You couldn’t live in the northern or middle parts of the US this past week without receiving numerous alerts on your Iphone about hazardous air quality. Pics & reels littered Instagram and Tik Tok with post-apoctalyptic scenes out of New York City, Syracuse and of course, Canada. With Air Quality Numbers exceding well past 400 (hazardous) at one point in parts of New York, those COVID masks we had thrown at the bottom of our night stand drawers were dug out again, crinkled and creased, but seemingly our only defense from the toxic air. Drought conditions, strong winds and lightning strikes made this very early fire season one for the history books.
Our own forest fire came to life in Johnsburg thanks to a lightning strike on June 2, burning approximately 11 acres and threatening to spread to a few dozen neighboring houses (including some of ours). Thanks to DEC responders and forest rangers, the fire burned for four days before extinguising itself. Parts of Johnsburg received its first drops of rain on June 8, after a month long drought. The Big Moose Inn, an historic hotel on Big Moose lake located in the western Adirondacks, burned to the ground on May 27th of this year.
This got us thinking about our town and its history with devastating fire. The Adirondacks are no stranger to fires. Between the 1880-1930, dozens of large & wood-built hotels were destroyed by fire throughout the Adirondacks. In North Creek, NY alone, fire was responsible for several iconic buildings being destroyed and the loss of lives. Here’s a compilation of some of the most devastating fires to happen in the town of Johnsburg alone:
- The American Hotel – built in 1872 burned down in 1903. Was later rebuilt in 1920. It now is the home to The Copperfield Inn.
- The Straight House – built in 1876 burned down in either 1919 or 1928, according to sources. It is now the home of Community Bank.
- The Adirondack Hotel – built in 1865 burned down in 1916. It was located near the area where BarVino and Crossroads currently reside.
- 13th Lake Lodge – built by the brother who owned The Straight House, burned down once in 1931, killing three people. After it had been rebuilt, it burned again in 1961. Today, there’s the Siamese Ponds trailhead there and just up the road Garnet Hill Lodge.
- Wade’s Hotel – built in 1923 burned to the ground in 1965. The 1965 fire swept through the village of North Creek, damaging or destroying multiple homes and businesses.
- Hotels weren’t the only businesses damaged by fire in the late 19th, early 20th century. Multiple churches were destroyed included St. James Catholic church and the Methodist church.
The John Wade building built in 1894, now currently Cafe Sarah, reportedly had a fire as well, though we could find no official written reports. The building housed a shop and a Poker Hall/Speak Easy in the basement where Barkeater Chocolates operated out of from 2010-2012. On several occasions, our team could smell burning food when the bakery was either closed or had long stopped baking for the day. After several inspections, including an inspector taking off ceiling tiles and examining the wiring, no one could find any evidence or reason behind the smell of fire.
Today, our building codes, fire inspections, insurance policies, building materials, smoke detectors and first responders ensure that fires don’t have to be devastating. But often, espcially in our part of the country, we don’t take fire & smoke risk seriously you see “fire…oh smoke on the horizon.”
See links for sources.