The William Chapman White Memorial Adirondack Room, or Adirondack Research Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library was dedicated on August 24, 1969. It houses the library's extensive collection of Adirondack materials— books, reports, manuscripts, periodicals, maps, photographs and postcards. It was named for local author William Chapman White.
A large portion of the contents of this wiki comes from the holdings of the Adirondack Research Room.
- William Chapman White Memorial Adirondack Room
- PressRepublican, "Adirondack Research Center, an Adirondackana and tubercular repository", January 18, 2009
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 8, 1966
Addition To Saranac Lake Free Library To Permit Displays Of Unique Collections
(Editor's Note: G. Gyndon Cole, editor of "North Country Life," a quarterly, in the Fall 1956 issue, wrote the following article on the Saranac Lake Free Library. It is used with his permission.)
The beautiful Saranac Lake Free Library has in recent years been acquiring a wide reputation. A glance at the visitors' register reveals names of people from places as far distant as Washington, D. C.
Aside from the beauty of this modest little village library, which is an attraction in itself, its fame has been a-building on its outstanding collection of literature— books, magazines, pamphlets, clippings, photographs, letters— dealing with Northern New York and particularly the Adirondacks.
The foundation of this collection is known as the Donaldson collection. Aftred L. Donaldson, was a banker who came to Saranac Lake for his health about 1875. He became interested in the history of the Adirondack area as a hobby. His two-volume "History of the Adirondacks " was the result. All historians recognize this as the basic authoritative source of information on Adirondack history. He collected every printed word he could find, interviewed hundreds of people, and wrote hundreds of letters. The answers to these letters, the manuscript of his two-volume history, and all the printed material he had been able to gather went to the Saranac Free Library upon his death in 1924, as he had requested in his will.
Donaldson had not been able to acquire quite everything for his collection that he would like to have had. Henry Comstock, a Wall Street lawyer and summer resident of Keene Valley, had some items Donaldson did not sell [to] them.
Unknown to Donaldson and Comstock, too, was the activity of William C. Munson, a Manhattan druggist who was spending weekends in Saranac Lake visiting his wife who had come there for her health. He and his wife collected material on the Adirondacks, spending more money on rare books than they perhaps could afford.
Henry Comstock died a few years after Donaldson. Munson then did what Donaldson had been unable to: he bought many of the Comstock items. In 1829 Munson retired to Saranac Lake. After his death in 1949 his son and widow offered the collection for sale at a price far below its value. They refused to sell separate volumes. In 1951, after an appeal for funds to people interested in Adirondack history, the directors of the Saranac Library were able to buy the Munson Collection, consisting of more than 5000 separate pieces of material pertaining to all phases of life in the Adirondacks from 1837 to 1949.
So now the Donaldson and Munson collections, including items once owned by Comstock are together in the Saranac Library. Also some items have been added by the late Kenneth Goldthwaite, once owner of the Adirondack Enterprise, the local daily paper.
This collection of Adirondackana is being added to continually.
Funds for this purpose were provided by friends of William Morris, New York theatrical agent who lived for many years in Saranac Lake. The fund is known as the William Morris Memorial Fund.
The most notable material obtained through this fund is one of the finest collections of 18th century maps in existence. Among the 53 maps in the col lection are a Dutch map of 1700 showing Northeastern America and a French map of 1755
which show more detail of the area of Northern New York than was customary on early maps. The most important map is considered to be the map of Lake Champlain produced in London in 1776, long considered the "lost map."
The Adirondack collection in Saranac Lake Free Library is now the best and probably the largest in existence. There is now little or nothing of any importance that has been written on the Adirondacks from the first magazine article in 1832 to the present day, that is not here.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 18, 1969
New Library Wing Dedication Sunday In Memory of William Chapman White
A hope sustained over many years was fulfilled in Saranac Lake today when D. Mott Chapin, President of the Board of Trustees of the Saranac Lake Free Library announced that the William Chapman White Memorial Adirondack Room will be dedicated at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24 in the Community Room of the library.
Whitelaw Reid, August Heckscher, Dr. Francis B. Trudeau and John Duquette, four men closely associated with the Adirondacks and with Saranac Lake's own Bill White, have accepted the library's invitation to speak at ceremonies that are being planned by Mr. Chapin and Dr. Trudeau.
