Summer 2015: History

Region takes flight

Capt. Frank Burnside, far right, was the first to successfully pilot an airplane in Northern New York. His flights occurred at the Jefferson County Fair in September 1913. A crowd of more than 3,000 witnessed  as Capt. Burnside and his Thomas airplane took off from the exhibition field, soared to a cruising altitude of 2,000 feet, and reached an astounding 50 mph, before safely landing on the makeshift airstrip. Photo courtesy earlyaviators.com.

Capt. Frank Burnside, far right, was the first to successfully pilot an airplane in Northern New York. His flights occurred at the Jefferson County Fair in September 1913. A crowd of more than 3,000 witnessed as Capt. Burnside and his Thomas airplane took off from the exhibition field, soared to a cruising altitude of 2,000 feet, and reached an astounding 50 mph, before safely landing on the makeshift airstrip. Photo courtesy earlyaviators.com.

Capt. Frank Burnside first to pilot north country skies

By Lenka P. Walldroff

It may surprise some visitors to learn that the north country boasts a number of international airports. Here in Watertown, the “International” in “Watertown International Airport” has raised a few eyebrows, but small as it may be, our humble airport gets the job done, ferrying passengers to and from Northern New York to destinations around the world. Eyebrows and square footage aside, north country airports are but a whisper in the region’s long-standing relationship with aviation. [Read more…]

Spring 2015: History

A ‘most American thing’

The original Thousand Island Park Tabernacle Building, ca. 1884.  Photo from Watertown Daily Times archives.

The original Thousand Island Park Tabernacle Building, ca. 1884. Photo from Watertown Daily Times archives.

The Chautauqua Movement and Thousand Islands Park

By Lenka Walldroff, NNY Living

Pop quiz, history fans: To what was President Theodore Roosevelt referring when he said: “It’s the most American thing in America.”? [Read more…]

Winter 2015 History

An early dairy dynasty

By Lenka Walldroff

The F.X. Baumert and Co. cheese factory and office, Antwerp. At the turn of the 20th century, the factory was the largest of its kind int he country. Photo courtesy Watertown Daily Times archives.

The F.X. Baumert and Co. cheese factory and office, Antwerp. At the turn of the 20th century, the factory was the largest of its kind in the country. Photo courtesy Watertown Daily Times archives.

F.X. Baumert and Co. introduced Muenster cheese to United States

From the mid-19th century until about 1930, Jefferson County reigned as the “Cheese Capital of the World.” In fact, at the time, more cheese was bought and sold on the Watertown Cheese Exchange than anywhere else in the world. Jefferson County’s cheese notoriety came from humble origins, however, with the first dairy farm opening in Rutland in 1834 with 20 cows. As road conditions were often poor, or roads were non-existent, travel took significantly longer in previous centuries than it does today. In pre-refrigeration times, this proved problematic for farmers trading in perishable goods like milk. [Read more…]

The nation’s oldest fair: 196th annual event set for July at Coffeen Street grounds

An aerial view of the Jefferson County Fair, ca. 1950s, at the present-day Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds on Coffeen Street, Watertown. Photo from Watertown Daily Times Archives

After the long, grueling north country winters there are few Northern New Yorkers who don’t look forward to summer. Warmer months bring barbecues, days on the river and, perhaps, the most famous harbinger of summer: the Jefferson County Fair. Lauded as the longest continually operating fair in the country, the fairgrounds along Coffeen Street in Watertown is transformed each July into a teeming gathering of people, young and old, who come to enjoy food, rides, crafts, exhibits and farm animals.

Many local fairs are, or were at some point, connected with an agricultural society. Agricultural societies were initially developed in Europe during the Enlightenment, a period during the 18th century of intense scientific discovery and intellectual growth in the Western world. The expressed common goal of agricultural societies was the promotion and development of agricultural techniques. With the scientific spirit of the age, early society members conducted experiments in soil rejuvenation, crop rotation and breeding, animal husbandry and the study of weather patterns. The results of these experiments were then disseminated among local farmers in the hopes of improving farming techniques, technology and crop yields. As a forerunner to the agricultural fair, early agricultural societies offered premiums for new research on field topics, such as innovative methods for eradicating pests that threatened crops. [Read more…]