The Warren County Historical Society Logo newly adopted January 2015. Copyright 2015 Warren County Historical Society, Queensbury, NY. Design by www.orangeolive.com
Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
September 16, 2015
Historic Churches and an Old Courthouse
in Lake George Village
On December 4, 2004, Warren County Historical Society hosted a holiday tour of the four historic churches in the Village of Lake George. Following the tour, visitors were invited to the historic Warren County Courthouse on Canada Street where Santa Claus was put on trial for stealing soot.
What follows is the material taken from the guide that provided information on each of the stops on the tour. Photographs and updated material have been added.
HISTORIC CHURCHES TOUR
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 51 Mohican Street. Photo courtesy
of Warren County Historical Society.
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholicism first came to the shores of Lake George in 1646 with the French Jesuit priest Isaac Jogues, the first white man to view Lake George. Father Jogues was an influential missionary to the Mohawk Indians, and in 1930 he was canonized by Pope Pius XI. His life and martyrdom are depicted in ten of the church’s magnificent stained glass windows, and a statue of Isaac Jogues stands on the church grounds facing the lake. Behind the church stands a shrine with a wooden sculpture of the Indian maiden, Kateri Tekakwitha, the ‘Lily of the Mohawks.” Kateri spent part of her brief 24-year life in Lake George. She was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II, and if canonized will become the first native North American saint. Sacred Heart Church today maintains an active congregation of Roman Catholic families and friends.
Interior of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. Photo courtesy of The Post Star.
[Update: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656 –April 17, 1680) was born near Auriesville, NY, (Fonda, NY area) on the Mohawk River. She converted to Catholicism at age 19 and was shunned by her tribe for her religious beliefs. Kateri moved to a Jesuit Mission south of Montreal, Canada, and Lake George was on the route to her new home. She was canonized (made a saint) by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012, becoming the first native North American saint.]
First United Methodist Church, Montcalm Street. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
The First United Methodist Church of Lake George
In 1884, a Methodist congregation was organized at Caldwell, New York (now known as Lake George Village). A chapel was erected in 1885 built by Henry Worden of Lake George. The original church added a prayer room and steeple with Gothic stained glass windows in 1899. During the 1940s, the church was damaged by a fire, which would have destroyed the building but for the quick action of Miss Beulah Brown, a nearby neighbor, who with an early call to village firemen helped save the church from total destruction. In October 1984 a centennial celebration was held rededicating the church. Present day Pastor Judith Humphrey Fox ministers over an active congregation of Methodist members and friends.
First United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
[Update: With a declining congregation of approximately 10 (website), regular services at the Lake George Church are not provided on the website. According to a sign posted at the church, they have been holding services in Shepard Park during the summer. David Routh is listed on the website as pastor.]
Caldwell Presbyterian, U.S.A., 71 Montcalm Street. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
The Caldwell Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
Caldwell Presbyterian Church had its beginning in 1810 when a building was erected by James Caldwell, founder of the original Town of Caldwell (now Lake George). The first church was located near present day Shepard Park at Artillery Cove, now known as “Pine Point.” The Reverend Anthony Paul, a Mohican Indian who studied under President Wheelock at Yale University was installed as the first pastor. In 1830, the church became affiliated with the Presbytery of Troy, New York, (and later with the Presbytery of Albany). The present church building was completed in 1856 and was built on land donated by the heirs of James Caldwell. An education wing was added in 1958 and a nursery addition was constructed in 1978. Of special interest are the antique tin ceilings and sidewalls, and the stained glass windows, which were donated and installed in the 1930s.
The Caldwell Presbyterian Church on Montcalm Street. Note the date over the dorrway. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
The education wing and nursery addition. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
[Update: The first Presbyterian Church in Lake George was located at a site on Canada Street overlooking Artillery Cove, approximately where the TD Bank building stands today. Artillery Cove is where, in 1757, Montcalm landed his troops. The first library in Lake George was organized as part of this church. They also operated the first kindergarten in the village until it was taken over by the Board of Education.]
St. James Episcopal Church, 172 Ottawa Street. Note the Celtic steeple cross and the Memorial Cross
on the roof. Tuttle Hall (1910) is on the right in the background. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
St. James Episcopal Church
Episcopal worship gatherings of Lake George families and friends have been held continuously on the present site of St. James Church for well over 150 years. An original small wooden church was erected on the site in 1857 to serve a small congregation of Episcopal worshipers from the Lake George region. Church records state, “In 1866 the church was blown down by a mighty wind.” It appears that the steeple was too weighty for the structure, and when it was rebuilt the next year, it was constructed of stone with a tower set on the side in an English countryside manner. Tuttle Hall was built in 1910 and has been used by the community over the years for voting, school classrooms, high school dances and more recently as an American Youth Hostel location. At one time it was the only basketball court in town. Walter Sutliff of Hudson Falls crafted a beautiful Celtic steeple cross, which was dedicated on September, 2001 and a new Memorial cross on the roof, dedicated on September 29, 2004.
[Update: The first gathering of Episcopalians in Lake George was on the porch of Rev. Isaac Tuttle’s summer home at Rockledge. Rev. Tuttle was a minister from New York City. The first Parish meeting was held at the courthouse in August of 1855. In 1857, a wooden structure was erected on the present site.]
A marker in front of the church indicates it has been placed on the National Register
of Historic Places. Photo courtesy of WCHS.
Stained glass windows in St. James Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of The Post Star.
WARREN COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Old Warren County Courthouse
Completed in 1845, the Old Warren County Courthouse was constructed along the west shore of Lake George on land granted by James and Elizabeth Caldwell, “for the sole use and benefit of the inhabitants of the County of Warren.” Construction specifications called for two-foot-thick stone walls and foundation, and included a basement jail cell area with a residence suitable for the jailer and his family. The final cost to taxpayers was $3,975.32. In 1878, the courthouse was expanded to include a front portion with a tower and clock. The Seth Thomas clock is still in operation, using counterweights and gear mechanisms that are carefully wound every seven days. In 1964, the Lake George Historical Association was organized to save the courthouse from demolition. Today the building houses the Lake George Historical Association Museum, a collection of historical artifacts and archives. The Old Warren County Courthouse is rumored to have at least four different ghosts: in the jail cells, the first floor, the hallway, the exhibit areas and the library.
[Update: Continuing as the home of the Lake George Historical Association, the courthouse has recently undergone some changes. After many years of being covered by carpeting, the original floors in the building have been renewed. The Lake George Historical Association continues to provide temporary and permanent displays related to the history of the region and operate a shop where they sell many books and materials related to local history.]
Following the tour, participants were invited to attend the trial of Santa Claus. Ebenezer Scrooge wrongfully accused Santa of ‘stealing soot’. During the trial, area attorneys (ADA Wilson was the prosecutor and Sterling Goodspeed the Public Defender) and Judge John Austin participated in the trial. A jury of 12 impartial “youngsters” found St. Nick not guilty.
One of the attorneys addresses the jury. Photo courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society.
Santa is found not guilty and gains his freedom. Photo courtesy of Warren County Historical Society.
Material for this column was taken directly from the tour guide for the ‘Holiday Tour of Historic Churches in Lake George Village.” Updated material and photographs were provided by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society.