Sacandaga Park - park history

How it started
Sacandaga Park is a cottage community on the banks of the Sacandaga River. Just across the river is the Village of Northville. The Park started out as a Methodist tent camp meeting in the mid 1800's. Once the railroad came to Northville in 1875 (started as a local short-line and becoming part of the FJ&G through bankruptcy in 1881) the tents were displaced by a summer cottage community. The Adirondack Inn, a beautiful 4-story Victorian lodge, was built in 1888; it was the first of four large lodges that would accommodate thousands of visitors from as far away as New York City and beyond. After a disastrous fire in 1898 that destroyed all but five of the more than hundred cottages, the railroad saw opportunity and invested in an enormous expansion. The park grew to as much as 700 acres. The cottages were re-built; beautiful rustic park grounds were created with strolling paths, miniature lakes and picnic grounds; a nine-hole golf course was built; a rustic theatre was nestled within the natural backdrop of giant pine trees; a lagoon and a bandstand were built near the Inn. Famous artists and entertainers including Houdini, W.C. Fields and J.P. Sousa performed in the Theatre and the Inn.

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The railroad then formed the Sacandaga Amusement Company. In 1901 it built a huge midway, roller coaster, carousels and even a kinescope theatre in a railroad car with genuine rocking motion and moving scenery. On a large island in the middle of the Sacandaga River (Sport Island) it built another picnic area, a baseball diamond with a grandstand and a miniature train to transport visitors to and from the mainland over a bridge; the bridge was removed during the usual Spring ice melt and flooding of the river banks. Large open-air entertainment, balloon ascensions, boxing matches and fireworks completed the entertainment scene. In 1901, the 300 acre High Rock Lodge resort was built just west of the Park, near a giant boulder that gave the resort its name. Other hotels inside the Park were the Pines Hotel (near the Midway) and the Orchard Inn (near the Golf Course). J. Ledlie Hees, the president of the FJ&G, built a summer mansion called Heeswijk just west of the golf course. President Harding was an overnight guest at Heeswijk in 1920. The number of annual summer visitors to the Park reached 90,000.

How it ended
Three things combined to destroy the Park: fire, water and the coming of the automotive age. The latter destroyed the monopoly position of the short-line railroads and their amusement parks, starting in the early 1900's. Affordable private transportation opened up a world of destination choices to citizens. Fires were a constant threat; the buildings were only wood frame, the roofs covered in pine needles and firefighting equipment was limited. Sacandaga Park suffered 11 major fires. The grandstand and miniature train burned in 1918 and were not replaced. Then came the water in 1930 - the intentional flooding of the Sacandaga River Valley by the State of New York (the Hudson River River Regulating District or HRRD) for the purpose of Hudson River flood control. It permanently flooded the Midway, the Pines Hotel, Sport Island as well as many cottages. The railroad fought the condemnation process but lost in the end to powerful down-river manufacturers and their political allies. The loss of most of the amusement venues and many cottages, permanently transformed the Park; it became more of an upscale cottage community complemented by the remaining resort assets.The flooding also covered the tracks in Cranberry Creek, ending both Sacandaga Park and Northville as railroad destinations. The Park Station saw continued use for bus transport as well as a wide range of other commercial purposes. The FJ&G railroad entered bankruptcy in 1938. The bankruptcy process started the sale of the cottages and forced a take-over of the many services that the railroad had provided to the cottage community, such as water, sewer, electricity, garbage removal, road maintenance and use of the Sacandaga Park beach. There were many legal loose ends. The settlement between the HRRD and the FJ&G, as well as the interpretation of various rights conveyed to cottage owners have led to litigation and resentment that continues to this day. The cottages on Osborne Road burned in 1939, followed by High Rock Lodge (1951); the Rustic Theatre (1955); Heeswijk (1964); and on September 8, 1975 the Adirondack Inn. The Orchard Inn was demolished in 1965. The remainder of the 700 acre property was sold in 1952 to Adirondack Properties which then parceled the assets out to various private and commercial interests. There was a short-lasting revival of the theatre in the 1960's, as the Sacandaga Summer Theatre. The venture was a labor of love. It attracted famous actors but suffered financial trouble from the start. The not-so-rustic building was torn down ten years later with the final remains removed in 2002. Here are some other buildings that cannot be seen anymore!

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