Land Use History

Land-use history for Intervale Lowlands and nearby properties

Land-use history for Intervale Lowlands has been partially reconstructed from deeds, fire records, insurance statements, publications, Lake Placid Club Notes, historical maps, and photos. While more research needs to be done to investigate pre-settlement history prior to the settling of North Elba, and post-settlement history prior to 1900, we have investigated the land-use history of Intervale Lowlands property during the early and mid 20th century. During this period of time the lands currently encompassing Intervale Lowlands were owned by the Lake Placid Club, and as such, we have considerable historical information available. The following is a brief synopsis of land-use history for this time period.

Lake Placid Club ownership

The Intervale Lowlands property became part of the Lake Placid Club, a major landowner in the area, in 1920. The Lake Placid Club was founded in 1895 and, in its prime, supplied its members and support staff with food from 9 farm centers in North Elba. The dairy needs of the Lake Placid Club increased steadily from 1905 to the 1920’s.  In 1906 when the new creamery was built, the Lake Placid Club owned 22 farms used mainly for dairy production (Club Notes, 1906). The farm holdings increased through acquisition of eight new farms by 1917, for a total of 31 small farms. At this point, the Club’s farms included 1285 tillable acres of land, 2095 acres of pasture, and a remaining 770 acres of woods (Club Notes, 1917). In 1920 the 1000-acre Midriver farm was acquired, increasing the total farm holdings to 37 (Club Notes, 1920). Immediately upon purchasing Midriver Farm, the club built a horse stable and a barn for cattle capable of housing 30 Holsteins (Club Notes, 1920).

As a side note, during this and the previous decade, the Lake Placid Club began to recognize its lands as bird habitat. In the (Club Notes, 1917), the following was written under the subheading “Bird Sanctuary”: “Our remarkably successful bird week with Percy Mackaye’s bird masque, The sanctuary, dedicatin the Club grounds as a bird sanctuary in connec∫n with the national Audubon society, has launch the Club fairly in a movement for bird protect∫n of migratory birds.” In 1920 cats were banned, reported in (Club Notes, 1920) “As a bird sanctuary, the Club is plejd not to tolerate the great bird destroyer, the prowling cat.”

Figure 1

By 1925 the Lake Placid Club included a total of 40 farms (Club Notes, 1925). Several of these farms were on or near the River Road. The “River Farms”, as they were collectively known, were located on both sides of the West Branch of the Ausable River (Figure 1) and encompassed all land between Mirror Lake and the “mountains owned by the state” (Stedman, 1914). These included the small farms named Midrivers, Riverwood, Brookside, Elba, Ausable, Plains, and Eastwood (Figure 2) encompassing 1600 acres of land used for Holstein and subsequent dairy production. The center ofthe River Farms was called Intervales. The most notable building of Intervales is the largest barn on the River Road, which prior to 1909, served as a barn for ~100 Holsteins. In 1909, the Holstein barn was expanded to 200 feet. This addition allowed for 100 new Holsteins, bringing the herd number to 225 (Club Notes, 1909).  Intervales farm’s boundary was likely the Ausble River to the north and was approximately 200 acres in area. The land has been described as “level as a floor without a stone.” Across the current steel-deck bridge, on either side of the road now called Intervale Way, was the southern boundary of Midrivers farm. The bridge was described by (Stedman, 1914) as an “iron bridge alredy bilt across the river [that serves as] an entrance to a new direct road to the club and village across our Midriver farms, which reduces the distance in half”. This implies that Midriver farm, including lands on the current Intervale Lowlands property, was accessed from the River Road via this iron bridge from Intervales Farm rather than from the north. This also implies that the road was created for easier access to the River Farms from the village of Lake Placid, and may have also been part of the reason the Club purchased the farm and built a 30-cow barn and horse stable on the property in 1920.