The dedication, Mr. Chapin said, honors not only an author who poured his love for the Adirondacks into columns, articles, and a classic book, but is also a tribute to a community which in the era of vanishing human values has had the wisdom and foresight to acquire, preserve, and augment a uniquely rich heritage. It should also, Mr. Chapin added, bring a sense of fulfillment to Mrs. Ruth Worthington, former librarian, whose devotion to the library and its Adirondack collections spanned nineteen years and to her former assistant, the present librarian, Mrs. Ralph Meagher.
Born in Reading, Pa. In 1903, William Chapman White attended Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Moscow University. A journalist and writer of many books, he came first to Saranac Lake with his family in 1936, as a summer visitor at Camp Intermission. In 1950 he became a permanent resident, like many of whom he wrote. "For them the little, living village of Saranac Lake was home. They would not have traded it for any other place in the world."
Before settling in Saranac Lake, Mr. White travelled extensively at home and abroad, in search of material. He served with the OWI in London and Dublin during World War II. The record of his years in the Adirondacks is contained in his written work but, as the publisher of this newspaper wrote in 1955, there is another record written in the hearts and minds of those who knew him: of compassion and irrepressible enthusiasm, of warm friendship and readiness to help any individual or community cause when the need crossed his path.
The library's plan for the building for a new wing and Community Room, beginning under the presidency of Thomas Cantwell, made possible the allocation of a secluded area suitable for housing the Adirondack collections. The Adirondack Room has been in preparation for the past 18 months under the supervision of the White Committee and consultants William G. Distin, Sr., Arthur Wareham and Miss Dorothy A. Plum. The result of their efforts may be seen on Aug. 24 following the dedication ceremonies.
Mr. Chapin has emphasized the good fortune that befell the library when it was able to secure the services of Miss Plum and her assistants, Miss Laura Green, Miss, Eva Jones, and Mrs. Janet Emmons to arrange and catalogue the collections under a federal grant obtained by the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library. Miss Plum, former bibliographer and head of special collections at Vassar College Library, was chairman of the Bibliography Committee of the Adirondack Mountain Club when it published the Adirondack Bibliography in 1958.
The Adirondack material now suitably housed in the Saranac Lake Free Library contains over 2,000 volumes from the Goldthwaite-Donaldson-Muson collections and also includes original sources, maps, magazines, rare pamphlets, and brochures, photographs from the Stoddard, Kollecker, and Gray collections, and filed memorabilia donated over the years by interested people. A special committee appointed by the library is devising a set of rules outlining, procedures for the use, upon appointment, of this material.
Fully acquainted with its contents, Mr. White helped to further a continuing search for acquisitions, and never failed any opportunity to emphasize the importance of the collections and the nation-wide privilege that ownership of them has bestowed on the village of Saranac Lake.
In 1955, when Dr, Trudeau announced the establishment of the William Chapman White Memorial Fund he wrote, in words foreshadowing the coming dedication: "Our purpose is to offer an opportunity for all of Bill's friends to build a lasting memorial in his name. We intend to carry out this task in such a manner as to make ourselves worthy of the fellowship we were privileged to have with a very great man... He loved many people in Saranac Lake. He loved many places in the Adirondacks where he chose to live the last five years of his life... but no place more that small white stone and red brick library where he so often worked and where his name remains."
Among the speakers who will place Bill White's name formally and permanently in Adirondack history on Aug. 24, Dr. Trudeau and John Duquette are well known in this community. The former, as a physician and president of the Trudeau Institute, carries on the medical tradition around which the Village of Saranac Lake grew; the latter, a native of Saranac Lake, has served many terms as a trustee of the Saranac Lake Free Library and has applied himself to the perpetuation of it's Adirondack collections.
Mr. Reid's family has long been resident during summers at the Camp Wild Air Reid Camp on Upper St. Regis and been identified with the history of Trudeau Sanatorium and its founder, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. Mr. Heckscher as chief editorial writer of the New York Herald-Tribune, shared that newspaper's interest in the Adirondacks; it was he, in fact, who wrote many of the editorials that advocated preservation of the natural beauties of the Adirondacks.
Since his retirement as editor and publisher of the Herald-Tribune, Mr. Reid has served on the boards of the Fresh Air Fund and Reid Foundation and been active in Conservation activities. Mr. Heckscher, former director of the Twentieth Century Fund and a member of the John F. Kennedy Council of the Arts, is now Commissioner of Parks in New York City.
