The wagon: simple, sturdy, enduring, endearing, dependable and devoted. Wagons were a mechanism for travel and transportation once pulled behind a horse and maneuvered by a driver. One might imagine a wagon being used to transport feed from town to a homestead or to carry dairy from a farm to a general store. Who has imagined a wagon being used to forge a deep connection and, perhaps, a way to grow and share love?
Just last week the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society acquired such a wagon and transported it from its loving home to our storage facility. I received a phone call a couple weeks before from a woman I will call Mary, as that's her name, who began to tell the story of how the wagon in her front yard came to be. Intrigued by her story, and the emotion behind her words, we met at her home so I could see this piece of history firsthand and determine if it would be a good fit for our collection.
The wagon is simple. Wood slat, metal hinges and fasteners, wood bottom rails with a wood trace. Clearly this was a handmade piece whose weathered look and feel spoke of many decades past. Mary shared with me that she originally called the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake inquiring as to its value and purpose as well as to determine a proper final resting place for it. The museum curator determined the wagon originated from the mid-to-late 1800s and was structured so that the sleigh bottom could be replaced with wheels during favorable weather. As the Adirondack Museum came to see but ultimately declined to procure the wagon, Mary learned of the LP-NEHS and gave me a call.
Mary’s wagon that was donated to the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society
Because, you see, Mary was selling her beautiful Lake Placid home, a home she had built with her husband several years ago as their summer place. Not just a summer place, though. This was the home that held their hearts, their dreams, and their future. The new owners did not want this old wagon and she was fearful it would end up in the dump. Why the attachment to this old wood and metal relic in her front yard? Her husband had found it up the road from their house and rebuilt it piece by piece by scouring websites and calling everyone he could think of to learn more about the structure of old Adirondack wagons. He was a frequent visitor to Lamb Lumber but sought to keep as much of the original look and feel as absolutely possible. He loved that wagon and spent weeks and weeks bringing it back to life.
Sadly, Mary's husband passed away suddenly over a year ago. That first day we met at her home I had the pleasure of listening to Mary talk of her husband and their life together. She showed me his woodwork all over their home and spoke of the time he spent creating beautiful birch bark frames and shelves which now line the walls. His hand was everywhere. In sharing just a glimpse of their life together, their love of the Adirondacks, and love for each other, Mary created a connection which will never be forgotten. In sharing their story of this little wagon, those memories are passed on and become part of the collective memory of Lake Placid.
So last Saturday, a group from the historical society met at Mary's house to retrieve the little wagon. It was a cold day and snow covered everything but there was a spirit of generosity and acceptance in the air that lightened the mood. Mary stood by as we carefully slid the wagon through the snow and up into our moving truck. Once it was safely tucked in for the ride across town, we all turned to thank Mary for her gift to us and to you. Mary just said she was grateful. Grateful that all the time, energy, and heart her husband put into his project was not in vain. His love for and stewardship of this 100-year-old piece of history continues as it finds a new home in the history museum.
For anyone who has loved and lost, there can be no greater knowledge than that of having your loved one carry on in a meaningful way. So as we come into our holiday season this year, those of us at the LP-NEHS wish you and yours peace and joy. Make a new memory and remember an old one. Carry forward with love.
Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society
Contact: Jennifer Tufano
by email at
verizon.net or visit