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Saying good-bye but never forgetting

So long, 2016; hello, 2017

December 31, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

Time has a way of deleting our memory banks, as older generations go and newer generations arrive. It's the cycle of life, which hangs heavy on our minds this week as we say good-bye to 2016 and hello to 2017.

But we must never forget the good, bad and the ugly of the past year- the positives and negatives - all the things that shape our lives, make us human and define our history. We jot these milestones down for posterity - in newspapers, audio and video files, journals, books, photographs and a variety of artistic media. Some of these stories will even be handed down from generation to generation verbally, believe it or not, without a smartphone in hand.

One of these stories of loss was the iconic red barn in the town of Keene that the state Department of Environmental Conservation tore down on Dec. 20. We'll remember the barn mostly for its place in a field, with a backdrop of the High Peaks, sitting alone.

Article Photos

John Abisch of Montreal paints the iconic “Red Barn” in Keene at the intersection of state Route 73 and 9N one last time in October, just two months before the state Department of Environmental Conservation took down the barn Dec. 20.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

The barn was no longer being used for agricultural purposes; instead, it was in the right place at the right time, a time in history when everybody is a photographer thanks to smartphone cameras. It was a destination for professional and amateur photographers to frame the barn just right in this idyllic Adirondack setting and make their own art - possibly to sell, certainly to share.

Due to its proximity to state Route 73 - a popular highway connecting the Northway to Lake Placid - the red barn became a highly visible cherished stop for thousands each year. Through the effort of nobody, this building became famous. It just happened.

This barn did not play a role in a historic event, yet its place in history is ensured. It's important to remember the barn because it became a patch on our ever-growing Adirondack quilt, sewn by the thousands of people who photographed it and fell in love with it.

Yet questions remain. If the barn was human, would it like all the attention? Or did this barn like the quiet life and was miserable because it could not escape the paparazzi-like atmosphere, robbing it of any hope of serenity. Perhaps the DEC did the barn a favor by putting it out of its misery. If people believe that all things happen for a reason, there must be a cosmic plan out there for the red barn not surviving 2016. Sadly, we'll never know.

The village of Lake Placid was faced with a major loss 80 years ago when the Newman post office closed after 46 years in service to residents in the Mill Pond section of town. Old timers still call this area Newman, but fewer people nowadays have that kind of institutional memory. Eventually, it will be just another local history question for the Lake Placid Rotary Club's Trivia Night.

The Jan. 1, 1937 issue of the Lake Placid News marked the occasion of the Newman post office closing. It had been open since 1891 when the postmaster general established it in the old Raeoil building (former site of the Down Hill Grill), naming the post office after his childhood friend from Philadelphia, Anna Newman, who had moved to Lake Placid and applied for the designation so she and those residents in the lower section of the village didn't have to travel to Main Street daily to get their mail.

In its "Farewell to Newman" editorial, the News reported that mail delivery would be experienced on Jan. 2 by local residents for the first time in the history of the village, "and with this much-heralded event, the boundaries of our mountain community will become altered in no small detail in the minds of our citizenry."

That marked the end for the Newman post office and the mythical community.

"To be exact, Newman has never existed," the News editor wrote. "Yet for many years most of the downtown residents have been in the habit of casually referring to themselves as living in 'Newman.' True the boundaries of this section were quite indefinite. No one knew exactly where Newman began and where it ended. Government maps failed to record its existence; and all civic business was transacted under the titles of the incorporated village of Lake Placid and the township of North Elba."

This was the defining moment for the Olympic Village as the lower and upper sections of the community - Lake Placid and her "half-sister" Newman - were finally reunited.

"Even a state of mind becomes a thing of the past. We are all now, by virtue of civic purpose, geography, and taxation, residents of Lake Placid."



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