportation, and damage from Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  In 1974, the NYS DOT purchased the remains for possible use as a tourist venture.  After a failed attempt by the Adirondack Railway Corporation to restore passenger service, the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS) was founded in 1980, dedicated to preserving the Adirondack Railway.  ARPS began by protecting the railroad from vandalism, wash-outs and other forms of destruction.  In 1991, New York State acquired the property at auction, and ARPS began to plan an active tourist railroad.

The rail yards at Thendara, with its station, freight house and shop, were restored and became the headquarters of the Adirondack Centennial Railroad, named for the 100th anniversary of the completion of the rail line and the creation of the Adirondack Park.  Opening day was July 4, 1992.  Since then, the railroad has run every summer season, maintaining and increasing the available trackage.  ARPS commissioned a nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places for the right of way and all remaining structures on the line.  Systematic maintenance of the right-of-way, tracks and ties began with the acquisition of maintenance-of-way (MOW) equipment, washouts were filled, and brush was cleared.  With the help of a large number of volunteers and dedicated ARPS staff, the historic context of this extensive resource has been preserved, and exploration of this beautiful region further promoted.