Covering the Queen of American Lakes Since 1880
When the Lake George Mirror was established in 1880, it was not intended to be the lake-wide summer newspaper that it became but, rather, a year-round community newspaper for the hamlet of Lake George. It did have an editorial philosophy, but one unlikely to prove popular in a nascent resort town: prohibition.
The founder and first editor was Alfred Merrick, who achieved greater celebrity later as Lake George’s oldest living resident and liveliest raconteur.
Merrick began his career in the newspaper business in 1871, walking every day to Glens Falls where he worked as a printer’s devil for the Glens Falls Republican. Having been told that it was necessary to be a good speller if he was to become a good printer, Merrick spent his nights reading a dictionary. It was, he said, the only education he ever had.
By 1880, Merrick felt that Lake George was big enough to support its own newspaper. He rented offices on the second floor of the old stone store on Canada Street and called his paper the Lake George Mirror. “We sold the paper for 75 cents a year,” Merrick told the Mirror in 1948. “Most of our circulation reached rich people in distant cities who wanted to keep posted on the condition of their cottages. The usual news item was that ‘Mrs. So and So’s cottage is in good shape with most of the snow off the roof’ or ‘Jim Smith had better see about fixing his roof before the spring rains start.’”
Later that decade, Merrick traded the newspaper for an interest in a bowling alley. The paper muddled along until W.H. Tippetts moved from Heart Bay to Assembly Point and revived it as a medium to promote Lake George as a summer resort. Tippetts celebrated not only the beauty and the history of Lake George but its plush accommodations and the distinguished, congenial people in residence here. At the turn of the century, when Lake George’s fame as a summer colony was at its height, copies of the paper were sold in Europe, in New York City, and up and down the coast of New England.
In 1902, Tippetts materialized in Florida as “a noted European correspondent and New York newspaper magnate.”
He had abandoned the Mirror in 1900, reportedly for reasons of health, and acquired a hotel in St. Petersburg. After his death in 1909, his wife, Kathleen, became a pillar of that community; she was responsible for renaming St. Petersburg’s Reservoir Lake to Mirror Lake, in honor of the Lake George Mirror.
Believing that the Mirror was too important to the community to fold, some local businessmen purchased the Mirror from Tippetts and in 1907 turned it over to Edward Knight, the editor of the Essex County News. For the next sixty years, the Mirror was owned and edited by members of the Knight family.
While it chronicled the changes on Lake George – the rise and fall of the great resort hotels, the destruction of the mansions along Lake Shore Drive, and the proliferation of motels and tourist cabins – the Mirror itself changed little. For the families who returned each summer, the Mirror was the newspaper of record. It announced the arrivals and departures of their neighbors, publicized their activities, and performed all the offices of a country paper: heralding births, celebrating weddings, saying a few final words over the deceased in the editorial and obituary columns. The Mirror did not, however, neglect the year round residents – the homefolks. It championed projects that would enhance daily life in the villages and towns, such as the road over Tongue Mountain, the Million Dollar Beach and the expansion of Shepard Park. As long-time editor Art Knight recalled in 1970, “Many of the improvements we have advocated over the years have become realities and we like to think that perhaps in some small way we have been responsible for their ultimate adoption.”
Except on rare occasions, the Mirror had little interest in political controversy. It was, however, a fierce advocate for the protection of Lake George. During World War II, for instance, Art Knight editorialized: “There is one battle in which there can be no armistice …the battle of Lake George. The enemy are those thoughtless and selfish people who, with only their immediate profit in view, will take advantage of any laxity in our guards in order to save themselves a dollar.” Art Knight recognized that the lake’s shores would continue to be developed. But he also recognized that care would have to be taken if the development was to enhance and not detract from the lake’s beauty. “If we fail, then our detractions from the natural beauties… will earn for all of us the antipathy of future generations.”
By 1969, Art Knight was ready to retire. He sold his interests in Adirondack Resorts Press, the publisher of the Mirror, to his partner of twenty five years, Cody Kirkwood. Kirkwood, however, was finding it increasingly difficult to recruit printers capable of operating the linotype and letterpress equipment which Adirondack Resorts Press continued to employ long after most publishers had switched to offset presses. He could fullfill his printing contracts, or publish the Mirror, but not both. Kirkwood chose to sell the Mirror, or permit it to fold if no buyer could be found. “At the last minute,” Knight recalled, “Bob Hall came to the rescue and purchased the Mirror from the corporation.”
Robert Hall had moved his family to the Adirondacks in 1956 at the suggestion of artist Rockwell Kent. He had been a Washington and European correspondent for the Daily Worker and later, the editor of its Sunday edition.
By the mid-fifties, he had had enough of radical politics. He contemplated moving his family to southern Vermont, where they spent their summers and where they had friends. But Kent told him that a magazine was for sale in northern New York. He took the train from New York to Ausable Forks, where he learned that the magazine was not for sale after all. But, since he was in the Adirondacks anyway, he thought he might as well look around. He rented a car and drove to nearby Elizabethtown. There, standing in front of a building, was the owner of the local paper. Hall asked him if he needed some help. When asked what he could do at a newspaper and print shop, he replied, ‘everything.’ So he became a country editor.
He soon wanted a paper of his own, as long as it was in the Adirondacks. He purchased the Warrensburg News, then the Corinthian, the Indian Lake Bulletin and the Hamilton Country News. In 1962 he established Adirondack Life as a supplement to his weekly newspapers.
In 1968, Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed him to the Temporary Commission to Study the Future of the Adirondacks, whose most significant proposal was the creation of the Adirondack Park Agency.
Hall supported the creation of the regional land use agency both in and outside the columns of his newspapers, a position which began to cost him advertisers. So when Rockefeller asked him to become editor of the state’s Conservationist magazine, he accepted, selling his newspapers, the Lake George Mirror included, to Denton Publications.
The Mirror passed through several hands before Tony Hall, Robert Hall’s son, expressed an interest in it in the mid-1990s.
Although he had never worked as a journalist professionally, he persuaded his wife Lisa that weekly newspapers were in his blood. Not only had he grown up in his father’s print shops and offices, his grandfather had established ‘The Gazette’ in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the 1890s. But he himself had to admit that his family’s first foray into journalism was hardly auspicious.
In an essay in the Lake George Mirror, Hall wrote,
“Sometime before the turn of the century, my grandfather founded the Hattiesburg Gazette. He was not in the weekly newspaper business for long though. Usually, financial problems force the sale of a newspaper. In my grandfather’s case, his own father was the source of the problem. His father was a Baptist preacher who suffered from an acute case of “cacoethes scribendi,” more commonly known as the itch to write. To have a son with a weekly newspaper was to his mind an opportunity to gain for his sermons a broader circulation than they had hitherto enjoyed, which, much to his distress, was limited to his family and his small congregation. My grandfather, however, lacked the space to print both the news of Hattiesburg and his father’s sermons, which in any event were unlikely to prove popular with readers, since they usually concerned the evils of dancing, card playing, tobacco and short skirts. My grandfather could not reject the sermons outright (or even apply the blue pencil, my father said) because, quite frankly, his father terrified him. He solved his dilemna by getting out of the newspaper business altogether.”
Lisa and Tony Hall purchased the Lake George Mirror from a chain based in Amsterdam and began publishing the paper in 1998. In the years since then, they’ve rebuilt its circulation and advertising base so that both are now greater than ever. The Mirror is now published weekly from mid-May to Columbus Day and monthly in the off-season.