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Why is it Called "Assembly Point?"By W. Robert Holmes Assembly Point
As the nineteenth century dawned, the future Assembly Point was merely 200 acres in the collection of land held by speculators after the Revolutionary War. Lacking a stock market in which to exercise their talents and their passion for money-making, American businessmen speculated in land. Our peninsula was a portion of the land given by the British colonial government to its soldiers as part pay and part pension to help them to be able to retire. Rather naturally, retired British soldiers tended to look askance as their colonial neighbors began to thumb their noses at King George. As the population split between loyalists and rebels; between Tories and patriots, life became unsafe for the Tories, most of whom fled to Canada. Their lands were confiscated, a grand old American custom practiced countless times on the Indians and on Indians and Mexicans in the Americanization of California.
Robert Ervien, in his History of Assembly Point on Lake George, N.Y. (1956) p. 33, tells us "During the first half century of the new republic there was widespread land speculation...This speculation attracted those from all levels of society. DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) who had served as U.S. Senator, Mayor of New York, Governor of New York and "builder" of the Erie Canal, participated...and together with John L. Norton of New York City, they at one time owned the 200 acres comprising the Point." (Note: My account is virtually a summary of Robert Ervien's History.)
Upon completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, Governor Clinton got rid of some of his scattered land holdings which included part of our peninsula. The purchaser, Benjamin Fuller, signed the deed with an X indicating he was illiterate. The record shows that Fuller was living on the property so he must have been the first person in history to have lived on the future Assembly Point. However, he never heard of such a place. In his day, Assembly Point was called Cape God! No doubt Mr. Fuller was also the first person to begin to cultivate some of the land of the Point. Later on it was called West Point.
In 1870 Dr. Drurie S. Sanford from Long Island City, N.Y., purchased Long Island, Lake George for $5,000. He and his father beautified the island and put numerous buildings on it. In the next decade they grew interested in the Chatauqua movement which began not long after the Civil War. It was based on a conference ground on Lake Chatauqua in the southwest corner of New York state. It brought lecturers, performers, public figures and artists, particularly musicians, to steadily increasing supporters for two full generations of Americans until radio greatly reduced its appeal. Dr. Sanford hoped that he might create a similar program here.
In 1887 Sanford made his first announcement: "A series of Chatauquaian camp meetings in July and most of August." He called the program "The Lake George Assembly," and he began to refer to the peninsula as "Assembly Point," a name which has mystified visitors and residents ever since the original Assembly disappeared.
For the 1889 season a "Lectorium" was erected about 400 feet east of the present day residences of the Taylor and Leeser families, in the midst of Otyokwa. It seated 200 and Dr. Sanford defined it as "the place where the things good for the bodies, minds and souls of men are intelligently considered."
At the same time building lots 1,000 to 2,500 square feet in size were offered for sale for $40 to $100 each. Cottages were to be built for at least $500 but not for more than $2,000. Ostentation was not encouraged. There was no sale the first year and virtually none thereafter. Paths 10 feet wide were laid out through the woods. Many other interesting details can be found in Ervien's book. The usual mode of transport to Assembly Point and Long Island was by two large lake steamers which came every day in the summer. For a short time one steamer was named the "LGA."
A Lake George Assembly Point Post Office was established near the dock in 1890. (The new dock was located in the area at the end of the point where the Stewarts now live.) One-day trips suddenly became popular and a party of picnickers flooded the Point with 428 persons! A notice stated that liquor, intoxication, disorderliness, profanity and rowdyism were banned on the Assembly grounds.
In 1891 Brooklyn Road (now Crossover Lane), leading to the original dock (located where Dr. Weiss' property now is) was the only wagon road on the Point and those driving the grounds were asked to leave their horses at the stable rather than tying them to trees. Parking meters had not yet been invented.
Three years later, Dr. Sanford and his realtor-partners, still desperately trying to sell lots, decided the dock had been poorly located on the side of the Point and that a new one must be built at the logical location: the end of the Point. During the winter it was constructed on the ice and settled into place in the spring of 1895. The post office was shifted closer to the new dock. Long Island and South Island (now called Oswald Heck Island-O. Heck Island, for short) sheltered the steamers from the westerly winds which had sometimes prevented their approaching the old dock.
One of the first houses built on the Point was that of Horatio Sanford, a lover of wide verandahs. In modern times it was owned for a long time by Dr. Guyer. The present owner is the Selkow family. This was one of the four homes built in 1889 to launch the Lake George Assembly and no more houses appeared on that part of the Point until Harold Adamson, father of Robert and Charles, built in 1915. Meanwhile the partners had long since closed the Lectorium. Even before the turn of the century, the Assembly had failed.
In 1911 a house was built which in modern times has belonged to Dr. Weiss. The back room of this house served as the icehouse in pre-refrigeration days. Each winter it was filled with ice, insulated with sawdust, for summer's use.
Mr. Adamson formed a real estate company, in 1914, which divided the Assembly grounds into considerably larger lots. After Wold War I, with the coming of the automobile, sales steadily increased. Having sold all the lots, the company closed out in 1939. Meanwhile telephones had been installed in 1913 and Niagara Mohawk brought in power in the later 1920s.
Dr. Sanford died about 1926. His daughters sold Long and South islands to the State in 1945, reportedly for $30,000. A century after Dr. Sanford named our peninsula, the residents of 235 homes live happily, close to nature, on Assembly Point.