Both men were friends of Bill White when his "Just About Everything" columns, many of which dealt with the Adirondacks and with Adirondack characters, appeared in the Herald-Tribune. Both men helped a local committee establish the William Chapman White Memorial Fund when Mr. White's untimely death in 1955 cut short his vital interest in the Saranac Lake Free Library and it seemed then his dream of providing a special room to house the library's invaluable Adirondack collections.
The dream, however, persisted, through Mr. White's own words and in the minds of friends and readers. According to Dr. Edwin Jameson, president of the library at that time, Mr. White had prepared a booklet "Living in Saranac Lake", which was to have been place on sale for the benefit of the library.
With the cooperation of the Herald-Tribune and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise — in which among others, the White columns had appeared — sale of the booklets was initiated and the William Chapman White Memorial Fund was organized. Its membership is composed of Dr. Trudeau chairman, Judge Irving Edelberg, Dr. Edwin Jameson, James Loeb, Jacques De Mattos, Mr. and Mrs. William Morris, Jr., Mrs. Francis B. Trudeau, Sr., Dr. Carl Merkel, treasurer, Mrs. Joseph Stephen secretary.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 16, 1956
OUTLINE S. LAKE LIBRARY PLAN
The preservation of Adirondack lore, as contained in local biographic and genealogies was discussed last night at a well attended meeting of the Friends of the Library.
The members, who were assembled at the library building on Main Street, voted to explore the idea and submit it for approval to the Library trustees at their annual meeting. If pursued, the proposal would channel into one repository hitherto unrecorded reminiscences and data that would otherwise he forgotten and lost to local history.
Mrs. Ruth Worthington was appointed chairman of a committee to investigate procedures to carry out this important contribution to the enrichment and appreciation of North Country life.
This was one of the many ideas that were discussed at last night's meeting. Other proposal under consideration are two major fund-raising events to be held in July and November; formation of a pool of volunteer workers to be drawn on by Mrs. Worthington for clerical assignments at the Library; the arrangement of summer card-parties to be held at surrounding resort hotels for the benefit of the; Library sponsorship of exhibits of current books through contact with the nation's publishing houses.
Numerous committees were appointed to carry out this broad program. Chairmen appointed to head the project were: Mrs. Stuart Reed, Mrs. Richard Woodruff, Mrs. Roger Tubby, Mrs. Edna Bea Sprague, Mrs. Carl Gronemeyer, Mrs. Irving Edelberg, Mr. William Schwartau and Mrs. Edwin M. Johnson.
Officer elected for the 1956-57 season are Miss Esther Mirik, president; Mrs. Mott Chapin, vice president; Mrs. Reginald Bedell, treasurer; Mrs. Stuart Reed, secretary. Among those appointed to serve on commitees were Mrs. Helen DeMattos, Mrs. Knud Fick, Mrs. Charles Murphy, Mrs. Cordt Rose, Mrs. Wesley Deppe, Mrs. David Robeson, Mrs. B. Roch, Mrs. John Schmidt, Mrs. William Harvey, Mrs. Emanuel Wolinsky.
Future meetings will be held monthly, from September through June. They will be conducted at the homes of members of the Friends and will be of a social as well as a business nature.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 18, 19, and 20, 1964
Adirondack Collection at Saranac Lake Library
An excellent opportunity exists in our community for all who would add the knowledge of local history to their cultural background. Through the untiring efforts and kind foresight of one wise man, plus the generous contributions of others, down through the years, a unique attraction came into being.
The "Adirondack Collection" at the Saranac Lake Free Library is perhaps the finest of its kind in existence today. The many rare and interesting items are related to our village in particular, and to the Adirondack Mountain area in general. Paradoxically enough it all began with an unsuccessful visit to the library by a former resident of our little village. Stephen Chalmers, the noted writer, became involved in a minor debate over some vague point in local history which could not be settled among his neighbors. In an effort to moderate the issue he approached the tiny red brick building on Main Street (which was at that time just two years old) and requested a volume on the subject matter. The librarian informed him that, although there was great demand for just such a reference book, one simply did not exist. Undaunted, Chalmers made his way over to 32 Church Street where he called upon a friend and fellow patient from New York City and proceeded to involve some friendly persuasion.
