In a controversial move, the state has recommended that former hunting camps in the Essex Chain region be added to the state and national Registers of Historic Places.
The buildings in question are known as the Outer Gooley Club and the Inner Gooley Club.
The Outer Gooley Club is an old farmhouse that overlooks the Hudson River near its confluence with the Indian River. The Inner Gooley Club is a complex of a dozen or so buildings on the south shore of Third Lake, the largest water body in the Essex Chain Lakes.
The state has been studying whether to preserve the Outer Gooley farmhouse, perhaps turning it into a ranger’s outpost or a museum. The Inner Gooley buildings were slated to be demolished this fall, but the state is now telegraphing that it may preserve them as well.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) had pushed for the nomination for the historic registers and in fact did much of the work that went into the application, according to Steven Engelhart, the organization’s executive director. AARCH says the buildings are representative of Adirondack hunting culture.
The application was done, Engelhart said, “to elevate the status of the property and, hopefully, give it greater consideration in state planning,” he said. “As you know, before the state acquires new Forest Preserve properties, it is required [by state law] to identify cultural resources therein and go to considerable lengths to avoid their loss and put them in public use if at all possible. None of this was done for this acquisition. … The state did not follow its own rules.”
The state is working on establishing hut-to-hut routes in the Adirondacks, and some have speculated that the Inner Gooley Club could serve as a destination for backpackers hiking between communities. In fact, Engelhart said the Inner Gooley Club buildings “would make a great hut-to-hut destination.”
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said he expected the state to nominate the Outer Gooley farmhouse to the historic registers, but he was surprised by the inclusion of the Inner Gooley buildings.
Bauer contends that allowing cabins to remain on the Forest Preserve for overnight use would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and Article 14 of the state constitution. Article 14 declares that the Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
“We have lean-tos and we have primitive campsites on the Forest Preserve,” Bauer said. “If people want cabins they can to a state park.”
Bauer also contended that the Gooley Club buildings lack historical significance. “There are hundreds of hunting clubs just like the Gooley Club all across the Adirondacks,” he said.
The Gooley Club is located on land that the club once leased from Finch, Pruyn & Company. In 2007, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres of the company’s lands. The state later bought sixty-five thousand acres of Finch lands from the conservancy, including the Essex Chain lands.
Soon after the conservancy acquired the Finch lands, the Explorer ran an article about the Gooley Club and its future. Click here to read it.
It’s uncertain what the state’s plans for the buildings are. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which manages the Forest Preserve, did not respond to an email about the plans for the Gooley Club structures.
“It’s a broken promise if the state is moving to retain rather than remove or relocate the Inner Gooley structures,” said Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council.
The Gooley Club buildings were among twenty properties recommended by governor’s office for inclusion on the state and national registers. “Once recommendations are approved by the state historic preservation officer, the properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register,” the governor’s office said in a news release.
Click here to read state’s draft application for the National Register.
Personally, I don’t see the “Gooley Club Museum” being much of a draw. Otherwise, perverting historic register status simply to allow hut-to-hut activity seems to be bad politics. Any structure that has existed for years could be considered historic, but it doesn’t make it historically significant and worth preserving (in situ), especially if the land classification doesn’t allow it. If the state wants to pursue the hut-to-hut idea, they best come up with a better way to make the necessary infrastructure legal. Using historic register status would likely be a slippery slope.
I assume the registry has other criteria then simply being there for a while?
Mick Finn says
During the acquisition application process, DEC claimed that there were no buildings that would be affected, when in fact there were close to 200 buildings. The application was falsified.
“In a controversial move, the state has recommended” controversial why? Because you say it is?
Phil Brown says
No, I said it’s controversial because it is controversial.
Why not keep the Gooley Club buildings? At the very least, it’s interesting and fun to walk up to old historic buildings in the middle of a wilderness. It gives visitors an opportunity to stretch their imaginations about a bygone era. And it will provide sanctuary for anyone who may need it.
Additionally, I don’t see how their preservation violates article 14 as cited here. It’s not clear from the quoted reference how the buildings’ existence pertain to that rule. Regardless, exceptions are granted to rules all the time. Did the buildings exist prior to the acquisition and prior to drafting of the AP land use rules?
This will likely rub some the wrong way, but from what I gather in the article, the only controversy is that some people are inflexible in their definition of what it means to be “historic,” “forest,” or “wilderness.”
Now four years after this article was written, I wonder what is the state of the hut-to-hut route?
Thanks for the article!