All posts by Chris Leipfert

Window Displays [1976]

Bicentennial displays of the organizations are beginning to fill the store windows for the Old Home Week observance.

In Sach’s Jewelry store the Rural Charity Club’s aims — Faith, Hope, Charity — are explained delightfully in words and serio-comic models.
In Aiken’s restaurant the Senior Citizens have placed articles that suggest a century ago in the home — women’s dress with apron holding a water pitcher and candle stick, a child’s traveling trunk, Dresden plate sofa and locket, stand with doilies cushion, braided rug, and bouquet of dried flowers.

Broadway Market window contains Mettowee Valley Business and Professional _ Women’s Club objectives for women with streamers that lead from an enlarged picture of its emblem.

In TexGas window are the implements that recall a small home industry of candy making of Mattie and Bella Henry. The peanut roaster, the cart used in drawing the candy bags, the scales, marble and hook that pulled the taffy are displayed.

In Jumbo’s IGA Market is the exhibit of the Elementary School Art Club. It is a mural – with a center eagle spread 1776-1976, with 16 individual posters surrounding it, expressing each child’s bicentennial conception.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976

2nd Bicentennial and Dedication

How can a community have two bicentennials within 17 years? Easy, if that community is Skenesborough. And how can a museum have two dedications within that period? Again, easy if it is Skenesborough Museum.

Skenesborough Museum was created 17 years ago during the town’s bicentennial year, for it was founded in 1959. This celebration coincided with the 350th anniversary of the discovery of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. This year, 1976, the birthday of the nation, a wing was added to the museum and dedicated to the memory of Judge John J. O’Brien who among other community services helped in alerting the legislature to the fact that Whitehall is the Birthplace of the United States Navy.

Whitehall’s participation in the 1959 event was initiated in three organizations, the Historical Society of Whitehall, the town board, and the chamber of commerce. At-tending the first state meeting in Albany as representatives were the late Supervisor Jerome Campbell, chamber of commerce member the late Alfred Washburn, Marion Guerin and Doris Morton of the Historical society.

From reports of these delegates, whose organizations had been talking for several years about the 200th birthday. The celebration idea caught fire and grew into a great community project. The chamber of commerce appointed Francis Layden chairman of the event; Governor Averill E. Harriman appointed James Roche Washington county chairman. The late Miss Eva Johnson became secretary, and Mrs. Thyrza Kinner, treasurer.

The Canal Terminal building, a reinforced concrete structure built in 1917, had been slated for demolition by the State of New York. Letters from Whitehall’s or-ganizations urging permission to use it as museum were recognized. It was dedicated 28 June 1959, with Miss Catharine Potter, daughter of Rear Admiral William Potter, cutting the ribbon. The following year 1960 through the efforts of the town board and the late Judge O’Brien the town received permission to use the building as long as it was used as a museum.

Following discontinuance of the building in 1932 as a canal building, it had been used as a town shed for many years. Under the leadership of Russell Terry a great corps of men and women dug tar from the floor, cleaned the walls and painted the exterior. A contest was held for a name and 29 names out of the 40 entered produced the name Skenesborough Museum.

The chairman of the Museum committee requested exhibits from organizations to fill the long building. Displays were arranged by the Grange, Sportsman’s club, Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company, the American Legion, the seventh and eighth grade art and industrial classes, the Historical society and the D&H Railway Company. Rearranged and augmented, these are still a part of the museum.

In 1958 the New York State (Legislature enacted a proclamation that Whitehall is the Birthplace of the United States Navy, a copy of which hangs in the museum. For a navy display the late Edward G. Farmer, U.S. Navy Retired, from Orwell, Vt., affectionately known as “Captain”, produced a detailed model of the Skenesborough harbor and shipyard of 1776, with models of the ships built in it. As a “labor of love”, Captain Farmer constructed this model in a period covering Jan. 4 to a June 29, 1959. It is still the main attraction of the museum, now in the Navy room of the Judge John J.O’Brien Memorial Wing.

Over its 17 years of existence Skenesborough Museum has grown slowly but steadily in acquisitions from its friends. Finances, in a low key, have been derived fromthe annual letter to Friends of the Museum and the community calendar. The smalladmission fee maintains the services. Visitors, world wide, increase in numbers eachseason and are enthusiastic in their praise of what they term a “unique” museum.

Over the years “curators” have been loyal in their labor and interest. Longest in terms of years has been Mrs. Catherine Senecal. Floyd a Coleman was a dedicated member for many years, with his knowledge of local history, his interest in detail, and the care of the physical structure. Others for shorter terms have been James Keenan, Claribel Snody, Margery Coppins, Elaine Senecal and Linda Beckwith. The present “curators” are George Greenough and Frank Brown.

The original museum committee of five members has served since 1959: Chairman Doris Morton, Vice Chairman James Roche, Treasurer Thyrza Kinner, Attorney E. Francis Layden and Marion Guerin. Over the years were added Floyd Coleman, George Greenough, Carol Greenough and Frank Brown. With a change structure and method the total membership has been increased to 11 with, Evelyn Benjamin, Robert Kana and Horace Scott, Jr.

