ADIRONDACK RAILWAY PRESERVATION SOCIETY
Community Profiles Tupper Lake, N.Y.
From 1900 to 1929, the Tupper Lake area saw a massive boom in construction and industry. At one time no fewer than four sawmills lined the shores of Raquette Pond. In 1918, the Oval Wood Dish Corporation had completed its facility. OWD moved from Michigan in 1915. On August 15, 1924, "Federal Hospital No. 96" opened its doors. During its 40 year run, Sunmount VA hospital treated more than 35,000 veterans and was nationally recognized for its study of the chemotherapy of tuberculosis. The earliest known visitor to the area that is now Tupper Lake was Sir John Johnson who passed through the area in 1777 while leading a Loyalist party out of Johnstown up the Sacandaga and Raquette Rivers to avoid capture. Tupper Lake was just a stopover on his way to the St. Lawrence and Canada.
Incorporated in 1890, Tupper Lake got its name from the land surveyor "Tupper" who named the lake that the village borders after himself while running the lines of what is now Franklin County and the Great Macomb Tract Land Purchase in the late 1790's. The first settlement in the area was founded around 1844 near where the Raquette River empties into Big Tupper Lake. Nine families of lumberjacks and others built their homes at what would become "Moody".
In the beginning, much like today, the Tupper Lake area was built on the logging industry. The first sawmill was built by Ziba Brigham for the Pomeroy Lumber Company out of Maine in the early 1840's. However the area didn't really boom until 1889-1890 when John Hurd, son-in-law of world famous Phineas T. Barnum (and owner of 60,000 acres of timberland) built his Northern Adirondack Railroad. This railroad that first pulled into Tupper Lake on July 1, 1890, was built largely to move lumber from his famed "Big Mill" that stood where the municipal grandstand is now located. The largest ever built in New York State, this mill was a two story structure 200 feet wide and 400 feet long. It had 160,000 square feet of floor space, and was powered by a battery of seven boilers that was fueled by sawdust and shavings blown by air pressure through a system of pipes. During one season, this mill converted a small mountain of logs into 33 million board feet of lumber. During the 1920's, the mill claimed the world record for sawing one million board feet of lumber in a single day!
Just two years after Hurd's Northern Adirondack first ran into town, Dr. William Seward Webb's Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad from Herkimer to Montreal began its life in the tiny town of Faust (tiny compared to Tupper Lake). This little town now had two railroads and became known as Tupper Lake Junction, a name the locals still use today for this section of town. Between the 1890's and the 1920's, both towns saw their fair share of ups and downs. In 1899, the village of Tupper Lake was almost abandoned following a lack of foresight on the part of the town fathers. They didn't see the value of organizing a fire department or providing water lines in town. On the night of July 29, 1899, a fire broke out in the King and Page General Store. By the morning of July 30, only two buildings on what is now the Park St. business district were left standing.
However, by the end of the 1920's, the growth of the Tupper Lake area had hit its plateau. With the beginning of the great Depression in 1929, Tupper Lake's expansion had all but stopped. Things remained this way until the 1950's when Tupper began to see a decline, there were no sawmills left in the "Tip Top Town". Hurd's Northern Adirondack Railroad was long since gone. In 1965, the Federal government closed Sunmount only to have the State of New York reopen it as a hospital for the mentally handicapped. New York Central had stopped passenger service in 1965, and freight ended in 1972.
The town currently boasts a population of around 5,000. The timber industry is still a major employer in the town, as is the state of New York. Currently, efforts are under way to try to revitalize the economy of Tupper Lake with the creation of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks. Come visit Tupper Lake, a great place to live and raise a family with excellent schools, skilled work force, churches, affordable housing, and friendly people. Tupper Lake, the Crossroads of the Adirondacks.
For a full calendar of events and Tupper Lake area information on lodging and facilities, call or write; Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce, 60 Park Street, Tupper Lake, N.Y. 12986 (518) 359-3328.
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