Must-See Monuments of the Adirondacks

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by Rina Kremer

Must-See Monuments of the Adirondacks

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start: I am a serial museum-avoider. I mean, I don't hate history and I certainly don't hate art. Not at all! (Well, I find the modern art genre a little disagreeable, but that's a whole different story.)

I just find museums a bit stifling - and the air a bit stale. I absolutely understand that a museum’s purpose, in large part, is to protect treasure from the elements, like rain and thieves. Café Terrace at Night might actually disintegrate the second a human or a branch touches it. Even so, it's just not my scene.

But then I realized something, through taking an unexpected liking to the monuments in the outdoor parks found across the Adirondacks. I don’t necessarily have to stay within the confines of museum walls to enjoy some truly marvelous works of both historic and modern-bizarre value. Why? How? As long as I’m in the Adirondacks, they’re all right here among the flourishing forests and meandering rivers of the great outdoors.

So without further ado, seven of my favorites are below, from the “La France” that you can casually view from your tent to the kinda hard-to-miss teddy bears you can fish next to on Saranac Lake. Whether you’re a history buff and museum lover or not, I’m confident that you’ll be intrigued by at least one of the many monuments scattered around the Adirondacks.


Lake Champlain Region - “La France”

Attention: we have a Rodin. A Rodin. If that holds no significant meaning to you from the get-go, continue on - we’ll get to it.

This bronze bust of Auguste Rodin’s alleged model and mistress, Camille Claudel, sits on the renovated Champlain Memorial Lighthouse among the public campgrounds dotting the lake. It was a gift from the French government when the lighthouse was completed in 1912 - and while it’s a slightly curious choice in subject matter for a government gift, we'll go with it.

The statue stood inconspicuously for decades; several hundreds of families slept, camped, fished, and explored by its side night and day, without knowing its incredible, historic value. But just a few years before the $2-million renovation of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse in 2009, a Vermont college professor took notice. After some digging, “La France” was identified as a Rodin - that is, a work done by the same artist known for such timeless works as “The Thinker” and “The Kiss.” Yes, that guy. Needless to say, it took the art history world by surprise.

While the Rodin plaque is now secured by cameras and surrounding offices, “La France” remains as one of very few pieces of its caliber still on public display. It’s certainly not to be missed!


Malone Mural

The Malone Fairgrounds Mural commemorates the 165th anniversary of the Franklin County Fair,  and is the brainchild of a community of artists - both young and old. For a year before the mural was painted and unveiled, area school kids and adult artists collaborated on what the design should be, resulting in a a mural that spans 200 feet of a building on Main Street in Malone. 


Saranac Lake - The Healing Woods

Saranac Lake is home to some of the Adirondacks, USA’s best historical monuments, including the 6er Bell in Berkeley Green which finishers of the Sixer Challenge may ring when they’ve completed all six hikes that surround the village. Then there’s the Martha Reben historical marker on Lake Flower, a memorial to the impact the area, which Reben called “the healing woods,” had on her life. Shoot, the area actually saved her life. She relocated to Saranac Lake to take the cure for her tuberculosis, ended up living on Weller Pond almost year-round for six years. It’s an amazing story, and one worth diving into.

As a town that owes its beginning as much to tuberculosis as to anything else, Saranac Lake’s reputation as a place of healing owes most of its fame to Dr. E. L. Trudeau, the doctor who established the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium in the village for the treatment of tuberculosis. Trudeau’s memorial statue by Gutzon Borglum – better known for designing Mount Rushmore – can be found on the grounds of Trudeau Institute, which operates now as a biomedical research organization.



Lake Placid Region - John Brown Farm

One of the most poignant relics of the Adirondacks stands in memory of the life and times of a controversial figure in the foundation of modern American society: John Brown. (You know, just that guy that some believed to have started the Civil War, ended slavery, and sacrificed his own life in hopes of an America with civil rights. Kind of important).

You can find the towering, weighty statue of him with his arm around a young African-American boy on the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, along with his final home and gravestone.


Tupper Lake – The Lumberjack

Tupper Lake is the “home of the Lumberjacks,” where the Adirondacks, USA’s logging history is part of its past and present, and over it all watches the stoic gaze of The Lumberjack at the Tupper Lake Municipal Park.

The statue, on the shores of Raquette Pond, is a popular place to snap a photo and launch a canoe, but there’s more to this locale than meets the eye. Sitting off to the side of the statue is a six-foot tall stone monument that commemorates when Hurd's "Big Mill" broke the WORLD RECORD twice for the most feet of lumber sawed in a single day. The park itself is the location of where this record breaking mill stood from 1890-1930.


Schroon Lake & Heart of the ADKs - Calamity Pond

Calamity Pond may sound like a strange location for a memorial to your father, but that’s where early ore miner David Henderson died and so, it is only fitting that he be memorialized there. Henderson was an early proponent of ore mining in the Adirondacks, an effort that ultimately failed, but centered around the now-abandoned town of Tahawus near Newcomb. The story goes that Henderson, who was not a fan of firearms, accidentally shot himself with a pistol and died of his wounds. The monument erected in his honor reads:









So, there you have it. Well, some of “it" anyway. You could take a scenic drive through the Heart of the Adirondacks to find historical markers and uncover their mysterious stories for yourself. While you're in the neighborhood, check out the history of the Great Camps — they're more than a little awesome, and kind of museums themselves! The past is waiting.  



Whiteface Region - Monument Falls

Given my thoughts on the museum environment, Monument Falls makes for the ultimate monument situation. Located between Lake Placid and Wilmington in the Whiteface Region, you’ll find this cute little waterfall that’s a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and exploring. If you’re not so pun-inclined, there are two more monuments - by an equally-valid definition, mind you - located at the entrance of Monument Falls. These stone-laid plaques were erected at the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the establishment of the forest preserve in 1885; that is, the establishment of the Adirondacks — aka the Blueline!

I’d give you a synopsis of the plaques’ dedications, but it’s far more powerful to go see them yourself and experience the moving tribute in, of course, the very wilderness of the invaluable Adirondacks they protect.

And if you find yourself at the summit of Little Whiteface, take the path to the left of the gondola to the tribute to the 10th Mountain Division. Mounted on a piece of rock from Mt. Belvedere in Italy, that the 10th found in 1945, the marker pays tribute to the American light infantry division of the United States Army that was once headquartered out of nearby Fort Drum.