Friday, February 2, 2018


     "Build it and they will come."

     People have been building for a long time in the Washington County towns of Putnam and Dresden. Last Sunday 'they'  (that would be Gwenne and myself) came to have a look. We did a self-guided architectural tour of the two rural communities. The impetus was A Guide to Architecture in the Adirondacks by Richard Longstreth. The 427 page book was published in 2017 by Adirondack Architectural Heritage. It contains photos and short descriptions of hundreds of buildings from all corners of New York State's Adirondack  Park, including both Putnam and Dresden.

The green shaded area is the Adirondack Park in upstate New York
The Towns of Putnam and Dresden are located between Ticonderoga and Whitehall

    The book has fifty pages of introductory material, including segments on firetowers and the Northway. The Park is divided into twelve sections that are conducive to driving tours. Included structures tend to be clustered in developed areas which facilitates seeing a number of them on a road trip. All can be viewed from the highway or are otherwise accessible to the public.

          The author mentions the criteria used for the National Register of Historic Places as guiding the selection process in this volume. Some kind of filter is needed when you're covering an area this large. Therein lies the book's strengths and weaknesses. If you frequently travel throughout the Adirondacks it could be a valuable companion. If your focus is narrower - just Washington County for example - it is less useful. Instead, I would recommend An Introduction to Historic Resources In Washington County, New York. That was a 1976 project of the Washington County Planning Department and has photos, maps and essays for each of the counties seventeen towns. We had both books with us on our recent tour. 

     Huletts Landing was our first stop. Here we found a couple of charming country churches. To visit turn off Rt. 22 onto Co. 6. Chug up and over the mountain to a steep descent towards Lake George. At the foot of the hill take a left on Lands End Road. Look for Mountain Grove Cemetery with Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church adjacent and Mountain Grove Memorial Chapel in a clearing beyond. It's a bucolic scene with stone walls and towering pines against a backdrop of the lake and mountains. Be sure to walk around the cobblestone church to see the leaded glass windows. For a lovely way to spend a summer Sunday, you could attend a morning service here and then walk a short distance to the county beach for an afternoon swim and picnic.

     After Huletts we went back over the mountain to Clemons, on the east side of Rt. 22 where the Dresden Baptist Church sits up on a knoll. It's a simple structure in an imposing location high above the road.

     Back on Rt. 22 we drove north past a series of small cottages. They are strung up a hill like colorful beads in a necklace. Longstreth says they were built around 1940, examples of roadside accommodations from an earlier time. I'm not sure if they are still available as lodging but they appear well kept and cute as a button. I could happily live in one of these little nests. 

     The route soon enters the Town of Putnam. A ways further look for the Putnam Log Chapel on the left. The Architecture book says it was built in 1933-34 for the 'poor' families living in this part of town.

     Turning right onto Cummings Road will lead you east to the intersection of Lower Road. The impressive stone house on the left was built in the 1830's. Early settlers used locally abundant materials - stone, wood and clay/bricks to build. Touring the backroads of Putnam reveals a number of these handsome structures still serving their purpose to this day.

     Driving south on Lower Road you will soon come to the stately United Presbyterian Church. It has a memorable setting, backed by a high limestone cliff, looking out on a sweeping vista of the Champlain Valley and adjoined by a picturesque cemetery. The site is also noteworthy for the well kept Church School which dates from 1880.


     Lower Road will eventually lead you to Putnam Center where you can see other stone houses, the Central School building and the Town Hall. All have interesting histories detailed in the two books previously mentioned.

     I love the open feeling and timelessness of Putnam and Dresden. There were several more homes, barns and bridges that I wanted to see but the Sun was setting and it was time to call it a day. This would be such a great place for a leisurely, house viewing bike ride. With warmer spring weather I hope to do just that.
     One thing I can tell you about this architectural touring business - it's hungry, thirsty work. But Battle Hill Brewing Company in Fort Ann has the cure for that. We stopped on our way home for beer, biscuits and turkey soup. Perfect finish to a fun day.



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