About Tom French

Tom French splits his time between the Adirondacks and the Thousand Islands from his home in Potsdam. More information about his writing can be found at Tom-French.net.

Reader Interactions


  1. Rick Marshall says

    Tom, it seems like you keep reminding me of family history. My dad worked in the laundry there when he was a teenager before WWII. He ended up contracting a case of tuberculosis himself. It didn’t keep out of the army though.
    Thanks for your great stories.

    • Tom French says

      Hello Rick — Thanks for reading and commenting. We learned on the AARCH Tour that many health care workers in the area contracted TB, though it was often latent. I hope it didn’t impact your father.

      AARCH Tours are great. I highly recommend that people check them out (while also subscribing to Adirondack Explorer).

  2. David Gibson, Managing Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve says

    Thank you so much for this informative post, and to AARCH for the tour they gave you. I never forget how hard some of the inmates at Gabriels worked on the Visitor Center trails at Paul Smith’s in 1987-88 in time for the VIC opening in 1989. Nellie Staves of Tupper Lake also worked with inmates and staff to raise ring-necked pheasants there for later release.

    • Tom French says

      Hello David — Thanks for reading and commenting. I also recall how they helped immensely with the Ice Storm ’98 Clean-up. The NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) provided me with a long list of work related activities in which the inmates engaged. It’s possibly not complete as it didn’t mention the VIC. I’ll post their list below.

      Another aspect of the tour which was beyond the scope of the article was the lack of effective post-incarceration strategies to prevent recidivism. For example, inmates were often returned to the county of their conviction, essentially placed right back into the environment that led to their criminal behavior. They also did not necessarily receive the support needed (job placement, counseling, housing) for a a productive path forward.

      • Working with DEC and volunteers to fight forest fires in nearby areas. Cleaning up after fires are contained (Mopping up) by helping to organize and pick up hose and other supplies that belong to responding volunteer fire departments and state agencies.
      • Assist with sandbagging to prevent flooding and damage
      • Clearing down trees from roads after windstorms, and the Ice Storm
      • ENCON Work
      • Clear hiking and snowmobile trails.
      • Carry construction supplies and help build and repair bridges and walkways on trails.
      • Open and closing state campgrounds (raking, moving picnic tables, mowing, brush clearing, etc.)
      • Installing and removing docks at state boat launches.
      • Build and paint trail signs
      • Build picnic tables
      • Work at the DEC sawmill to produce lumber for various projects .
      • Community Service work for Non-Profit organizations such as Churches, cemeteries, libraries, animal shelters, food pantries
      • Community Service with town highway, ambulance squads, fire departments and town offices.
      • General Housekeeping.
      • Help relocate office furniture
      • Washing vehicles
      • Moving boxes of records.
      • Raking/mowing Cemeteries, sometimes up righting headstones
      • Cleaning and ground work at town parks.
      • Snow removal on sidewalks and around fire hydrants.
      • Help prepare for and clean up after community events.
      • Splitting and stacking firewood.
      • Scraping and Painting buildings.
      • Picking up trash.
      • Assist with food pantries
      • Build Saranac Lake Ice Palace with volunteers.
      • Raising and assisting with release of a thousand plus game birds annually.


    Good article. Many of the prison’s NYS that have closed are facing some of the same issues. They sit empty going to waste after million of taxpayers money was used to accommodate the prison population. We live in Jefferson County near the now closed Watertown Correctional Facility. The place is now a ghost town, with the deer population taking up the now abandoned areas. There also use to be a Radar Station located on the property, run by the Air Force, who built housing, and infrastructure to support the men, women and families who ran the Radar Station. These homes are now falling in and could possibly be a safety hazard. Thank NYS.

  4. Richard P Radice says

    I was an inmate at Gabriels in 2003 my name is Rich and I can tell you now that i am a millionaire from a car accident i was deciding to buy it and turn the old place around into something needed.

    • Tom French says

      Hello Rich — Thanks for reading the piece and commenting. I think it’s fair to say that lots of people would like to see the property restored for a useful purpose.

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