Lumber legacy | News, Sports, Jobs - Adirondack Daily Enterprise

2022-05-06 18:34:51 By : Mr. Nick Chou

This is one of the many photographs taken by Kathleen Bigrow to be featured in a new exhibit. (Provided photo — Kathleen Bigrow)

TUPPER LAKE — Tattooed men give each other shaves with axes the size of their heads. Millions of logs float on the shoreline of Raquette Pond. Sawdust flies from chainsaw teeth. Horses pull felled trees. These are some of the scenes from Tupper Lake’s past as a logging town captured by local photographer Kathleen Bigrow, on display at Tupper Arts this month.

Tupper Arts is kicking off its 2022 summer season with its fourth gallery of Bigrow’s black-and-white images, this time focusing on of the logging days of the town. This show also features logging artifacts from the Tupper Lake Heritage Museum, showing the sharp tools of the trade — large two-person chainsaws, bow saws and axes — and the products they created, everything from utensils and platterware to bowling pins.

The show, titled “Mostly Spruce and Hemlock: Tupper Lake’s Logging Heritage,” opens with a reception this Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m.

For 50 years, Bigrow took thousands of photos of the Tupper Lake community, some of which were printed in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Tupper Lake Free Press, the Syracuse Herald-American and the Syracuse Post-Standard. Bigrow died in 2014 at the age of 91. Local photographer Jim Lanthier has dedicated years of his life now to cataloging, preserving and displaying the best of the best of her photos.

He estimated he’s put a couple hundred hours into setting this new show up and curating photos with Tupper Arts board member Ed Donnelly and Woodsmen’s Days organizer Amanda Lizotte.

This year’s exhibit has 100 pictures of people deep in the woods cutting trees with large chainsaws and muscular horses; aerial photos of cut logs completely covering the surface of Raquette Pond, which was created by redirecting water to bring logs closer to the mills; and workers at the many lumber mills in town, cutting the board with mammoth saws and turning the wood into spoons, bowls and popsicle sticks. It also has photos of feats of strength and endurance at years of Woodsmen’s Days events — log-cutting, horse pulls, tug-of-war and the greased pole climb.

Lanthier said the timing for this themed show was serendipitous. It seems Tupper Lake is nearing the end of the Woodsmen’s Days era, he said. The event celebrating logging began in 1900s and was last held in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic cancelled the past two year’s events, and organizers are not planning on reviving it right now.

Also, the Oval Wood Dish factory, where the countless logs harvested from the woods were turned into wooden products, is on people’s minds — a development group has purchased the long-empty complex and plans to redevelop it into a housing and business space.

Lanthier said people today may forget Tupper Lake’s past as a major manufacturing town, but seeing the photos of their ancestors working in the mills and seeing the tools they worked with might be a good reminder.

“Without the pictures, the people who have never seen it or experienced it would never be able to understand it,” Lanthier said. “Every picture is worth a thousand words.”

He said this showing is very educational for locals and hopes young Tupper Lakers from the schools come down to see how their hometown got its start.

“The only reason Tupper Lake exists is because of the lumbering,” Lanthier said. “All the businesses that came to Tupper Lake, the reason they came was to support the lumberjacks and their families.”

Lanthier said his great-grandfather came to Tupper Lake to be a log driver. Logging is why he is here. His father, Jim Sr., also worked at OWD when it became a plastics manufacturing plant.

When Tupper Arts board President Susan Delehanty was looking at the photos, she realized, she was seeing a lot of women working in the mills — operating saws, feeding wood into machines and measuring logs. She had figured it was all men working in the mills, but was pleasantly surprised to find that women were working alongside men in the wood production industry in Tupper Lake decades ago.

According to a 2003 article in Adirondack Life that Lanthier found, when OWD opened in 1918, it was one of the earliest U.S. companies to employ large numbers of women. This was before World War II, when women moved into the workforce en masse.

Fittingly, Bigrow’s photos of the Woodsmen’s Days tug-of-war competitions shows women straining just as hard on the ropes as men.

“There has been nothing but love driving the creation of this gallery show,” Tupper Arts Marketing Manager, Annachristi Cordes said in a press release. “The logging industry and the pride associated with being a Lumberjack has helped physically shape the community we live in, from the creation of beautiful Raquette Lake, to the teams we root for at the Middle-High School.”

The gallery at the Tupper Arts Center gallery at 106 Park St. will run until May 29, from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery is free and copies of Bigrow’s photographs will be for sale. Masks are being encouraged, as coronavirus cases have started to increase in the region.

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Keene Central School District’s proposed 2022-2023 budget would increase spending and raise school taxes, largely ...

MOOERS FORKS — The leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade rocks the nation, and the historic and ...

SARANAC LAKE — Last Friday, Ann Merkel and other original High Peaks Hospice founders gathered at The Saranac ...

SARANAC LAKE — Suzanne Langelier-Lebeda will be the featured artist at the Adirondack Artists Guild for the ...

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Copyright © Adirondack Daily Enterprise | | 54 Broadway, Saranac Lake, NY 12983 | 518-891-2600 | Ogden Newspapers | The Nutting Company