An Autumn Walk into History
The Great Sacandaga Lake holds many mysteries. As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the making of the lake ,there are not many people who remember what it used to be. A quick recap. Sacandaga Valley was a rich valley filled with farmlands, towns, roads and wonderful fishing in what was referred to as the vly, a wetlands of sorts with winding streams. And of course there was the Sacandaga River that came down from the Adirondack mountains and then turned north and fed into the Hudson River near Lake Luzerne. But in the spring time, towns like Troy and Schenectady and Albany would be hit with major floods, so a plan was hatched to build a dam to dam up the river and control the water level in order to prevent the flooding. This plan was talked about for years and years but people didn't believe it would ever happen. In 1911 an extensive survey map was made, showing elevation levels of 770 and 780. These lines would be the determining factor. When it became clear that the dam would be made, people in the valley were notified. If their house was below the 780 foot elevation line, they only had a few options...move their house to higher ground or tear down their house or walk away. Fish House was very close to the 780 line. The future lake would cover over the village square including 18 houses. Of those 18, 12 were moved to higher ground and 6 were torn down. Every so often, in the fall, the water level gets low enough so you can walk back into the village square. Let's go on that walk.
11. The corner across from the Fish House Hotel had many buildings over the years, an old brick store, the Osborn Hotel and then the Sumner house, built in 1900. This large Victorian was moved up to higher ground. As you stand and look south, you will see a ridge of higher ground. That land was Stead farmland. George Stead parceled up that land and sold the lots. Four houses and a barn were moved up there and are located on Ryder Road. The Sumner house is now a beautiful yellow house on 110 just before Ryder Road. The amazing and frustrating thing for me as an historian, there are no photos of these houses being moved. Where you are standing, you will see possible stone walls and pieces of foundations, probably from the Sumner house.
12. One of the roads leading out of the village square was Main Street which then became Dyke Road, it went out to the covered bridge and beyond. If you look for a long section of concrete, I believe that that was the sidewalk that was next to Main Street and went past the large Sinclair house, the Marvin house, and others. The Sinclair house was torn down. The Marvin house was moved up past Ryder Road but was later burned down in 1996. The Sinclair house, shown below, was one of the largest homes in Fish House. The Sinclairs were a wealthy family from New York City. They would summer in Fish House, but they ran their farm year round. When it became evident that they could not save their house, they built another one on Sinclair Point that they named Roslyn Manor.
Every few years, the water level of Sacandaga Lake gets so low that you can see the road bed that led out to the covered bridge. It was lined with trees, as you can see in the photo above. The trees had to be cut down but many of the stumps are still there. Take a walk out along the road bed. You will see pieces of history, pottery shards, bricks, horse shoes, foundation chunks, maybe even a metal coin or toy, every year new treasures show up. Enjoy the view. Look up the lake and you will see the Grinnell House. You will also see the Northampton Cemetery. It is a public cemetery and you are allowed to walk or drive over the gravel road to the cemetery entrance. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful places on the lake. Many of the early Fish House settlers are buried there, including the Shews and the St. Johns.
The Fish House covered bridge was a unique two lane bridge. It was build in 1818. The people of Fish House tried to save the bridge. Their plan was to cable it and then once the lake level was up, they were going to move it over to an area in Fish House and set it up as a museum. But the cables started to snap as the water level rose. Dare devils were driving their cars across the bridge so they could say they were the last ones to do so. For safety reasons, the last cable was cut and the bridge broke into pieces and washed up on shore on the other side of the cemetery.