ELIZABETHTOWN — The lives, times and creations of Arto Monaco, Grace Hudowalski and Marjorie Lansing Porter highlight the summer season at Adirondack History Center Museum.
“Although these three exhibits seem quite separate, they are truly interwoven narratives of Adirondack history,” said newly appointed Director/Curator Diane O’Connor.
“Porter, Hudowalski and Monaco were all born in Essex County, and each had a profound influence on our perception of the Adirondacks.
“Hudowalski traversed and encouraged the enjoyment of the natural world that so defines the Adirondacks.
“Monaco was involved in the world of whimsy and imagination that was no less a part of the Adirondack experience.
“And Porter was the chronicler of all the natural, the whimsical and the everyday.”
About 600 artifacts, including a multi-media exhibit, photographs, souvenirs and videos, comprise “Arto Monaco and the Land of Makebelieve.”
Designed in 1954, the theme park featured a steamboat, train, castle and western town where children could let their imaginations run free.
In 1979, flood damage at the Upper Jay forced the park to close.
Monaco was also instrumental in designing facets of Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington and Storyland in Queensbury, now site of Great Escape.
“As the visitors enter the exhibition, the children begin to point excitedly at the various displays,” O’Connor said.
“The adults look around, and a smile begins to spread across their faces as they are transported back to their own childhoods and their visits to the theme parks in which Monaco played a part.
“That is the genius of Arto Monaco. He stretches across time to tickle that inner child.”
This is evident in Monaco’s “Star Wars,” a parody of the beloved movie robot that he dubbed “ArtoD2.”
Lynda Denton, Monaco’s niece and long-time assistant, says the model was constructed “just for fun” soon after the first “Star Wars” movie came out. The robot was operated with a model-airplane remote control and included a tape with sound effects.