Town of Newcomb, Essex County
Historic Tahawus Tract
In 1994 the Open Space Institute (OSI) began negotiations with
NL Industries for the purchase of 10,000 acres known as the Tahawus
Tract. OSI successfully acquired the property in August of 2003
through its land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy,
for a purchase price of $8.5 million. The Tahawus Tract, located
in Essex County in the northern part of the Town of Newcomb, represents
the largest land acquisition by OSI since the organization was founded
in 1963. The acquisition, which has long been at the top of the
conservation community’s “must save” list, will
protect the headwaters of the Hudson River, the “deserted”
village of Adirondac and the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s
“Midnight Ride” to the presidency in 1901. The Houston
based NL Industries, which operated a titanium mine on the property
until 1989, will retain the 1,200-acre industrial portion of the
The Adirondack Iron Works
In the heart of the Adirondacks, near the headwaters of the Hudson
River, lying between Lake Sanford and Henderson Lake is the abandoned
site of the “Adirondack Iron Works.” This untamed tract,
protected by Santanoni Mountain to the west and the “Cloudsplitter,”
Mt. Marcy, to the east, was twice a busy mining community. First
“discovered” in 1826 by Archibald McIntyre and David
Henderson, who were guided by an Indian from the St. Francis tribe,
iron ore was extracted with moderate success between 1827 and 1857.
In 1843, iron ore extraction reached from twelve to fourteen tons
a day. This may have represented the most productive period for
the Adirondack Iron Works Company. During peak production, nearly
400 men labored at the Works and a small Village named McIntyre
( also known as Adirondac) formed. Expert opinion at the time held
that the Adirondack iron was the best steel producing ore so far
discovered in the country. Records indicate that the best marks
of American and Scotch pig-iron were selling for twenty dollars
to twenty-two dollars per ton; the Adirondack output readily brought
forty dollars to forty-five dollars per ton.
Historic Village of Adirondac
Throughout its existence, the Adirondack Iron Works operated two
farms, the blast furnace and forge, a puddling furnace, charcoal
and brick kilns, trip hammers and a grist and saw mill. The Village
consisted of sixteen dwellings and a building with a cupola, used
as school, church and the general assembly room.
The most surprising feature of this remote and secluded mountain
hamlet was a bank – a duly organized State Bank, the first
in the Adirondacks. It was called the McIntyre Bank.
The Blast Furnace
In 1854, the Sackett’s Harbor and Saratoga Railroad Company
surveyed their line
to within a few miles of the iron-works. They began construction
with great promise of reaching the Village of Adirondac. The prospect
of the railroad invigorated the iron-works owners who began repairing
their old buildings and undergoing extensive and costly improvements.
They built a new blast-furnace of the largest type, estimated to
have cost $43,000. The Blast Furnace would have improved efficiency
However, the heightened anticipation resulting from the proposed
railroad project came crashing down once it became clear the tracks
would never reach the iron-works.
Despite bold initiative and enterprise, the original undertaking
succumbed to the inherent difficulties of operating in the wilderness.
Inadequate roadways resulted in severe transportation and distribution
problems. Essential supplies were shipped north from Albany on sleds
during the winter. The long haul to Lake Champlain over the most
primitive mountain roads made it impossible to compete with companies
nearer the markets.
Further complicating matters was the presence of titanium dioxide
in the iron ore. Finally in 1857, after a valiant struggle, the
Adirondack Iron Works surrendered to the remoteness of the wilderness
and the place became known as the “deserted village.”
A view from inside the Blast Furnace.
This structure has withstood the rigors of a century and a half
of Adirondacks weather.
It stands after nearly 150 years, a testament to the ingenuity
of the pioneering men and women who toiled in the heart of the Adirondacks.
It is located along the Tahawus trailhead access road.
Over the next half-century, private hunting and fishing clubs and
lumbering activity were the primary land uses on the Tahawus Tract.