The club became known nationally for its sanitary dairying practices and in 1925 was inspected and recognized by Cornell as being a dairy “equal to the best.” We mention this side note to bring to light the level of aptitude in dairying at the Club in 1920 as well as state of their current farm holdings used for dairy production. We can assume that the Club acquired Midriver Farm to supplement these dairy activities. In 1921, when the heard numbered 550 (“History of Lake Placid Club” draft in Lake Placid Club

Figure 2

Archives, Box SB-18a), they may have used the Midriver farm as extra land for hay and grain production, but it’s also likely that they would have used parts as grazing land for horses and drying off dairy cows in the off season. More research needs to be done to confirm this.Part of Midriver farm was sold in 1938 as the Club was reducing it’s land holdings to about 6,000 in 1953 (“History of Lake Placid Club” draft in Lake Placid Club Archives, Box SB-18a). In 1938, the bridge from River Road was still the main access to the 100-acre parcel of land to the west of Intervale Lowlands (Sales agreement from Samuel Packer to Frank Dunn, November 23rd, 1938), as it remains today. This is interesting because it recognizes that this road never became a thoroughfare between the village of Lake Placid and the River Road.m holdings used for dairy production. We can assume that the Club acquired Midriver Farm to supplement these dairy activities. In 1921, when the heard numbered 550 (“History of Lake Placid Club” draft in Lake Placid Club

Table 1

Archives, Box SB-18a), they may have used the Midriver farm as extra land for hay and grain production, but it’s also likely that they would have used parts as grazing land for horses and drying off dairy cows in the off season. More research needs to be done to confirm this.

In 1953 the Lake Placid Club ordered an appraisal of the River Farms (John Wilkins, 1953) (Figure 2), including holdings in lots 106, 107, 113, 114, 120, and 340 (Figure 3).  These lots include the current Intervale Lowlands property (within lot 113) as well as the remaining lands of Midrivers farm within lots 106, and 107 west of Intervale Lowlands and north of the Ausable River. The appraisal also covers bordering parcels that included Intervales Farm, Boulderwood Farm, and Ski T Farm (formerly Ausable Farm). As part of this appraisal, several fields of Midriver farm, including four open fields on the current Intervale Lowlands property, were classified by agricultural production. For reference, the following current names of ecologically delineated areas at Intervale Lowlands are paired to field numbers from this 1953 appraisal. The entrance field at the western border of Intervale Lowlands,

approaching from Intervale Way, on either side of the right-of-way drive is known as field #9. The drive next enters field #10 and continues to the “Y” in the drive. The “lower field” and floodplain on the northern border of the Ausable are known as field #12, and the

Figure 3

“east field” on the eastern border of Intervale Lowlands is known as field #15. Additional fields are part of Midrivers farms within lots 106 and 107 and can be seen in (Figure 2 and 3) and in (Table 1).

The club was at its most prosperous in the 1920s and then declined afterwards until eventually opening to the public in 1977. Many parcels of land have been sold between 1977 and now. The east field, field 15, was later planted in Scotch pine and subsequently cleared back to open field between 1995 and 2003 (Jerry Jenkins, personal correspondence).

References

Stedman, 1914. Lake Placid Club Handbook. Forest Pres, Lake Placid Club, NY
1953. Lake Placid Club Stores, INC. Map of Land Holdings, including accessions No. 126.
Wilkins, John M. 1953. Affidavit of appraisal of property of Lake Placid Club S

tores, INC.

1920. Driving map. In: Unknown author, 1920. Lake Placid Club Handbook. Forest Pres, Lake Placid Club, NY
(“History of Lake Placid Club” draft in Lake Placid Club Archives, Box SB-18a
Club Notes, 1906. In: Club Notes 1905-1911, Lake Placid Public Library archives.
Club Notes, 1917. In: Club Notes 1912-1917, Lake Placid Public Library archives.
Club Notes, 1920. In: Club Notes 1918-1922, Lake Placid Public Library archives.
Club Notes, 1925. In: Club Notes 1923-1925, Lake Placid Public Library archives.
Sales agreement from Samuel Packer to Frank Dunn, November 23rd, 1938, Lake Placid Public Library archives.