Local News

September 9, 2013

Memorabilia from opening of Memorial Highway collectible

Whiteface, Wilmington souvenirs are sought after


Roosevelt, who had been elected president of the United States, returned to the Adirondacks to preside over the festivities. From a wheelchair, he gave his speech, saying: “For the millions of people who have not the facilities or the possibilities of walking up to the top of our great mountains, we have provided one mountain that they can go to on four wheels. To me, this is one of the finest things New York state has ever done.” 

Furthermore, he added, “I wish very much that it were possible for me to walk up the few remaining feet to the actual top of the mountain. Some day they are going to make it possible for people who cannot make the little climb to go up there in a comfortable and easy elevator.”

With that said, construction on the monumental stone castle with an access tunnel and elevator shaft got under way. When it was completed in 1938, the summit of Whiteface Mountain was completely handicap accessible.

The story of tourism on Whiteface doesn’t stop there. In 1947, construction began on the Marble Mountain ski area with access from the Wilmington road that led up to the Memorial Highway. The ski area, which opened in 1948 and operated until 1960, featured downhill and cross-country trails, a rope tow and T-bar, a lodge, cafeteria, bunkhouses and a shop. 

In July of 1949, Santa’s Workshop, the nation’s first theme park, also opened on the Wilmington road just a short distance below the ski area. 

Whiteface Mountain Ski Area wasn’t opened until 1958 and was dedicated to the veterans of the 10th Mountain Division that served in World War II.

Tourists came to the region in droves, and business in Wilmington boomed. On Labor Day 1951, the line of cars leading up Whiteface was 4 miles long, and the town was shut down by the State Police. It is estimated that 14,000 tourists passed through the region on that day alone.

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