Let’s take a walk. A walk through the woods, a walk along the river, a walk through history. Plenty of Adirondack towns have years and years of history but in my opinion none as fascinating and evolving as that of the Upper Works. Those woods hold secrets and mysteries we may never figure out but thanks to the Open Space Institute (OSI) we are able to do a little less assuming and a little more learning.
The journey to the old ghost town begins on the Old Tahawus road, a road that shifts and shapes to the contour of the land, with nothing but pavement and trees for as far as the eye can see. But with every passing mile and turn, rusted structures, dilapidated buildings, and fallen rocks slowly start to take shape through the towering pine and spruce trees. Then you make it to the first historical landmark on your adventure, the McIntyre Blast Furnace, which was completed in 1854. It has sat there for over 150 years untouched and unbroken. The structure stands tall and truly represents the perseverance of the men who designed, built, and operated one of the first coal burning furnaces. The furnace towers over the plot of land it's situated on and is nearly impossible to miss.
Now pulling off and taking a look at the furnace is only one of the great features the Open Space Institute is trying to highlight. Continuing down the path to the river you'll find the remnants of what used to be the mill located on the water. A lot of the structure itself has been destroyed due to time and erosion, but the parts that do remain are put back together with depictions and illustrative panels located on the lookout. Now perhaps my favorite part is the trails following the river that connect the blast furnace site to the MacNaughton Cottage. The trail is roughly 0.7 miles long and follows smooth terrain along the water's edge. And along these trails bits and pieces of the Adirondack history start to come to life. You’ll see remnants of old buildings and structures as you glide through the woods. After only a few short moments you make it to the end of the trail and arrive at the MacNaughton Cottage.
The McNaughton Cottage, which is located just up the road from the furnace, was once a place that held many wealthy entrepreneurs, businessmen, the first bank in the Adirondacks, and even a US president: Teddy Roosevelt to be exact. He was staying at the cottage when he received news that the President at the time, William McKinley, had been shot in Buffalo. If you are a lover of history I would absolutely recommend heading to the North Country in the beginning of September when the Town of Newcomb celebrates Teddy Roosevelt weekend! They do full tours of the Upper Works and even have a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator to tell the stories! All of this information is available for every person to see. So, continue your own exploration of the Upper Works, take a walk down the newly developed gravel road and marvel at the resourcefulness of OSI. Instead of removing and demolishing all the old homes and buildings, they decided to leave the stone and brick chimneys standing and created renderings of what the structures looked like. You see how the blast furnace operated, how the buildings appeared in their primitive years and how such a small town made such a huge impact in the North Country. Take steps back in time and just enjoy the moments.
Now, the Upper Works trails are not just for adventurers passing through on their way to the southern access point for the High Peaks; thanks to the Open Space Institute, they were able to create a new parking area and trail to make the experience accessible for everybody around. So the people looking to enjoy both options but unsure about taking the hike between the furnace and the cottage are able to with no problem. The parking area is suitable to fit over 60 cars and is very spacious. Now the road getting there, on the other hand, tells a different story. It has definitely seen its fair share of wear and tear over the years but if you take your time and dodge the potholes like you dodge the black fies in the summertime you will be just fine.
The Upper Works offer a glimpse of how a small town used to run and operate. A town so tiny you have to squint to see it on a map. It is hard to believe that such a small town can make such a huge impact in history. Whether you're a lover of history or a lover of being outdoors and adventure the Upper Works is a great place to explore! For more information about the Upper Works be sure to check out the Information Center in Newcomb and for more historical sites to see in the Hub head on over to our website under Museum and History!