His sales pitch must have been convincing because as he left the house, on that day in May 1912, he had just talked Alfred Lee Donaldson into writing his monumental A History of The Adirondacks. This 2-volume work remains to this day to be the primary source on all phases of local history.
Like so many other famous residents of our village, Mr. Donaldson came to seek a cure for tuberculosis, and was undoubtedly attracted to our area by the work of Dr. E. L. Trudeau. As his condition permitted, he became active in village affairs and founded the 1st National Bank here in 1897. Following the memorable visit from Chalmers, he spent the next ten years of his life gathering information and writing his history of the Adirondack region. To commemorate his achievement a mountain peak in the Seward range, south of Ampersand was named in his honor. However, the greatest tribute to Donaldson's memory has been the demand for his work. Originally published in 1921 by the Century Co., the two volume set was a complete sell-out, and is in greater demand today than when it made its debut!
Quite naturally, during the amassing of details for his subject material, Mr. Donaldson assembled a sizeable reference library to augment his correspondence and 1st hand interviews. This was the beginning, and certainly the most complete collection of Adirondackers in existence at that time. Aware of its great value, and shortly before his death, he presented the entire collection to the library on Oct. 27th 1923. It is, of course, intact at the Saranac Lake Free Library today and forms the nucleus of the now famous and ever growing "Adirondack Collection."
Since then the Goldthwaite and Munson collections have been added to the shelves along with hundreds of individual gifts and purchases. In its entirety, the collection contains many thousands of books, pamphlets, magazines, maps, and pictures related entirely or in part, to the Adirondack region. It traces the complete story of our mountains from their geological past (Verplanck Colvin claimed them to be the oldest in the world) to such present day issues as "forever wild" versus area development.
The first recorded notice of the high peaks appears in Champlain's diary of 1609 when he mentions sighting them from the lake which now bears his name. Historians next take us through the French-Indian wars and the attempted military settlements. When the dust of conflict was finally settled, over a span of turbulent years, the mountains were beset with a new and different type of invasion. They had been discovered: The sportsman found their game, the artists found their beauty, and even the sick found relief or cure in their high and dry balsamic air. Fortunately all three of the categories were blessed with prolific writers from their ranks. Once again the pen proved mightier than the sword, for these early writers brought about the influx of settlers where all military attempts had failed.
The most famous of this group was a minister from Boston. William Henry Harrison Murray came to the Mountains for an outing and was so impressed with what he found that he wrote an exciting account of his travels called "Adventures in the Wilderness." The 1st edition came out in 1869 and caught on like wild fire resulting in a stampede of both sportsmen and health seekers to the Adirondacks which became known as "Murray's Rush."
Prior to "Adirondack Murray's" appearance on the scene, the local resident had quite naturally drifted into the role of guide for the visiting sportsman who was, of course, unfamiliar with the routes of travel. Also, quite naturally, the native's homes became a temporary abode for the weary patron. Suddenly, because of the great influx of visitors, a whole new industry was born. Guiding became a profession and each rustic lodge grew into a resort hotel. Many of these hotels became world renowned and their hey-day was a glamorous one, although limited to a generation's duration. Among the superlatives in this group were Martin's on Lower Saranac Lake, The Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, and Paul Smith's on Lower St. Regis Lake. Martins had the distinction of being the very first of the Adirondack resort hotels, while the Prospect House was the first hotel in the world to have electric lights. Paul Smith's was the most famous of them all, however, and enjoyed an amazing popularity. So many nationally known names appeared on the registers that they read like a blue book of "who's who" for that era. At Saranac Lake, Martin's was flanked on one side by the famous Ampersand and the other by The Algonquin (where the new Trudeau Lab now stands.) Of these, two out of three burned which is pretty much the story of the passing of the old hotels. Those that did not die in flames were dismantled or stand in disuse and deterioration" today, with very few exceptions.
A cross section of the books on the library shelves makes this transition easy to follow; from hunter to guide, from rustic dwelling to resort hotel, and from simple camp to ornate summer home. The birth of the guide boat is there in pages describing its creation through necessity for a mode of travel peculiar to the woods and waters of our Adirondacks. The lumber industry is well represented as are the early railroads and stage coaches. The state legislature's part in protecting the Adirondack Park can he traced from the inception of a Forest Commission in 1885 to a Fisheries Game and Forest Comm. in 1895 to a Forest, Fish and Game Comm. in 1900 and finally to the Conservation Comm. in 1911. Even the civil divisions divulge their ancient origin.
