Two Adirondack Hamlets in History: Keene & Keene Valley - Purple Mountain Press


Richard Plunz, Contributing Editor

From Chapter Two--"Roads and Development":

Like the road infrastructure earlier, the rail connections to the south proved to be the most difficult to realize, as evidenced by the problems confronting the Iron Works at Adirondack. The Cedar Point road had been a practical failure; and the Ausable Lakes route was even worse except in winter. So the company dreamed of making a rail connection to Lake Champlain. In 1839 the State Legislature approved the formation of the "Adirondack Rail-Road Company" by the McIntyre investors, and authorized it to build a line from Adirondack to the "State Road" along the present Route 9 corridor. Work has begun in 1840 using wooden rails. Only three miles were realized, however. Instead, only by 1871 was the line passing through Saratoga to North Creek completed by the Adirondack Company. From there, materials could be hauled to Adirondack over the remaining 29 miles of road. This line was planned to continue to Ogdensburg, passing close to the Adirondack mines. This extension was not begun before 1894, however, when the "Forever Wild" New York State Constitutional Amendment disallowed such projects to cross state land. Thwarted by "Forever Wild," the company again attempted to build a railroute to Lake Champlain to help salvage its declining operation. They did not succeed. Only by 1944 was the connection to Adirondack completed, through a special waiver of the "Forever Wild" restriction due to the strategic importance of the titanium at Tahawas for the war effort. The continuation of the line to Ogdensburg was never realized."

Comprising over six million acres in northern New York State, the Adirondack Park is the largest natural preserve in the United States outside of Alaska. Taken alone as a region, its area equals half of the original thirteen English colonies. Yet at the time of colonization it was virtually unknown to Europeans, having been "discovered" only toward the end of the 18th century. In the early 19th century its wilderness was rivaled only by the distant Far West. But its proximity to the growing large urban centers fostered rapid exploitation such that today one finds an extraordinary combination of vast natural, landscape with settlement pattern. Rarely, however, has this rich material culture been considered as the legitimate province of the many environmentalist initiatives which date to before the incorporation of the Adirondack Park in 1892.

This book is devoted to the cultural legacy within the corridor of the East Branch of the Ausable River as it passes through the Keene Valley in the High Peaks Region. Considered by many to be the most spectacular of Adirondack natural landscapes, the corridor is also the location of two historic hamlets, Keene and Keene Valley, which are the particular emphasis of this study. Both date from the turn of the 19th century and have rich social histories which may be seen as an integral part of the natural landscape. The Keene and Keene Valley Local History Project was begun in 1886 to foster the ideal of local empowerment through cultural self knowledge. Apart from the general interest inherent to this historical material, these case-studies can be seen as a working tool of relevance to other communities in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.

373 pages, illustrated, 8.5 x 11, French-fold cover,
$24.00 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original
co-published with the Keene Valley Library Association

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