- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE, N.Y. — When mining magnate Harold Hoch-schild bought the Blue Mountain House resort in the middle of the last century, his vision was to create a place that would forever preserve the heritage of the Adirondacks.

Overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, Mr. Hochschild opened a modest museum in 1957 to celebrate the people of Adirondacks — how they lived, worked and played.

This year, the Adirondack Museum celebrates its 50th season, and it’s no longer just a roadside curiosity. Its gardens, scenic views, events and activities make it a worthy destination for a day or two spent wandering the grounds.

“Nobody can believe it’s as big as it is, and they are always surprised that it takes them all day to see it, rather than the half-hour they thought,” says museum director Caroline Welsh.

The museum has grown from nine buildings to 22, including a 19th-century loggers’ hotel, an artist’s cottage, a one-room cabin called Sunset Cottage, a 1907 one-room schoolhouse that serves as a family activity center, a fire tower, and the Marion River Carry Pavilion, which houses a 1901 steam engine and passenger car and a steamboat called the Osprey. Each building, Miss Welsh says, is like its own small museum.

Last year, more than 90,000 visitors viewed the 32-acre museum’s collections and exhibits on logging, boats and boating, mining, outdoor recreation, transportation and rustic furniture.

Visitors can tour the extensive grounds and gardens, ride a vintage Adirondack skiff on the boat pond, and dine in the glass-walled museum cafe, which offers “spectacular views of Blue Mountain Lake from halfway up the mountain,” Miss Welsh said.

Or get your lunch from the cafe to go, and head to one of the designated picnic spots around the grounds. For families, there are activities like sap-to-syrup and wash day, where children can run clothes through an old-fashioned wringer. Programs geared to adults include lectures and demonstrations, such as how to make a canoe paddle or a classic Adirondack chair.

The museum’s holdings represent the single largest collection of Adirondack material, including over 2,500 original artworks, 70,000 photographs and 300 freshwater boats and wheeled vehicles, among them the carriage that rushed vacationing Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to the train the night President William McKinley was assassinated.

“Without a doubt, for all of its 50 years, the Adirondack Museum has been one of the premier attractions of the region. I’ve heard visitors refer to it as the ‘Smithsonian of the Adirondacks,’ ” said Adirondack Regional Tourism Council Director Ann Melious.

For many years, Mr. Hochschild was the executive head of American Metals Co., which eventually became Amax Inc. As a child, he spent the summers with his family in nearby Eagle Nest and grew fond of the mountains and countless lakes. He would eventually write several history books of his own about the Adirondacks.

In the 1940s, local residents approached Mr. Hochschild about buying and preserving the engine and passenger car now displayed in the Marion River Carry Pavilion.

The engine and car had been left rusting in the woods after 75 years of use, said Miss Welsh. Between 1901 and 1929, the train was famous as the country’s shortest standard-gauge line railroad, carrying vacationers 1,300 yards from the station in Raquette Lake to pick up steamboats on adjacent Utowana, Eagle and Blue Mountain lakes. The engine and passenger car are still on display.

That crusade led to Mr. Hochschild purchasing the property of the former hotel, which had been started by enterprising loggers in 1876 and operated into the 1940s before shutting down. The Log Hotel, once the resort’s main building, is now one of the exhibits and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum opened to the public on Aug. 4, 1957, funded by the Hochschild Foundation. In the early 1980s, it became an independent, not-for-profit museum with its own endowment made up of money from the foundation and fundraising. The Hochschild family has remained involved.

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