Franklin County became the 1st county of New York State when it was separated from Clinton County in 1808. The Town of Harrietstown came into being March 19th 1841 and was named in honor of Harriet Constable Duane. By 1845 it boasted a census of 129 hardy settlers.
Saranac Lake Village was formed in 1892 and promptly elected Dr. E. L. Trudeau as its 1st president thus becoming the 1st incorporated village in the Adirondacks. The 1st settler in the vicinity was Jacob Moody who built a cabin in the North Elba sector purchasing 300 acres along the river in 1823. He built the 1st dam at the location of the present one next to Paul Smiths office building and had a hotel on the site of the present village office building. Miller became the area's most prominent entrepreneur and its undisputed political leader for the next 30 years.
Choose your own village, town, or county history and select the book from the collection which can take you back to the very beginning. It makes interesting reading.
For most of us however, there has to be a personal interest. Perhaps your grandfather was one of the famous guides or maybe he drove the stage from AuSable Forks to Paul Smith's. Perhaps he piloted the old steamer on Upper Saranac or built guide boats in the shop behind his house. He could have managed Saranac Inn, The Stevens House, or the Prince Albert. Others may wish to recall that their ancestors discovered the iron ore at Tahawas, formed the Santa Clara Lumber Co., or shot the last moose on the Raquette.
If you are a mountain climber you will be interested in how the mountains were named. You can read how Herb Clark led the Marshall brothers, from Knollwood Club, over all the major peaks to become the 1st "Forty-sixers" and began a fad that flourishes today. If you are on ardent hunter or disciple of Izaak Walton, you will enjoy seeing how your favorite spot fared 300 years ago.
Perhaps your interests run more toward famous names, presidents Cleveland. Harrison, and Coolidge summered here, as did Albert Einstein in later years. There is also the exciting story of how Teddy Roosevelt was called down from the side of Mt. Marcy to become president upon the death of McKinley You may prefer the "Horatio Alger" rise of a back-woods boy like William Almon Wheeler, from Malone, who became vice president of our country. You can rediscover the "Philosophers Camp" where Emerson, Stillman, Agassiz, and other greats shared the simple enjoyment of camping out. Homer and Tait display their artistic waves and Stevenson will make a tale on a winter's night. It is all on the shelf.
Reach for a Stoddard or Wallace guide book next and take a trip in retrospect. How interesting it is to travel, through these pages, to the magical names of yester-year: Bartletts, Wardners, and the Rustic Lodge. Each carry and trail is described in detail along with the accommodations available enroute. The best camping spots are indicated on the map and the resort hotels offer a menu featuring trout, venison and partridge.
Even as the sportsman of 1872 required a guide to lead him to the best hunting and fishing, you too will need a guide to lead you through the maze of cols and peaks which form the major range of Adirondackana. The Adirondack Bibliography published by the Adirondack Mtn. Club, under the direction of Dorothy Plum, admirably serves this purpose. This remarkable work represents eight years of research prior to its appearance in 1958. For those who must do their mountain climbing via the printed page, the bibliography smoothes out the trails and levels the brush of confusion. The reader can readily select his trip into a chosen area from the tidy directions summarized and indexed for his convenience. All the trail markers lead to happy reading!
Along with the books is a wonderful collection of pictures illustrating the Adirondack way of life through the latter half of the 19th century. Hundreds of Stoddard prints faithfully represent the passing of that era. Early views of the village are most interesting and show long forgotten enterprises thriving along the un-paved streets. Winter carnivals fill many albums and the days of the Pontiac Club and Ed Lamy's feats are restored to glory.
Authors and research students travel from afar to use this material which fortune has deposited at our door-step. Because of its critical nature, use of the collection must be supervised and, of course, the items cannot leave the library. However, many duplicates are on the lake-out shelves and those persons who are confined can avail themselves of many of the most popular titles. Some may prefer to search for and collect their own copies and this can become a fascinating and rewarding hobby.
The board of trustees and your librarian are justly proud of this one facet of services available at your library, and pledge its continuation for the appreciation of future generations to come. It is a rich inheritance to be enjoyed by all, and offers still another example of why Saranac Lake is such a nice place to live.