Sunday, January 28, 2024

Industrial Revolution

     The Village of Salem is a 'blink and you missed it' type of place. Best not to blink because what you'll miss is some of the most interesting architecture found anywhere. Take the eastern approach on Co 153 for example. There are a number of attractive residences and then in short order one passes the following:

The Courthouse Community Center

The school campus

The Episcopal Church with its stone belltower

The imposing Fort Salem Theater


     Come into town from the west on Co 30 past the entrance to SAW and its whimsical sculptors and The Old White Church is not to be missed.

     Swoop in from the north on Rt. 22 and, in truth, the most popular building is the Stewarts Shop. Ok, but once you get your milk, coffee, beer and gas take a minute to notice the old train station across the street. It's small, unimposing but with its own simple charm and tells of days gone by when railroading was a big thing here.

     Finally there's the Rt. 22 southern approach. Try to look the other way when you go by the Dollar General because there is a real treat coming up. The stately three story brick and stone structure that exudes an aura of 'old industry'.

     Mention Washington County and most people think of agriculture, not industry. But that's misleading. Ever since initial settlement  abundant waterpower has been utilized for industrial production. Anybody who paddles the county's streams will tell you about encountering washed out dams and the stone work of long abandoned mills. Sadly, 'abandoned' does seem to be a trend here. The recent leveling of GE's presence in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls being a prime example. And there are many other former mill sites as well. I had to go to Salem for parts last week and and in a brief half hour trip I checked out the following:

     The falls at Fort Miller have long powered a number of mills. All that's left are some graffiti enhanced cement structures surrounded by chain link fence.

     A few miles down the Hudson in Thompson is the site of a former paper mill. I can remember riding the bus to school in Schuylerville and looking across the river when it was an ongoing operation. Many of my friends parents worked there. Now it is mostly razed with a few interesting structures still remaining. Fishermen (even in January!) assure me it's  a public park and OK to access the water here. I'm not so sure. Note that Smokey Greene (1930-2023) had a tavern here that was a favorite stop for workers after they finished their shifts.

       On the edge of Greenwich Village along the Battenkill are the ruins of the Skybel Tissue mill. Another chain-linked wasteland that kids have no problem sneaking into. You can canoe down to the dam here (be careful) with the site actually looking attractive from the water. Occasional talk of redevelopment but that seems increasingly doubtful. Many people wish something would happen here.

     Further upstream is the post-industrial eyesore of Bio-Tech between Rt. 29 and the river in Battenville. With the refurbishment of the Susan Anthony house across the road and anticipation of it becoming an historical attraction it's time to do something with the derelict and slowly collapsing mill structures.
     Not trying to burden you with a post-apocalyptic sense of doom so much as to empathize the sense of hope that comes from the recent reinvigoration of the garment factory building in Salem. Since 2021 Jon and Deana Ketchum, a married couple who went to school in Greenwich, have been busy renovating the building to house their furniture making business as well as to serve as their home. 

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New Collar Goods Table and Chairs
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     So uplifting to see what can be done with these vintage buildings given a vision and a lot of hard work. Let's hope the Ketchums have sparked a new industrial revolution in Washington County.

Take a look...

     * The Salem garment factory renovations have been documented in Youtube videos here and here and here. There was also a feature on something called the Magnolia Network titled Home Reimagined. Unfortunately I couldn't find it but maybe you'll have better luck. New Collar also has a website and a facebook page to learn more. 
     * Note that Jon and Deanna will be speaking about their renovation of the mill at the Salem Courthouse on Thursday, February 8 at 6pm.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2024

A Low Way to Go


Map of canal with Mechanicville/South on the left and Fort Ann/North to right
The stepped horizontal line at bottom is a profile of locks and flatwater elevations 

      2023 is in the books and that means the Champlain Canal is another year older. 201 years old to be exact. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the canal the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership created a six panel mobile display focusing on different aspects of the waterway. There may be one somewhere in our area but I haven't found it yet. In the meantime you can see the display online here. 

Image from the canal display panel

    A list of the organizations devoted to Lake Champlain is longer than the lake itself. In the unlikely event that a wave of ambition washes over me I'll do a post sorting thru them and their various missions. Till then I hope you enjoy the panels and the canal.