A large private fish and game club, the first of its kind in the
Adirondacks (in New York???) organized in 1876. The club was called
the Preston Ponds Club, after three small sheets of water lying
just north of Lake Henderson. This club leased the land from the
Adirondack Iron and Steel Company – a later incorporation
of the Adirondack Iron Works.
This endeavor was so popular and successful that its members desired
a permanent organization. In January of1877, the club was reorganized
and incorporated as the “Adirondack Club.” The entire
Tahawus Tract was leased from the heirs of the original Adirondack
In 1898, the Adirondack Club once again changed its name and became
the Tahawus Club. Its headquarters were north of Lake Sanford, near
the site of the upper works. The first president was Mr. James MacNaughton
of Albany, whose father had married the daughter of Archibald McIntyre.
NL Industries 1940 - 1989
Ironically, the titanium dioxide that hampered mining efforts in
the 1800s later served as the catalyst for reopening the mine in
1941. The wartime demand for domestic titanium dioxide provided
sufficient impetus for the Federal government to build a railroad
into the mine site. The railroad provided the distribution capabilities
that allowed National Lead Industries to successfully reopen the
mine. Under NL Industries ownership, 40 million tons of titanium
were extracted before operations ceased in 1989.
Existing Mine Site
With the termination of mining activities by NL Industries
in 1989, the mine site once again lies deserted. The mine pits filled
with water and local lore states the depths reach 1,000 feet or
The water filled mine pits are clearly visible in
this aerial photo. A 300-foot high massive tailings pile sits between
the mine pits.
The mining operation and abandoned equipment remain
the property of NL Industries under the terms of the agreement negotiated
Tahawus Tract acquired by the Open Space Institute
“The Tahawus Tract is absolutely breathtaking,” says
Joe Martens, President
of the Open Space Institute (OSI) . “Its defining natural
features include rugged mountains, crystal clear, glacially carved
lakes, and the headwaters of the Hudson River. OSI has historically
focused on the Hudson River and its watershed so it is no mystery
why we were steadfast in our pursuit of this project. This property
is a key missing piece of the High Peaks Wilderness Area.”
OSI and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cooperatively
manage 6,000 acres on the northern end of the property, immediately
adjacent to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Some 3,500 of the remaining
4,000 acres will continue to be managed as a working forest. And,
several hundred acres comprising the historic Village of Adirondac
will be managed as an historic area.
The historic district will be protected by conservation easements,
which will be purchased by the State. These easements will provide
opportunities for local government and not-for-profit historic preservation
organizations to develop a plan for stabilization, rehabilitation
and public interpretation of the site. The working forest easement
will provide for public recreation and prohibit development on this
portion of the property. Allowable public activities will include
paddling, hiking, skiing, hunting and camping at designated sites.
The natural and historic resources on the property are expected
to draw more visitors and benefit the local economy of the town
"This significant acquisition would not have happened without
the support and enthusiasm of Governor Pataki. The acquisition of
the Tahawus Tract is a great example of a highly successful public-private
partnership,” said Joe Martens.
on the Tahawus Tract is the 450-acre Henderson Lake, one of many
pristine lakes on the property. The Hudson River begins at the outlet
of Henderson Lake where the river is a narrow and inconspicuous
David Henderson, for whom the lake is named,was charged with management
of the Adirondack Iron Works in 1838. Mr. Henderson was a man of
unusual business ability. He had great energy and enterprise, backed
by sound principles, financial acumen and considerable scientific
knowledge. He was of a genial and cordial disposition and very popular
with the men at the works, in whose lives and welfare he took a
In a desolate wilderness spot on September 3rd, 1845, Henderson
was killed as a result of an accidental gunshot wound. He had thrown
his knapsack and gun belt on a rock and the open hammer was struck
discharging the weapon. The “Duck Hole” where he was
shot has since been called “Calamity Pond,” and the
brook that flows from it, and a nearby mountain, now bear the same
For the first time in more than 175 years the public will have
fishing and paddling access on Henderson Lake. The lake has been
privately owned since 1826.
