Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Old Champlain Canal, Pottery & Lime Kilns

If you have been up US Route 4 between Schuylerville and Fort Edward you've probably noticed the two markers on a patch of grass along the side of the road near the intersection of County Route 77, AKA Bald Mountain Road. If you were really observant you would have noticed the hand cut limestone blocks in an almost triangular shape along the side of the road. You have been traveling part of the Old Champlain Canal.

Marker for Lock 12 of the old canal
 The Champlian Canal opened in 1823 as a way for farmers & manfacturers to ship their goods out to customers & to receive supplies. Hundreds of business sprang up along the canal route to capitalize on this technological marval.

This NYS marker has nothing to do with the canal

One such industry was the production of earthenware & stoneware. As early as 1810, earthenware was being made in the hamlet of Bald Mountain by Lemuel Rowell using local clay. By 1824 it is believed Rowell was manufacturing
stoneware by importing the materials from New Jersey by way of the newly opened Champlain Canal. In the 1840s Otto V. Lewis began working at the potters & married Rowell's daughter Sarah in 1846. After Rowell's death in 1850, Lewis moved down the canal to Stillwater, and the land was, eventually, sold to Robert Lowber around 1852.

Roadside marker at Bald Mountain & Lick Spring Roads

Eastern most part of Greenwich showing the canal, plank road & lime kiln
Lowber constructed two large lime kilns for the production of quicklime. Limestone is placed inside the kiln & heated to 1000°C (1832°F) in order to create a chemical reaction to create the quicklime used in building trades. Quicklime also glows, & was used for lighting before electricity, hence the term "limelight". The quicklime was then transported over the plank road built by Lowber down to Champlain Lock 11, where it was loaded on a boat & shipped. I was always able to see the old lime kilns when driving Bald Mountain Road as a child. My sister & I thought they were castles, & there was one for both of us. They are no longer visible from the road & may have been torn down.

Lowber's lime kilns c. 1970
So, the next time you are driving, or cycling, on US Route 4 pull over & take a look. Lock 11 is gone, but Lock 12 is still there. Just south of the pull off for Lock 12 is the Denton Preserve. It is a nice little hikinhg trail & you can see more remnants of the old canal. In the meantime, here are some photographs I took in October 2009.

For more information on the Champlian Canal click on these websites:

To find out how a canal works visit:

A great source for information on stoneware in Upstate New York check out:
Pottery Works: Potteries of New York State's Capital District and the Upper Hudson Region by Warren F. Broderick & William Bouck- ISBN 9780838635384

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Song cycle of Susan B. to be performed

A few years ago, a local musician named Bob Warren was commissioned to write some music to commemorate one of Greenwich's most famous former residents... Susan B. Anthony. What Mr. Warren came up with was & is a beautiful, unpretentious song cycle that weaves Ms. Anthony's own words, her life & melodic phrasing into a wonderful tapestry. I have seen & heard it performed twice. I would have to say my favorite was the first time, along the Battenkill at the Greenwich Town Beach, a mile or two from where the Anthony family lived when they moved from North Adams, MA to Battenville in 1826.

c. 1979- Battenville home was built by Daniel Anthony in 1833
I am happy to announce that the song cycle Only the Message Mattered will be performed again this summer on the eastern shores of Lake George. The performance will take place on Thursday, August 4, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Wiawaka Holiday House. There is a fee which includes dinner & the performance. The three signers will be Brittany Rivers, Barbara Skiff and Rebecca Rogers. Monica Roach will accompany on cello, and Warren will play piano.

For more information on this event visit
or call 877-468-8128.

To purchase songs from Only the Message Mattered visit Bob Warren's artist page on itunes

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Climb Aboard the Suffrage Wagon!

The New York State Museum in Albany has an amazing piece of history... The Suffrage Wagon!

The what? Yes, you read right, the Suffrage Wagon! A Long Island suffragist named Edna Buckman Kearns hitched a horse to a wagon she dubbed "The Spirit of 1776" and campaigned for "Votes for Women" while riding around in it.

