By LOHR McKINSTRY
TICONDEROGA — The director of Ticonderoga's community-preservation group has agreed to take the lead on the project to recreate a historic French sawmill next to LaChute Falls.
The project has languished for the last two years without a leader, but PRIDE Executive Director Sharon Reynolds said this week that she's taken it over.
She said a subgroup of the Ticonderoga Economic Development Committee has been talking for more than two years about the possibility of constructing a replica 18th-century French sawmill on the original site.
"As a member of the group, I stepped up and said I'll lead the project, coordinate meetings, get everyone around the table and ultimately be the applicant to apply for grants through the town."
DATES TO 1756
The French sawmill was built along the north bank of the LaChute River in 1756 to cut timbers for use in the construction of what was then Fort Carillon.
That sawmill was located near the site of what would become the Joseph Dixon Ticonderoga Crucible Pencil and Graphite Factory.
The mill was partially destroyed in July 1758. It was further burned by the French before the British took the fort in late July 1759, renaming it Fort Ticonderoga.
The idea of recreating the sawmill as a tourist draw was first presented by Robert Pell-deChame to the Ticonderoga Quality Destination Committee, established by the Lake Placid-Essex County Visitors Bureau.
"It's an idea which I have never let go of for more than 25 years," Pell-deChame said. "This is something I feel would be great for Ticonderoga."
Now a candidate for town supervisor, he has since left his vision in the hands of the Destination Committee, which is working on the preliminary research for the project.
Earlier this month, members of several organizations met with James Kricker of Saugerties, owner of Rondout Woodworking and a member of the Timber Framers Guild.
At the session were Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curtis Stiles, Town Supervisor Robert C. Dedrick and State Department of Environmental Conservation Senior Forester Stewart Brown.
"This is a very exciting project at a time when Ticonderoga is moving in a positive direction," Dedrick said.
"The enormous number of volunteer hours our community members generate is daunting, and that's the reason why projects such as this have a greater chance for success."
Reynolds said they wanted to discuss the overall concept and feasibility of constructing the sawmill.
"We wanted to get them involved to see if there are any challenges."
Others at the meeting were Quality Destination members John Rayno and Alex Levitch; Susan Rathbun and John Bartlett of the Ticonderoga Montcalm Street Partnership; and Debra Malaney, representing the Economic Development Committee. Malaney is also a town supervisor candidate.
"The vision is that the sawmill (will) be operated in the traditional manner and become the nucleus for history-related visitor experiences in Ticonderoga, generate jobs and foster and support a number of sawmill-related businesses," Reynolds said.
She said the group went to New Hampshire to see the Taylor Mill, a working sawmill.
"We were interested in some generic things, like is it really loud? In the mill, Bob (Dedrick) and I could have a conversation. Outside, we didn't have to raise our voices. It was a rhythmic, soothing sound."
Next, Reynolds is seeking grant funding to do a feasibility plan for a replica sawmill on town property at the falls.
"This will move us to having a document that has questions answered, and we can write grants and go to private funding to make this happen.
"It seems like a sawmill would be a really good fit."
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: firstname.lastname@example.org