North Creek: Where Teddy learned he was the president

Theodore Roosevelt, railroads and skiing. If you have an interest in any of those topics, the North

Theodore Roosevelt, railroads and skiing. If you have an interest in any of those topics, the North Creek Depot Museum is a great way to spend an hour or two.

Even coin collectors will find things of interest for them at the historic railroad station built in 1872 by Thomas C. Durant. A vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad, Durant wanted to open up the Adirondack Mountains to tourists as well as find faster ways to transport the region’s natural resources, including garnet, ore and timber. The building’s biggest claim to fame — it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 — is its connection to Roosevelt. In September 1901, he was informed there that William McKinley had died from an assassin’s bullet and that he, Roosevelt, was now the nation’s 26th president.

‘Ride the TR Express’

WHERE: North Creek Depot Museum, North Creek

WHEN: 5:30 to 9 p.m., Saturday

HOW MUCH: $50 adults, $25 children 4-12

MORE INFO: Call 251-2225 or 251-5842 or go to

“Teddy had been up here numerous times hunting and fishing, but who knew and who cared?” said Ray Flanagan, a Scotia native and town of Johnsburg resident who serves on the museum’s board of directors. “What’s important is that it was in this building he found out that McKinley had died and that he was president of the United States. That’s a real connection between North Creek and a president of the U.S.”

There are a number of interpretive panels that tell Roosevelt’s story, in particular his trip by carriage to North Creek from the High Peaks area of the Adirondack wilderness when informed that McKinley’s health was failing. Roosevelt had previously left the Lake Champlain area and headed to Buffalo when McKinley was shot on Sept. 6, but had returned to the Adirondacks when it looked as though the president would survive. However, on Sept. 11, the vice president was informed that McKinley’s health was taking a turn for the worse and Roosevelt again headed out of the mountains to reach the train at North Creek.

Most of the information about Roosevelt is contained in the women’s waiting room, the first room visitors enter after walking into the building into a small reception area.

“Women were separated from the men by choice,” said Sharalee Falzerano, the director of the museum. “They felt that men were a little noisy and always spitting back then. So they wanted their own room.”

Room for Roosevelt

The room is dedicated to Roosevelt and “The Ride to the Presidency,” but it also reveals a lot of other information about the man people just called “Teddy.”

“He was the first president to ride in an automobile, he was the first president to leave the country while he was in office, and he had the teddy bear named after him,” said Falzerano. “We have a lot of fun facts about him. He was a very interesting guy.”

Flanagan has always had an interest in Roosevelt, partly because of his hobby as a coin collector. It was Roosevelt who changed much of the U.S. coinage during his time in office, and it is part of Flanagan’s collection that is on display at the museum.

“Teddy had just visited the Smithsonian and seen some Greek coins, and as a result thought the U.S. coinage was very mundane,” said Flanagan. “So he contacts August Saint-Gaudens, who becomes the individual responsible for the way our coinage looks today. Only the Lincoln penny survived.”

Rooms for more history

The next room visitors enter is the men’s waiting room, which is dedicated to winter sports. The history of nearby Gore Mountain is told and various skis are on display, including a pair donated by Donna Weinbrecht, a U.S. gold medalist from the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France.

“Back in the early 1930s and ’40s they had what was called a snow or ski train and thousands of people would come here from places like Syracuse and New York City,” said Falzerano. “Saks Fifth Avenue had their own train from New York, and we have these wonderful old photographs showing people arriving in North Creek.”

The third room is the ticket room and consists of a large model train diorama depicting North Creek and the surrounding area in the early 20th century. The diorama was donated to the museum by Dunham Studios of Pottersville, and is designed to demonstrate the two-hour round trip from North Creek to Riverside.

The fourth and final room in the train museum is the baggage room, currently set up to demonstrate the importance of the telegraph in the late 19th century. A large baggage door leads to the train tracks, which during Roosevelt’s time only went as far north as North Creek..

“It was 60 miles from Saratoga to North Creek and this was the end of the line,” said Falzerano. “There was a freight line that went two miles out of town, but for passengers this was it.”

Visitors to the North Creek Museum on Saturday will have an opportunity not available to Roosevelt back in 1901. They can hop on a passenger train, the “TR Express,” and take a ride to Riverside Station and even a bit further on the Upper Hudson River Railroad.

“We’re going to an undesignated spot, but it’s going to be a very beautiful, very scenic ride,” said Falzerano. “We are a totally separate entity from the railroad, but we are joining forces for this event, our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

The train will board at 5:30 p.m. and return to North Creek by 9 p.m. There will be platform entertainment provided by “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” and providing music on the train will be the “Tony Jenkins’ Jazz Trip,” including Frank Conti. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for children ages 4 to 12.

Depot becomes museum

The North Creek train station remained in use until 1989 and was acquired by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1991 but remained vacant, the CPR interested in only the rail line. In 1993, following the formation of the North Creek Railway Depot Preservation Association, the CPR deeded the building to the group, which rescued it from further deterioration. There were various exhibits in the building throughout the remainder of the 1990s, and since January 2001, the building has remained open as a museum. Falzerano is the only paid employee at the museum, which is staffed by 15 to 18 volunteers.

“I got into railroad history because of my interest in TR and coins,” said Flanagan. “His ‘Ride to the Presidency’ is an amazing story, but being around this old train station has really made me a railroad buff, too. We try to change up the exhibits each year and have a theme, and next year we’re going to have a display on the train wreck of 1946. But we’ll always keep the exhibit on TR. That’s what makes this place really special.”

Categories: Life and Arts

Leave a Reply