Included throughout this mountainous property are significant natural
resources, including Mount Adams, which offers one of the most breath
taking views of the High Peaks found in the entire Park. The property
contains several peaks over 2,000 feet that are jumbled upon one
another, providing spectacular scenic vistas. There are eight additional
lakes and ponds scattered throughout the forested land, including
Preston Ponds and numerous rivers and streams.
Wildlife abounds on the Tahawus Tract. A quiet, attentive hiker
has opportunities to glimpse moose, bears, deer, loons, coyotes,
foxes and other small mammals. The elusive Pine Marten is know to
favor the deep recesses of the Tahawus Tract and rugged Indian Pass
just north of the old Village of Adirondac.
Pristine water leaves Henderson Lake as the Hudson River flowing
through the heart of the Adirondacks, onward to the Catskill watershed
and finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City.
Governor Pataki Officially Welcomes the Public
to the Tahawus Preserve
On October 6th, 2003 Governor George Pataki, along with Senator
Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, Assemblyman Chris Ortloff,
Newcomb Supervisor George Canon and DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty
officially welcomed the public to the Tahawus Preserve.
The Governor said, “The Tahawus property represents many
aspects of what makes New York State great. Today marks the beginning
of a wonderful new opportunity for current and future generations
to explore an area of the Adirondacks that is rich in precious natural
resources, historical significance, economic potential and recreational
opportunities. This is an extraordinarily important parcel and it’s
been a top priority.”
Town of Newcomb Supervisor George Canon
Life long Newcomb resident, Town Supervisor George Canon, poses
in front of the grand fireplace of the NL Industries private retreat
house located on the Tahawus Tract.
Mr. Canon’s father worked in the sawmill during the time period
that NL Industries operated the mine. Mr. Canon was an NL Industries
Supervisor Canon recalled life growing up in a Company town with
great fondness. Mr. Canon said, “There was a great sense of
community. Growing up we never felt isolated. The Village had everything
a kid needed. We hunted, fished and attended socials at the Company
YMCA. Everyone knew and trusted each other. We may have been right
in the heart of a great wilderness but growing up we all felt part
of a vibrant community. Families made a decent living in the Mine
and at the Mill. It was hard work but we were proud to do it.”
Supervisor Canon stated, “This acquisition provides a variety
of opportunities for the Town of Newcomb to enhance its goals of
becoming a historic destination site and, along with the Santanoni
Preserve, will provide the base to meet those goals. I’m pleased
to see that the purchase provides for the continuing benefits of
the wood fiber production, long a staple of the Newcomb economy.”
APA Chairman Dr. Ross Whaley
The New York State Senate approved the Governor’s nomination
of Dr. Ross Whaley as Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency on
September 16, 2003. He brings to the position more than 30 years
experience as a University Professor, Researcher and Administrator.
Since 1984, Dr. Whaley has been associated with the SUNY College
of Environmental Science and Forestry, 16 years as its President
and subsequently as University Professor. As Professor his interest
focused on the political economy of sustainable development. Throughout
his career Dr. Whaley has emphasized the importance of balance with
regard to environmental issues and the use of our natural resources.
While on a tour of the Tahawus Tract in October of 2003, Chairman
Whaley praised the Open Space Institute and Governor Pataki for
their innovative approach and hard work in obtaining such a valuable
asset. Chairman Whaley said, “This acquisition holds tremendous
potential for the State Forest Preserve, the local economy of Newcomb
and the generations of people who will recreate in this most primitive
Adirondack setting. The inclusion of the historic Village of Adirondac
blends perfectly with the Santanoni Great Camp property and greatly
enhances the Town of Newcomb’s potential for tourism. I am
also encouraged by the working forest aspect because I see different
sides coming together for common goals and benefits. The Tahawus
acquisition is an outstanding example of balance.”