History of Denny Park

By Alice Wareham  (Originally published as “Improving the Saranac Riverbank” 0n April 12, 2010. Reprinted with permission from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise )

Denny Park (1 of 1)SARANAC LAKE – “I do most strongly recommend that both shores of the river from Lake Flower to the railroad bridge be taken and permanently controlled by the town, primarily as a safeguard against undue encroachments into the river channel of buildings, refuse, dumps, etc.,” the Olmsted Plan advises.

 1949 – Having exhausted, at least temporarily, Lake Flower parkside potential, the Village Improvement Society turned to the Saranac River, purchasing the Denny property at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Pine Street.

Denny Park was originally a waterside gulch across from and owned by Albert H. Denny, a local jeweler, who used to carry his coal ashes across the road and dump them in the gulch. According to the late Thomas B. Cantwell, his father, who owned Old Military Estates adjacent to the Denny home, complained about the unsightly heap, so Denny started to cover it with soil and plant flowers and trees at the roadside.

Over the years, Denny created a beautiful garden. Upon his death, his estate offered the property to the Village Improvement Society for $1,000. The sum was far more than VIS had in its account. The estate then received a higher bid from an oil company for a gas station, offering to close purchase immediately. Denny heirs approached VIS again, offering to sell at $1,000 if VIS could raise the money in 24 hours.

Mock Orange at Denny Park (1 of 1)Mrs. Joseph Nichols, a founder of VIS who lived on Park Avenue above the site, conducted a whirlwind campaign, raising $100 each from 10 pledging contributors, and the deal was closed.

Then began a long process requiring much fill. VIS bought some, begged more and was distressed by nighttime illicit dumping of trash on the site.

Gradually the park, named Denny at the request of his estate, became an entity. Several years later, VIS groundsman Earle Colby encouraged the St. Armand highway department to dump sand they scraped from the highways in the spring at the Bloomingdale end of the park and gradually fill it in. Recent work by the state took a section from Pine Street and added a boat launch site.

In the late 1980s, the Saranac Lake Water and Sewer Department planned a new sewer line through the park and stored sewer pipes on the site where the beautiful garden had been. Sewer work began in 1992, tearing up much of the park and eliminating many trees and shrubs, including the bank alders where low-flying birds had always nested. Sewer work concluded the following year. VIS began to raise funds and repair the damage in 1994.

Denny Park has been the site of many memorial plantings and one wedding.

VIS Park Map