HISTORY IS COOL: 87 years ago

Sept. 20, 1935

Highway dedication

Before the dedication of the Whiteface Mountain road Saturday, President Roosevelt’s car was driven slowly up the new highway, rising from an altitude of 1,220 feet to 4,610 in eight and one-half miles of winding road, in order that he might see the full beauty of the Adirondacks as a vista extending for almost 100 miles.

Roosevelt used binoculars to view the St. Lawrence River and Mount Royal. Lake Champlain was spread below.

Gov. Lehman, introducing Mr. Roosevelt, pointed out that another engineering feat was being used for the first time, outside of experimental laboratories, in today’s ceremonies, the broadcast of the program’s speeches being transmitted by a light beam from the mountain top to a receiving station at the Lake Placid airport, 7 miles distant by air line.

The governor presented the president as “the man who really made this highway possible through his vision and courage.”

“The highway owes its existence to Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” he declared.

The president opened his speech with a tribute to the four little words, “It can be done,” and then told a heretofore unrecounted wartime anecdote giving their origin.

He said that within a few weeks after the United States entered the World War, a French and British military delegation visited Washington to confer with President Wilson, who was faced with the fact that the army staff had never made plans for equipping a force greater than 500,000 men.

“I had the good fortune,” Mr. Roosevelt said, “to be present at the conferences with President Wilson and the leaders of the army and the navy.”

He said he remembered “old Marshal Joffre” asking President Wilson how many America could send into the war.

Mr. Roosevelt went on:

“Wilson replied: ‘You will have, Marshal Joffre, one million men. If you need two million, you will have two million men. If you need five million men, you will have five million. If you need the whole manpower of the United States, you will have them.’

“Actually near five million men were under arms in the army and navy, and if it had been necessary, we could have supplied five million more. Wilson said, ‘It can be done.'”

Turning to the memorial phase of the highway, the president said:

“Knowing these men, I am certain that no more fitting memorial could be dedicated than this highway to the peak of this mountain.

“This highway will last not for mere generations but for centuries to come. Not a mere tablet or a mere building, this highway will enter the lives of our generation and of future generations, I believe, more usefully than anything else we could have created.”

He recalled arguments advanced in “the old days” that “we keep the natural beauties of the Adirondacks” and then pointed out that many persons, due to age or disability, “cannot indulge in the luxury of camping or of climbing.”

“For older persons who cannot climb,” he said with a smile, “and for millions of people who haven’t got the facilities for walking up a mountain, we have now got the means for their coming up here on four wheels.”

Starting at $1.44/week.

Subscribe Today