Friday, November 24, 2023

The Ruins of Grafton | Site Five

The Ruins of Grafton: Site Five By John Bulmer, John Bulmer Photography

Exploring the Park's past, I discovered the impression of an abandoned service road, leading me to the fifth site in my ongoing project to uncover the area's deserted homesteads. These historical sites have weathered the passage of time in diverse ways. Some have been reclaimed by nature, while others fell victim to demolition. The initial intention, rumored to be the establishment of campsites, never came to fruition. Today, more than five decades later, the artifacts of these forgotten homesteads continue their silent descent into the forest floor.

The latest discovery revealed a 25-foot square block foundation, shrouded in moss and concealed beneath layers of leaves and debris with an accompanying fieldstone fireplace. Adjacent to it lay the remnants of a child's bed – alongside scattered bottles and an antiquated electrical meter.

In my documentation efforts thus far, I've recorded details on five abandoned homesteads, each with its unique story. Among them are six fieldstone fireplaces, some of which defy association with any known home sites. The landscape also features extensive stone walls, numerous footings, and the lingering traces of utilities that once powered these long-forgotten abodes. These remnants serve as guides, leading the way to these hidden sites.

The evidence of this bygone community is scattered throughout the Park, gradually succumbing to the moss, the seasonal rhythm of falling leaves, and the relentless march of the forest. Each artifact, each structure, was the center of someone's life in the near past, now fading into time and nature.

© 2023 John Bulmer Media, John Bulmer Photography.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Cracks in the Moon | 11.19.2023

Cracks in the Moon | 11.19.2023
Saratoga County, New York 

© 2023 John Bulmer Photography + Nor'easter Films
All Rights Reserved   

Busy Day at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market | 11.19.2023

 Busy Day at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market | 11.19.2023
Troy, New York 

© 2023 John Bulmer Photography + Nor'easter Films
All Rights Reserved   

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Ruins of Grafton | Enchanted Island

The Ruins of Grafton: Enchanted Islan By John Bulmer, John Bulmer Photography

In the course of writing my piece on the Ruins of Grafton, I actively reached out to individuals who could assist me in tracing the former owners of some of the abandoned properties I stumbled upon during my Park explorations. A significant breakthrough happened when I received a Facebook comment from an individual with a personal connection to the area. This person had grown up in a residence along Long Pond Road, only to receive a letter in 1968 informing her family of the need to relocate, making way for the establishment of a new state park. The house, once an imposing figure in her childhood memories, now seemed remarkably smaller upon revisiting. "When I was a kid, the house looked huge; now, when I go there, I see how small everything really was!"

Her vivid recounting detailed a quaint, white, three-bedroom ranch with teal shutters, featuring a semi-circle driveway adorned with an oak at its center. The back of the house led to a path leading to the lake, complete with a dock for swimming. The most intriguing aspect was an etching in the foundation, bearing the words "Enchanted Island." Determined to uncover this detail, I set out on a mission.

Graciously, she provided directions to the site of her former childhood home. Within a few hours, I found myself standing within the interior of what used to be the kitchen. If you followed my initial coverage of the Park's ruins, you may recall a prominent fieldstone fireplace in the forest. This site mirrored my first abandoned homestead, albeit weathered by time. The fireplace lay fallen, its base forward and the chimney backward, yet the distinctive construction and craftsmanship remained undeniable, this one appeared to be a twin of my first discovery. Navigating an overgrown path to the lake, I discovered a grand stone gate and a hand-built stone bridge spanning a creek.

Upon returning to the house, my focus shifted to locating the etching in the foundation. After messaging back and forth, my contact asked me to call her. She directed me to the general area of the words in the concrete, sharing stories of her time as a full-time resident, enduring winters, and the revelation of eminent domain. She painted a vivid picture of a once-thriving community of summer camps and residences within the park. Although she departed in 1968, many household items from these sites endured the harshness of 54 winters. Some sites fell victim to state intervention, while others were left to be reclaimed by the encroaching forest.

To date, I have documented four abandoned homesteads, and four fieldstone fireplaces, some of which are not associated with any known home sites, extensive stone walls, numerous footings, and the remnants of utilities guiding the way to these sites. Evidence of this community is scattered throughout the Park—enchanted islands gradually succumbing to moss, seasons of leaves, and the unyielding march of the forest.

Sincere thank you to D for providing me with careful directions, and most importantly, your memories.

© 2023 John Bulmer Media, John Bulmer Photography.


Saturday, November 4, 2023

The Ruins of Grafton | A Photo Essay

The Ruins of Grafton
By John Bulmer, John Bulmer Photography 

It’s easy to forget what our modern landscapes looked like before us, before they became what we know them as today. Autumn is the perfect time to think about the contours of the landscape, as the leaves age beautifully and fall to the ground, revealing the natural features of the landscape that allow us to visualize what the land was like before we knew it.

Some of the land that Grafton Lakes State Park sits on was originally owned by the city of Troy and used for the city's water supply, but there are layers of history to be found in the park that predates its public land status. It was established as a park in 1963 and opened to the public in 1971. But the long history of indigenous populations, primarily Algonquian and Iroquoian-speaking nations, and European settlers, adds depth to the park's story.

During the American Revolution, Grafton residents actively participated in the fight for independence. The town, like many others in the area, witnessed military activities and strategic movements of troops. In the 19th century, the town's economy diversified, with the development of mills, sawmills, and other small industries, taking advantage of the water power from the many streams in the area. Today, most of the relics of the time before it became a park have vanished under decades of decomposing leaf litter and the natural processes that will eventually reclaim all that has been built.

In the corners of the park today, relics from the past can still be found if you know where to look.
In the 18th century, Grafton's early economy was primarily agricultural, with settlers engaging in farming and small-scale industry. Evidence of this lost industry runs through the park like lines on a long-lost map in the form of stone walls. These weathered stone walls silently tell tales of the past, remnants often moss-covered and partially hidden beneath layers of leaves, standing as enduring markers of the state's agricultural history. Constructed by early European settlers, these stone walls served as boundaries, enclosures, and property lines for farms and homesteads. Each stone, meticulously placed by hand, reflects the labor and dedication of the settlers who cleared the land, one stone at a time, to make way for fields and pastures. Witnessing them today, it’s hard not to speculate about the massive amount of labor required to construct them. Over the years, as agriculture shifted and forests reclaimed the land, these walls endured, becoming integral parts of the natural landscape.

If you look the next time you are in the park, they are everywhere, and once you notice them, you will never look at the landscape the same way again.

Not far off some of the dirt roads that serve as the major thoroughfares of the park, evidence of the people who lived here before can be found at the intersection of some of the many stone walls. In numerous locations, hand-built stone foundations remain visible. They are containers open to the sky, holding the artifacts of someone’s life: apothecary bottles, plates, rusted cars, the wheels of a child’s wagon, and old telephone wires. Moss-covered concrete blocks remain in the forest, their regular, straight lines standing out in stark contrast to the organic lines of the forest. Each find is a tangible connection to the past. The infrastructure of old telephones and power boxes also remains; if you follow their breadcrumb trail of artifacts through the forest, you can get a sense of what this little corner of Rensselaer County must have looked like before the park was established.

© 2023 John Bulmer Media, John Bulmer Photography.