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June 30, 2009 - Keeping the Past Alive

We live in a unique part of the United States that is rich in history, particularly military history.  Vestiges of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and more recent conflicts, are readily visible in and near Plattsburgh.  Our ancestors have been careful to preserve stories and artifacts from military activities, and from many other important periods and events in our local history.  For over 200 years, the North Country’s economy in large part has been shaped and driven by money spent for and by the military, and by the financial interests of those businesses and individuals who have been associated with projects on and near our military installations.  With the closure of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the so-called military economy officially is now over, but keeping the past alive is now an important part of today’s economy.

Many tourists visit Plattsburgh solely because they are drawn to our roots; but almost all of the visitors to our community are exposed to our exciting and important past, at some time during their stay.  The Clinton County Historical Association, the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, the Kent-Delord House Museum, the Alice T. Miner Museum, the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum, and several other organizations entertain and inform thousands of tourists each year, representing the best of our past and also helping to introduce the best of our present.  Most of us who live here take these fine organizations and their venues for granted, but visitors to the North Country find the venues appealing and educational, the people who staff them enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and a key reason to come back and see us again in the future.

Recently, a map entitled “Area Museums and Landmarks” has been printed and distributed.  The map is a colorful, user-friendly, 11 x 17 graphic layout of streets and points of interest, with annotated locations of several Plattsburgh historical and cultural amenities.  The map is a collaborative effort of several groups and individuals, designed by Keri Zielinski through her Kulrz Graphics company, and can be used as a guide for a walking tour or driving tour of the City.  It may be the first of its kind to plot graphically so many places of importance for visitors.  It is of a quality usually found in bigger and more diverse cities.  Congratulations to all who have contributed time and money to producing this map - it is a testament to cooperation and to sharing a common objective. 

As many of you know, it has been PARC’s goal for several years to help create a historical campus at the south end of the “Old Base”, adjacent to the Clyde Lewis Park, the Old Stone Barracks, and Lake Champlain.  Such a historical campus would be devoted to preserving and interpreting the many facets of Clinton County’s exciting past, with an emphasis on the War of 1812 and on the development of alternative modes of transportation on and near the Lake.  This historical campus would have as its centerpiece, the Old Stone Barracks, built in 1834 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The “Area Museums and Landmarks” map is an outstanding collaborative effort and a shining example of the good that comes about when disparate groups work together for a common goal.  We hope that such collaboration and cooperation may dovetail to include broader activities, and eventually will lead to a team approach in establishing the historical campus.  Developing a flagship historical campus for all of the historical organizations to call home would be good for the North Country, good for the organizations, and good for the messages they convey.  It is ironic but true that keeping the past alive is good news for today, and will continue to be good news in the future.

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