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Fred Streever on Lake George

Fred Streever on Lake George

Adirondack Renaissance Man – Fred Streever

By Anthony F. Hall

Sunday, February 19, 2012

When Bolton Landing outdoors writer Fred Streever died in 1955, his passing was mourned in print by other outdoors writers.

“He helped pattern our own outdoor philosophy. When Streever died, we lost more than a friend. We lost a muscle,” wrote Barney Fowler.

Bill Roden noted, “As his family and friends stood at his graveside, one lone hound was heard to tongue in the distance – Fred would have liked that.”

Henry Caldwell of Bolton Landing is intent on preserving the memory of Streever. He grew up listening to stories about Streever from Jim Ross, the caretaker of  Mohican Point for more than thirty years. Ross was also a town judge, a member of the town board, and Streever’s hunting partner. Streever wrote frequently about their exploits, much as the 19thcentury Adirondack writer Henry Abbot wrote about his friend, a guide named Bige.

According to Caldwell, the unique thing about Streever is that “he was a jack-of-all trades, but he was the best at everything he did.”

Caldwell discussed Streever’s multi-faceted career at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Monday, August 15, as a speaker in Darrin’s summer lecture series.

Throughout his life, Streever was an architect and builder, specializing in what he called “the primitive style” but which, in recent decades, has become better known as the rustic or Adirondack style.

Among the homes he built was the Log House on Northwest Bay, which he built in the 1940s and where he lived for the rest of his life. Today it is owned by Sandy and Gail Keeler.

Fred Streever

Streever wrote often about the house. We learn that its porch sits fifty feet above the rocky shore (“a private box in nature’s theater,” he called it) overlooking Northwest Bay and the entrance to the Narrows; that the stone fireplace has an opening four feet high and six feet wide, with a comfortable leather chair close by. The living room walls are stretched with hides and heads: wolverines from Canada, Rocky Mountain goat heads, deer trophies, mountain lion skins, fox hides, moose and elk trophies. The tables are slabs of huge logs, cut and smoothed, with bark left on the edges.

“We have a very wide window in the living room,” Streever wrote. “It is around this window the whole establishment was planned.”

From that window, Streever studied the lake, the clouds, the birdlife, the wooded sides of Tongue, Black, Erebus, Sleeping Beauty and Buck Mountains.

In the kitchen was a wood burning stove, and Streever’s tales of hunting with his hounds invariably concluded with praise for hard maple (the very best firewood, he maintained), the big iron box stove and a hefty meal.

But Streever was much more than a writer and an architect. He achieved international fame as a breeder of trail hounds and he wrote an authoritative (and highly entertaining) book on the subject, “The American Trail Hound.” He was also an inventor of dog muzzles and fishing lures, most notably the “Luna Lure.” Streever felt that a luminescent lure would be an asset when fishing in deep waters, since it would attract the attention of the fish, especially lake trout, which stay close to the bottom in midsummer. Streever experimented for years with luminescent paint applied to wood or metal lures. But, he said, he “had far more ideas than trout.” In 1947 he found a precut sheet of luminous  plastic, and out of this he made his lures. He bough an electric range for the Log House, which he used solely for bending the plastic into shape.

A favorite topic of Streever’s columns and articles was his battle with the New York State Conservation Department, which insisted that there were no wolves in the Adirondacks. Streever conceded that the Eastern Timber wolf was extinct here. But they had been replaced by what he called “the brush wolf,” which he asserted was not a hybrid, a coyote, or a coy-dog, but a member of the wolf family. In the late 1940s he began importing wolf hounds from Missouri, and hoped to develop a breed of hound especially suited to wolf hunting in the Adirondacks.

More than fifty years after his death, Streever’s belief was confirmed by DNA tests when the Environmental Conservation officials concluded that  a canid struck by a car on the Northway was, in fact, not a coyote but a western breed of wolf. That more or less ended the debate about introducing eastern timber wolves into the Adirondacks, and it also proved that Fred Streever was right, as he was about so many things.

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Antique fishing lures

Antique fishing lures

Native to the Adirondacks: Chairs, Guide-boats – and Fishing Lures

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, April 11, 2011

To the double-ended guideboat and the slanting-back, wide-armed lawn chair,  add the fishing lure to the list of Adirondack products that have contributed decisively to the pleasures of summer everywhere,  says antique tackle dealer and collector Henry Caldwell.

