I am not a nostalgic person. Nonetheless, I have a visceral fondness for old barns and buildings. These structures fire my imagination about the lives of the people who occupied and used the structures.
Late last month, on my way back from a station event in the central Adirondacks, I drove home through the communities in the northwest corner of the Adirondack Park, from Cranberry Lake to Star Lake and Fine, and then on to Edwards.
This is one of my favorite areas of the Park. No high peaks, true. But the landscape is open and down home. Wide tracts of undeveloped land and water, hidden pull outs to access rivers and lakes, and settlements that are simple and unadorned.
It’s also a region beset by economic decline in recent decades. Mining and lumber industries both disappearing, and tourism modest. (Check out Brian Mann’s recent story on the auctioning off of the Newton Falls paper mill and land.)
On my drive, I kept noticing old buildings that hinted at the story of a public life from an earlier, and perhaps more prosperous, era. Here and there, a building has been reclaimed for life in the 21st century (the Edwards Opera House, for example), but in general these structures are abandoned.
There’s a sadness–yes, the loss of interesting structures in any of our communities is a loss for all of us, but also I wonder how the decline of these structures reflects a challenge to the people of these communities to find a new way to build together. Across the region, it’s a challenge that we all face.
Are there buildings, or ruins, in your community that hold the stories and history of our past? If you’re interested in old buildings, preservation and regional history, check out your local historical society. And, you may want to visit Adirondack Architectural Heritage.