Several years ago a suggested plan for an addition was drawn up by George Greenough. This became reality, through the town board and the Judge John J O’Brien Memorial committee. Whitehall has obtained its Horizon part of the National slogan Heritage Festival and Horizon.” The addition parallels the acquisition of the museum 17 years ago. Skenesborough Museum is not just another museum. It is one that is worthy of Whitehall’s history and one that receives the admiration of the visiting public.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July, 1, 1976

(No Title) “Philadelphia Rechristened”

Philadelpia Rechristened

The boat shown here under British colors will be flying the colors of the United States following its rechristening as the “Philadelphia” at ceremonies at the Skenesborough Museum grounds launching site on the afternoon of the Fourth of July. The ceremony will take place following the religious service in which the ecumenical churches of Whitehall will participate.

This 28-foot boat is a converted lifeboat, outfitted for sailing and also fitted for rowing. There are eight oarsman stations. A crew of ten seamen and officers will be the normal complement. The craft will be armed with cannon and various other arms.

A second boat which will be christened the “New York” will be put in service, at a later date, coinciding with the completion date anniversary of the last of Arnold’s fleet built in 1776 Skenesborough.

The future “New York” of slightly different construction, it will be on the Skenesborough grounds during next week’s festival and for some time thereafter to be repaired and outfitted in preparation for its joining the “Philadelphia” as a second ship the Skenesborough Navy.

The Celebration ‘76 Bicentennial commission has purchased the boats, which now will become property of the Skenesborough Museum and will be used to acquaint youth with the naval heritage of Skenesborough (Whitehall).

Volunteers of all ages are invited to become members of the ‘Skenesborough Navy” and to participate in reenactments and sailing exercises.

An invitation has already been received for Sept. 17, 1977, a year in advance for the boats to take part in the battle of Diamond Island near Lake George.

During the summer of 1977, the boats will be active in the Burgoyne Invasion and will be involved in the battle of Skenesborough harbor.

Individuals and organizations wishing to assist financially the support of this new venture in the teaching of Skenesborough’s history should contact either the Bicentennial commission or the Skenesborough Museum.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976

Skenesborough Scraps

THIS ISSUE…of The Times is the largest ever published [published July 1976]. We had a 26 page edition at the time of our town’s bicentennial in 1959 but a series of events this week has helped us eclipse the edition published 17 years ago We really feel that to publish 32 pages at this time is nothing short of miraculous, because we didn’t start putting it together until last Wednesday.

We handed most of the photos over to our camera room operator, Ed Touchette, at that time and started feeding copy to our compositor, Clarence Benway, on the same day The type which makes up these pages is a product of a photographic process so we hesitate to set it too far in advance.. because the letters will fade… To further complicate matters, advertising was still arriving in our shop as late as Tuesday night… As these words are written, that evening, we are hopeful that we will be able to get it all together and on its way to our printers in Mechanicville by Wednesday noon.

Jay Arr, Editor of The Whitehall Times – The Whitehall Times – July 1, 1976

Bicentennial Days

An eventful week, July 10, 1976:

Not quite as thrilling when it arrived July 6 with flags flying and bells ringing, the experience of seeing the New York State Bicentennial Barge leave on its journey to Plattsburgh was still exciting.

By 5a.m. July 8, the barge was at Lock 12, battened down, waiting for its escorts, Governor Cleveland and Governor Roosevelt, and a small houseboat to be locked through. Then, accompanied by the tug Waterford, the barge itself almost completely filled the lock, with just a short space between the deck and the bridge above.

After leaving the lock, the 250-foot barge was picked up by the two tugs and went down the channel. Its blue, orange and red colors soon became blurred as it rounded the curve and went into Lake Champlain. It will be seen here again as it passes on its way to Fort Edward for a stay July 17-18.

The colonial history of New York State was delightfully told in panels, pictures and objects. Colonial Skenesborough was mentioned as an important colony north of Albany. One of the many grants of Skene’s lands was singled out because he received it for war service, as did the neighboring grantees. His saw mill and blockhouse were copied from the Anburg picture. This section of the barge journey took it through the early Revolutionary War arena.

The visit of the barge coincided with the chamber commerce’s annual Old Home Week. Added to it were Celebration ‘76 activities and those of the firemen companies. Volunteers for these activities have been many. Untold man-hours of time and labor were spent to provide a week of worthwhile entertainment and fun. It’s great to see a successful event but, unless one is a part of the preparation process, he does not realize the planning, the times of anxiety, the money necessary to provide even the barest necessities for such a program.

The organizations that provided this event have no great source of income. What there is has been used for the benefit of the town and village — and the demands-’ are many, even from those who are not members. Workers are needed. It is hoped that “volunteers” would volunteer, not wait to be searched out and asked. Whitehall and its affairs belong to its inhabitants and friends who should make it a good place to live, and not just “let the other fellow do it.”

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – July 15, 1976