Literary Landmarks in Honor of NYLA’s Anniversary
by Lisa C. Wemett, FLS President
In the Winter 2014 issue of the Empire Friends newsletter, Rocco Staino, director for the Empire State Center for the Book, contributed an article about the Literary Landmark™ program. United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, looks for nominations of historic literary locations to be designated Literary Landmarks. At the time of Rocco’s article, NYS had eleven places that had earned that distinction, including hotels, a lighthouse, and a windmill. But since so many of the sites were downstate, I began to wonder if there were locations in the “north country” near NYLA’s 125th annual conference in Lake Placid. Not finding any on the list, I determined that getting a Literary Landmark™ (or two!) in honor of NYLA’s anniversary would be a great gift and certainly something to celebrate in 2015.
I had personally visited two such worthy historic sites several years apart when staying with a friend who lives on Upper Saranac Lake: the Wilder Homestead outside of Malone and the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum in the village of Saranac Lake. I made some overtures to each site’s administrators and held meetings to discuss the program with both groups in July 2014.
Ultimately, all NYLA Sections joined with FLS to contribute to the effort: Academic and Special Libraries Section (ASLS), Leadership and Management Section (LAMS), Public Library Section (PLS), Reference and Adult Services Section (RASS), and Section on the Management of Resources and Technology (SMART). Collectively, with 100% participation, we were able to raise enough to cover the cost of the plaques for both sites. FLS and the Empire State Center for the Book thank all of the executive boards of the sections for their generosity and support.
Cause for Celebration!
We hope you will be able to join us on Saturday, July 11, at the Wilder Homestead, for their dedication event. A bronze Literary Landmark™ plaque will be unveiled during the Homestead’s Children’s Art Event (10 a.m. until 4 p.m.) There will be art activities for children and 19th century games, along with an awards ceremony for the children’s art show which begins Saturday, July 4. Museum admission applies to this event. Visit Facebook and “like” the Almanzo Wilder Farm page to receive additional details about the dedication ceremony plans as they develop.
The Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum will be hosting an event late in August. We will be publicizing the date to the NYLA membership as it draws closer and the plans are finalized.
The Wilder Homestead
The Literary Landmark™ designation joins other honors for the Wilder Homestead, which previously was placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places. In December 2014, the Wilder Homestead was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Homestead includes the original Wilder home with period furnishings and an 1860s era one-room schoolhouse, which was added in 2013. The barns at the farm were rebuilt on the sites of the original ones according to blueprints Almanzo recreated from memory. There is a small museum gift shop, and the Trout River, where Almanzo fished, is across the road.
The Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum
Stevenson (1850-1894) lived here during the winter of 1887-1888 with his family, renting the green-shuttered white cottage from Andrew and Mary Baker. The Bakers’ tenant was the famed Scottish author of Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) and certainly the most popular writer of his time following the publication of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) before he had set foot in New York. Plagued by poor health all his life, Stevenson sought the fresh mountain air as did many visitors who made Saranac Lake a world-famous center for the treatment of tuberculosis.
The prosperity that came to him during his stay in Saranac Lake gave Stevenson much of the means to finally travel to a part of the world he so yearned to visit. When he left Saranac Lake in 1888 for his South Sea voyages, an endless stream of star-struck literary pilgrims came to see the spot where Stevenson created some of his finest contributions to English literature. The cottage is well preserved with an expansive collection of personal mementos belonging to Stevenson and personal artifacts used by him.
Future Literary Landmarks