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IT'S OUR HISTORY: Walking Lake Placid’s history

May 1, 2014
By JENNIFER TUFANO , Lake Placid News

Inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. For former Historical Society trustee Sue Cameron, it happened two years ago while in Saranac Lake when she noticed a walking tour map in town. She realized there was nothing similar in Lake Placid and brought it to the attention of the historical society board. The idea took hold and Sue took on the task of creating such a map that would highlight Lake Placid's rich history.

A small committee of trustees including Cameron, Dean Dietrich, Beverley Reid and Director Jenn Tufano met consistently to brainstorm locations and organization of the map.

It was important that the tour be accessible to all while recognizing the many hills in town. Not everyone can hike mountains or paddle lakes but most everyone can walk or wheelchair ride through our streets.

Starting at the historic train station where the historical society maintains a seasonal museum, the map is broken up into four sections ranging from .73 miles to 1.8 miles in distance and shows the elevations of each section. The total map distance is 4.05 miles.

Want a short jaunt with Grandma and the kids? We have a walk for you. Interested in a more strenuous and extensive look around town? We can help there, too.

Also important was selecting buildings and neighborhoods which have significant historical value. This was the trickiest endeavor and we wanted to include everything and everyone! One resource we used was a book titled "Main Street, Lake Placid an Architectural and Historic Survey," by Mary MacKenzie, Lee Manchester and Janet Null that details the history of each building or block on Main Street from the Town Hall up to 1 Main St. Using this book, and the committee's institutional knowledge, 36 buildings and neighborhoods were selected.

Please note that we make it clear on the map that this is not intended to be a complete history of Lake Placid and refer people to the local bookstore, public library, Olympic Museum and the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society for even more fascinating and extensive coverage of our village.

The third important feature for us was to provide a community building opportunity by means of healthy exercise and a shared conversation. Allowing locals and visitors alike to park their cars and explore our lovely village on foot helps encourage exercise and exposure to fresh air. Having a tour route that can be enjoyed by multiple generations at once creates a conversation about both early life and times as well as current times.

The recently updated town/village comprehensive plan recognizes that historic tourism is growing in popularity and that New York state has developed many "heritage trails." Lake Placid has a visitor based economy and needs to draw on this development.

By combining historical significance with opportunities for exploration by walking and biking we have the potential to bring more people to our area and add value to their time here.

Essex County Public Health operates a grant called "Creating Healthy Places" from the New York State Department of Health and the historical society was lucky enough to be awarded a 2014 grant to fund the printing of this map. We thank them for their support.

After much hard work and determination, Sue brought the Historic Walking Tour of Lake Placid to life and it will be available around town and on our website by Memorial Day weekend.

We have grand plans for this little document. We hope to use it as a basis for projects with the Lake Placid Elementary and Middle/High Schools. We also hope it will be the basis for some projects for our H.I.P. (History in Progress) summer camp for local youth now in its third year.

Most importantly, the hope is that everyone will pick up a copy of this map and simply use it to gain an even greater appreciation for the people and places that founded this amazing, beloved place. As always, we appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

We're not done yet!

Grand plans are underway to create a wider-reaching bike tour which will include not just Lake Placid and North Elba but our outlying communities.

This will take time but we will keep you informed of our progress.

To quote the front of our Historic Walking Tour brochure:

"During your walk you will pass by many old homes and businesses, some dating back to the late 1800's and some quite new. Many are unique to our little Village. One business on Main Street survived the '1919 Main Street fire' and another was built to accommodate the visitors for the 1980 Olympics. The Library has been in existence since 1884 with dozens of improvements and add-ons. There are various interesting eating places, resting benches and shops for diversion along the way. Comfortable walking shoes will make this tour a wonderful way to spend time getting to know the Village of Lake Placid. Welcome and Enjoy!"

One final item to note is that The History Museum of the historical society will open for the season on Memorial Day weekend.

We hope that you will stop in and see the new additions to the exhibit "Developing our History, Finding our Families: The Stedman and Moses Collection of Historic Photographs."



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