Suffrage Wagon on display 2010

& the NY Sate Museum has it. I was so excited to see it on display during Women's History Month (March) 2010. I went down with my daughter specifically to see the exhibit, if you could call it that. She loves the State Museum more than I do and would gladly go every week as long as I don't make her look at old furniture. As soon as I saw it in the front lobby of the building I knew two things;
1.) it was an amazing artifact &
2.) it was on temporary display. So, now it is in storage. Why, you may ask? Who knows? The fourth floor where the carousel is has any number of random artifacts on display from Teddy Roosevelt's car to Roycroft furniture to stuffed bats. Can't the curatorial staff find room up there at least?

What I would really like to see, & what Marguerite Kearns, granddaughter of Edna Buckman Kearns, would like to see, is the Suffrage Wagon on permanent display with other artifacts from special collections chronicaling the Suffrage Movement on the main exhibit floor. We would like this to be a reality prior to 2017 which will be the Centennial of New York State granting the right to vote to its female citizens. If you would like to see this happen as well, Marguerite has launched a postcard campaign. I have sent my postcards out. Will you help? I have some postcards to pass out, or you can contact Marguerite at

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In search of... books!

As you might guess, I am a book obsessed person. Once I started making my own money, I started frequenting bookstores. I've spent ten years of my life working in bookstores. Actually, if you count all of the museums I have worked at, it's closer to thirteen.

I am reading six books at the moment. Yes, six. My ten year old & I are reading aloud Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. I am listening to the audio book version of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron as I drive to and from work. I have a free copy of Eighty Years and More by Elizabeth Cady Stanton open on my nook (e-reader). Plus, I am in the middle of three print books: Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America by Carol Faulkner, Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh & Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. Oh, & I waiting for my book club selection to arrive at the Greenwich Free Library. I had to request it through inter-library loan. Once that comes, I'll have to set aside a couple of other books & devote the majority of my attention to Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. I have to have it read by July 17th!

So, you see, I also frequent the library as well. & not just the Greenwich Free Library which I can see right now from my office window. I have been to many of the local libraries. I just dropped off two books at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls today after work. Three days overdue, I owe a whopping $0.50. I never complain about library fees. I pay them gladly. On Monday, after the 4th of July parade in nearby Argyle, Mom and I spent less than $5.00 at the annual used book sale at the Argyle Free Library on Sheridan Street. I got some great children's books to read with my daughter & a thick biography of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.

Owl Pen Books 1970

But, I have to admit, my favorite place to get books in the area is an amazing bookstore called the Owl Pen. It's one of those you-can't-get-there-from-here kind of places. Even if you follow the handmade signs correctly and turn on Riddle Road without a wrong turn or three, you begin to wonder if you are on the right road, going in the correct direction. The green canopy of deciduous trees shades the dirt road. I always turn off the CD, roll down the window and slow the car to a walk. Partly, I slow down because the road is narrow, but mostly, it's because I think I'm lost. But I'm not. I've never been lost driving there. It's just a feeling that I could be.

Then you finally come upon the beautiful white farm house and the red barn of Owl Pen Books. In 1944, Barbara Probst bought the dilapidated farm for $1,000 in war bonds. She started the bookstore in 1960 with 1,200 books bought for $25. According to an article in the Fall 1970* edition of Adirondack Life there were 40,000 books for sale ten years later. In today's world of, the Owl Pen is still a place you need to visit personally. Stroll around the grounds. Weave in and out of the bookshelves. Smell the paper, ink and glue. Touch the binding and open a book. It is an amazing sensation. You will probably find a book you didn't know you were searching for.

There is another reason I love the Owl Pen. Occasionally Hank Howard, one of the current owners, brings me a gift. Well, not me, really, more like the Town of Greenwich. These gifts are random bits of the past, ephemera. Photographs, calendars, menus, bylaws and constitutions of local clubs. I have an envelope full of pieces of Greenwich history. Here are a few such pieces...

The Owl Pen is located at 166 Riddle Rd Greenwich, NY 12834.
Their phone number is 518/692-7039.
but you should visit if at all possible.

*Mellon, Robert. "If You Can Find the Owl Pen You Can Probably Find That Book You've Been Looking For." Adirondack Life 1.4 (1970): 48-51.