By LOHR McKINSTRY
TICONDEROGA — The Heritage Museum has just completed its biggest project, aiming to expand the facility and boost attendance.
The first new exhibit in years at Ticonderoga's regional history museum is called Water Power.
Interpretive Planner Virginia Westbrook said it was worth the considerable time and work.
"We did a nicely put together, serious exhibit. We sat here three years ago and decided to do this."
The work has paid off, Heritage Museum Assistant Coordinator Mary Curtis said.
"It's a great exhibit. A lot of people have been coming in to see it."
The exhibit features a cutaway of an actual 12-foot-diameter steel penstock, suspended from the ceiling.
"It gives you a perspective of how large these things actually were," Westbrook said. "You can stand in its shadow."
She said the new exhibit demonstrates how Ticonderoga's unique location on the LaChute River led to the development of water-powered industries from the 1700s to the present.
Using maps and then-and-now transparent overlays, visitors can see how Ticonderoga used water power, generated by a drop in elevation greater than Niagara Falls, to become a major center of manufacturing, Westbrook said.
A part of the exhibit called "Why Ticonderoga is Here?" features scale models of mills created by artist/historian Denise Huestis of Ticonderoga.
"Denise has been creating these miniatures for years," Westbrook said. "We are so happy to get them for the exhibit. They make things much easier to understand."
Huestis wrote "Once Upon the River," a book about the LaChute River and the town's hydropower history.
"In Denise's book are the details of what went on here," Westbrook said. "Denise pulled out of the (weekly Ticonderoga) Sentinel everything that pertained to hydropower."
Exhibit Designer Ileana Truneanu of Onoma LLC was on the staff of the Ford Museum, Westbrook said.
"She (Truneanu) came up with the schematic. She came up with an icon for each and every product" produced by hydropower.
"You can get a sense of anything coming out of Ticonderoga. She placed the river into the map, and you're looking at it in the right overview. We were able to line it up."
Hancock House has an extensive collection of historic photos, and those are used throughout the exhibit, Westbrook said.
"The Hancock House has been saving these photographs. That enables us to have a visualization of what was here."
Museum President Stephen Boyce said the new exhibit cost about $65,000, not including remodeling the room.
"Main Street Ticonderoga has a new and exciting attraction that will serve the community for years to come."
Grants came from Janet Kennedy's Lake Champlain Byways Program through National Scenic Byways, Sen. Betty Little, LaChute Hydro and Dr. Dean Cook.
Money was also raised from community donors, local contractors and in-kind donations of work from the town, Boyce said.
"With a Byways grant, we could put together a pretty decent exhibit," Westbrook said. "We scared up some more money and did it."
Contractor Daniel Lee built the exhibit after Truneanu designed it.
One of the things they got for it is a huge turbine governor.
"This was made in Troy. It (the exhibit station) tells the story of the turbine. When the turbine came up to speed at 60 cycles a second, it activated a lever that opened a gate and engaged the generator."
The governor device was corroded and dirty when it arrived, she said.
"I spent a day cleaning it."
Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Debra Malaney was at the exhibit's dedication recently.
"It will help the museum in its expansion. We're all very proud of Denise doing the models. They've done a beautiful job interpreting our history. They brought forward parts of our growth people haven't stopped to think about, and they brought it to life."
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: email@example.com