According to Caldwell, the owner of Bolton Landing’s Black Bass Antiques,  the man credited with inventing the fishing lure was J.T. Buel, a Whitehall furrier who spent most of his time fishing and testing various baits on Lake George.

Folklore has it that Buel, born in Vermont in 1812,  was eating his lunch on the lake one day when he dropped a tea spoon overboard. As the bright silver object twisted through the water, “a fish hit it,” Caldwell said.  Buel attached some hooks to it and a crude form of the spooner was born.

Fred Streever of Bolton Landing, O.C. Tuttle of Old Forge and Williams and  Woodbury of Diamond Point were among other local manufacturers of fishing lures, said Caldwell.

Live bait spring hooks, he said, were invented on Schroon Lake.

New York’s thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams also made it the home of the reel, according to Caldwell. “More patents were issued for reels from New York State than from any other state,” he said.

Antique fishing tackle is now highly collectible, according to Caldwell. “Fishing is the largest participatory sport in the world,” he said. “There’s a long history to it, and people want to know more about the sport. They may start with the tackle they grew up fishing with, and go from there.”

Like most other collectibles,  value is established by rarity.  Items fetch anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars,  but things of value can still be found in yard sales, flea markets and junk shops.

Caldwell said his collecting began at an early age, as a boy, fishing on Lake George and exchanging lures with his brothers.

Like many another fishermen, he discovered that while fish were not always been attracted to his lures, he found them irresistible.

Asked how soon he knew some lures were valuable, he said, not soon enough.

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Framed Painting by Barney Bellinger

Framed Painting by Barney Bellinger

Black Bass Antiques Features Prominent Rustic Artist

By Mirror Staff

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Barney Bellinger’s work is exhibited at the Adirondack Museum, the National Museum of Wildlife Art and in New York galleries.

It’s now on view in Bolton Landing as well, at Black Bass Antiques, where owner Henry Caldwell has dedicated a portion of the shop to a display of Bellinger’s furniture, paintings and decorative pieces.

“Last summer I participated in a small group show at Silver Bay, which was very successful,” says Bellinger. “That showed me that there was a great deal of interest in the kind of work I do on the lake, so I thought it would be nice to try to exhibit some pieces here in Bolton Landing.”

Bellinger and Caldwell have known each other for years, so Black Bass was an obvious place for Bellinger’s mini-gallery.

“Henry didn’t know what I was going to do; he didn’t even ask what I was going to do,” says Bellinger.

According to Henry Caldwell, “Barney Bellinger is one of the foremost Adirondack artisans working today. Having some of his pieces here only enhances the appeal of my shop.”

Bellinger painted walls, installed lighting and selected a few representative pieces for the room, including a mirror made from antique fly rods, a table that incorporates oars and samples of his signature work: pieces of furniture decorated with his own finely detailed landscape paintings.

Desk by Barney Bellinger

Given that he’s such an accomplished artist, people assume that Bellinger studied painting or furniture design  in graduate school or at least in college.

In fact, as he cheerfully admits, he’s entirely self-taught, an artist who learned his craft pinstriping motorcycles and painting signs.

He grew up, however, on the periphery of the Adirondack Park, and days spent in the woods with his grandfather, a onetime logger, “must have left a deep impression on me, deeper than I realized at the time,”  he says.

Bellinger didn’t start making rustic furniture until the 1990s. He exhibited his first pieces at one of the Adirondack Museum’s first annual Rustic Furniture Fairs and has been making and selling one-of-a-kind pieces ever since.

“I have clients all over the world,” says Bellinger. While the popularity of the rustic style has led to a proliferation of poorly designed, poorly made pieces, the demand for furniture and furnishings that are works of art in themselves remains constant,  Bellinger says.

“People gravitate toward the rustic style because it suggests a slower, quieter way of life,” he says.  “It evokes nostalgia for the natural world and allows people to incorporate the outdoors into their daily lives.”

Black Bass’s gallery also contains 19th century paintings of Lake George and the Adirondacks selected by Bernard Brown and available through Bernard R. Brown Fine Art.

Black Bass is located on Bolton Landing’s Main Street. Call 644-2389 for more information.

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