Editor’s note: This column was first published May 4, 1977.
The Three Mile Point pavilion was a simple wooden platform with a peaked roof – not very handsome – not on my list for historic preservation; yet it has been enjoyed for decades as a spot for everything from Sunday School picnics to rock-around-the-clock parties.
Summer “natives,” tourists and fishermen appreciated it for years. I hope it will be replaced. (Ed. Note: the original pavilion had recently been destroyed by fire.)
There have been other simple wooden structures hereabouts, which afforded great and lasting pleasure to many people of Otsego.
Two of them were near the southeast end of the lake. They are gone now but not quite forgotten, the Thousand Steps and the Outlook at Prospect Rock.
The Thousand Steps was a sturdy wooden stairway, which started into the pines and hemlocks from the bottom of Chicken Farm Road, just past Woodside Hall. For years the stairway, complete with railings and punctuated with landings and benches, zig-zagged its way up the steepest inclines of Mount Vision.
When I asked Mrs. Dorothy Pierce about them the other day, she stopped hanging out her wash to reminisce a bit.
“Oh, in good weather I’d use them every day walking to and from the school,” she said. “We lived in Whig Corners. There were some nice farms on the hill then. I’ll bet I could still recognize every tree along the stairs and every place the stairway turned. Of course I didn’t walk in winter – I’d take the horse, leave it at the hotel, and get it again after school.”
Ask Bob Baily too or Zibe Holbrook. Ask Sam Sapienza or Bobby Cook. Ask Hi Michaels. Ask Leland Smith too. For a while he climbed them every morning walking to work at the chicken farm. At the top of the Thousand Steps there was a trail. Indian Trail, some called it. Families could stroll and youngsters race along this winding path for half a mile until they reached Prospect Rock with its grand outlook on Cooperstown and the south end of the lake.
On this flat rock was another wooden structure, which now lies rotting 30 feet below. “You should have seen the initials,” Sam Sapienza said. “Boy, every buddy carved their initials up there. They were all over the place.” The initials were carved on the benches and railings of a six-or-eight- sided summer house or gazebo, or belvedere, or pavilion, or what have you. Anyway, it looked like a bandstand with a pointed roof. Actually it was a replacement of a more rustic, Adirondack-type belvedere (I like that one) which had been built there in the 1800s. The little building fell or was pushed from the rock twenty or thirty years ago. I managed to climb down and examine some of the remains. Sure enough “Every buddy’s initials were all over the place.” A brief survey revealed some dates, too. They ranged from ’08 to ’39. But I didn’t really work at finding them.
When I climbed back to the rock and sat down to catch my breath, it was very still. It was easy to imagine the quick, muffled thumps of running feet as they must have raced over the deep-shaded, needle-strewn path and then to see a youngster in knickers and cap and sweater come panting down the trail, slowing himself by grasping the upright post on one side of the entrance. He would swing himself inside and throw himself down on one of the benches panting and sweating, his feet dangling to the floor. His gasps would still be audible when more foot sounds would be heard. Then he would straighten up, take off his cap, put his elbow over the railing and gaze out at the lake. When a second youngster panted into the lookout, the first would turn his face casually from the lake to say, “Where ya been, slowpoke? I been here for hours.”
As I headed back the trail toward the steps, it was easy to think I heard “Tik-kah, tik-kah, tik-kah, tik-kah,” the sound of a horse moving slowly up the last grade of the Hill Road, and easier to see that pretty Bliss girl from Whig Corners on her way home from school, comforting her horse with gentle talk and trying not to wrinkle her report card. Then she, too, disappeared and I moved on towards the top of the
Standing there beneath the huge pines and the lacy hemlocks, near the spot where the 1,000 steps met the Indian Trail, it wasn’t hard to hear the sighing and fluttering of the ladies or the puffing and wheezing of the men as the families out for a Sunday stroll finally reached the level ground.
A thousand wooden steps – a littlewooden belvedere.
Next time: The Badger pours out a rum story.