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5 & 10 Variety Store

Found on James Street in Alexandria Bay, New York

Vintage Signs of Upstate New York

Lately I’ve been obsessed with old signs–neon signs, ghost signs, populuxe styles, etc. They represent a living memory of the past, and express uniqueness and character from a time when business owners displayed confidence and the promise of permanence.

Nothing lasts forever, of course, especially in the realm of business, but these signs were clearly designed for the long term. Proof is the fact many of these signs have outlasted the businesses themselves. Some, like the Crystal Restaurant in Watertown, New York, beat the odds and have survived for nearly a century.

Hot Lights: Neon and Incandescent Signs of Upstate New York

Neon and incandescent signs were popular during the first half of the twentieth century and used to line America’s main streets, especially in larger cities. They consisted of glass tubes bent into a variety of shapes and lit with colorful gas. Sadly, after World War 2 they were considered garish, ugly, and expensive, so many were removed. In some cases, businesses removed the neon lights but kept the signs. It’s a shame because they add character and uniqueness to a commercial district.

Honored Dead

Cranberry Creek, Cranberry Creek Wildlife Management Area, Alexandria Bay, New York.

Battle of Cranberry Creek

The Battle of Cranberry Creek was a small but dramatic part of the War of 1812 in Upstate New York. Southeast of Alexandria Bay, Cranberry Creek flows into a branch of the St. Lawrence River leading into Goose Bay.

The St. Lawrence River, as the border between the United States and British Canada, was a vital waterway that saw dozens of naval battles as each side sought to control it. Both sides attacked vulnerable supply shipments being ferried up and down the river.

In late July 1813, the American Navy learned that several British bateaux loaded with munitions, salt pork, pilot bread, and other supplies, escorted by the Spit Fire, were bound up-river for Fort Henry at Kingston, Ontario.

Two privately-armed schooners, the Neptune and Fox, were dispatched from the naval base at Sackets Harbor to intercept them. Major Dimoch of the Forsyth Rifles commanded approximately 72 riflemen and militia on board.

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Heart Island in Bloom

Boldt Castle. 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, New York 13607. (315) 482-9724

Romance & Mystery at Heart Island’s Boldt Castle

The stone walls of a majestic castle rise above the waters of the Saint Lawrence River, creating a romantic visage on tiny Heart Island. Today a major tourist destination, for decades the structure sat abandoned to vandalism and decay. Despite never having been lived in, rumors of Boldt Castle’s haunted halls have spread throughout the Thousand Islands Region of Upstate New York.

In 1900, George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, began construction on this six story, 120 room castle. It was to be a grand tribute to the love of his life, Louise Kehrer Boldt. Louise purchased Heart Island, where the castle was to be built, in 1895 for $1. The architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt designed the castle, for which Boldt spared no expense. It contained tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, drawbridge, alster tower, and a dove cote.

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