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About midway, it is crossed north and south by the tracks of the New York Central Railroad. The reservation varies in width from 150 feet in its contracted portions to over 900 feet across the Punch Bowl west of the New York Central Railroad, its average being about 400 feet. Glen Creek, the erosive action of which has caused the Glen, enters the reservation at the western end, flows eastward with an abundance of beautiful cascades and pools, and emerges at the eastern end, after which it passes through the village of Watkins and empties into the head of Seneca Lake. The Glen has two dissimilar parts. The western half, that is to say, the portion west of the railroad crossing, presents a rather shallow valley in which the stream makes a gradual descent. At the railroad bridge, the stream enters a deep gorge with precipitous sides, which rise in places to a height of about 180 feet above the water. In this eastern part of the reservation, the stream, leaping from ledge to ledge, descends 400 feet, or four times as much as the whole descent of the stream for four miles west of the railroad. The eastern half of the reservation, from the railroad to the village, is, therefore, the more picturesque and the principal object of popular interest, although to the scientist, the western half is equally interesting.
In our Eleventh Annual Report to the Legislature in 1906 will be found a detailed description of the geological history of the Glen under the heading “ The Physiographic History of Watkins Glen,” by Prof. Ralph S. Tarr, of Cornell University. Another valuable work on the geology of the Glen and neighborhood is Folio No. 169 of the Geological Atlas of the United States, published in 1910 by the l'nited States Geological Survey, mapping and describing what is called the Watkins Glen-Catatonk District.
l'nsuccessful Efforts for a State Reservation. The owner of the more than two miles of property heretofore described, was Mrs. Caroline C. Buttner-Shiverick, a woman of public spirit and appreciation of the natural beauties of the Glen, but who felt the necessity of parting with the property. Reluctant to sell to private parties, who might make the Glen less, rather than more, attractive to the public than it had been under the leases which she had made, she retained the property, at the
expense of no little personal inconvenience, in the hope that the State would eventually acquire it and throw it open free to the public. In the year 1899, the sentiment in favor of a State Reservation became pronounced and soon after the meeting of the Legislature that year, the Hon. Charles T. Willis, of Tyrone, Schuyler County, introdueed in the State Senate a bill authorizing the Governor to appoint five Commissioners, styled “ The Commissioners of Watkins Glen Reservation," to select and locate lands for the acquisition of Watkins Glen. On February 16 and again on March 9, 1899, the Trustees of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society discussed the subject, and on the latter date authorized a communication to Senator Willis suggesting that the end might be accomplished in connection with this Society better than by means of a special Commission. This view was not reciprocated, and the bill was enacted on May 25, 1899, being chapter 683 of the laws of 1899. On June 7, 1899, in pursuance of this act, Governor Roosevelt appointed as Commissioners Jonas S. Van Duzer, William H. Wait, John A. Clute, James B. Rathbone and William B. Osborne. During the next few months the Commissioners negotiated for contracts with the owners of ten several parcels of land to sell their property to the State, and succeeded in securing agreements from eight of them, at the prices mentioned below.
5.870 Margaret Roberts
10. 150 Henry H. Van Meter
7.887 Charlotte Roe
0.365 John M. Roe.
0.471 Azubah A. Bohlmers...
2.630 Wm. E. and Minnie Berry
Price. $85,000 00 1,080 00 400 00
293 50 1,015 00
6. 7. 8.
800 00 100 00
The first parcel above mentioned contained Watkins Glen and lands connected therewith. The Commissioners could not make agreements with the owners of parcels 6 and 9. The agreed prices for 144.686 of the 155.203 acres selected aggregated $90,688.50.
On March 7, 1900, the Commission reported to the Legislature, recommending that the lands be purchased upon these terms, and a bill was introduced in accordance therewith. Without committing itself to the price asked, the Society urged the Legislature of 1900 to create the Reservation. The bill failed to pass. On January 22, 1901, the Hon. Samuel S. Slater, of New York City, introduced in the Senate a bill authorizing the purchase of the eight parcels before mentioned for the sum of $90,688.50, and on February 16, 1901, the Trustees of this Society received a letter from Hon. John A. Clute, one of the Watkins Glen Commissioners, asking the assistance of the Society in promoting the bill before the Legislature. Although, as before stated, the Trustees believed that the end desired might better be attained through the Society subsequent events proved to be the case — nevertheless, they lent their cordial endorsement to the project for the creation of the Reservation, and in the years 1902, 1903 and 1904, the Society, in conjunction with the Watkins Glen Commissioners, renewed its recommendation to the Legislature. On January 26, 1904, the Hon. Olin T. Nye, of Watkins, introduced in the Assembly a bill drafted by the Commission, appropriating $90,688.50 for the purchase of the property, but it did not reach the third reading.
The State Reservation Established. No further efforts were made to secure action in the Legislature under the Commission plan, so far as we know, and the project remained in abeyance until successfully renewed by this Society in the Legislature of 1906, under circumstances which led to the acquisition of the Glen property for about one-half of the price originally asked.
While these efforts were being made for the acquisition of the property by the State, the owner personally appealed to the late Andrew H. Green, President of this Society, for aid to prevent the property from falling into the hands of speculators in consequence of her straitened affairs. Information from various sources indicated to him that unless some relief was accorded to her, she would be forced to part with her property to private parties who, it was reported, planned to demand from the State an exorbitant price. With a view to promoting the preservation
of the property for the public and controlling its disposition in the interest of the State, Mr. Green made a loan to the owner, taking a mortgage on the Glen as security. Hardly had this accommodation been made when, on November 13, 1903, Mr. Green was struck down by the hand of an assassin. After Mr. Green's death his executors foreclosed the mortgage and bought the property at the foreclosure sale.
The heirs and executors of Mr. Green's estate thoroughly shared his patriotic motives, and, following the counsel of Col. Henry W. Sackett, one of the Trustees and Counsel of this Society, decided to tender the Glen property of 103 + acres, to the State at the exact cost at which the Green estate acquired it. In furtherance of this plan, on January 22, 1906, the Hon. Owen Cassidy of Watkins introduced in the Senate a bill appropriating $50,000 or so much thereof as might be necessary, for the acquisition of the property, and committing it to the custody of this Society. This bill became a law, being chapter 676 of the laws of 1906. On November 22, 1906, the Commissioners of the Land Office voted to purchase the property, and on December 27, 1906, the title passed to the State and the custody to the Society. The consideration paid was $46,512.50, being the actual cost of the property to the Green estate and about 52 per cent. only of the price originally asked for the parcel.
Conditions in the Glen Before State Ownership. On early maps, the stream which flows through the reservation was called Mill Creek, from the fact that it supplied power for a series of grist, saw and plaster mills. Watkins Glen derives its name from the Watkins family, two brothers of which built the first grist-mill on the stream prior to 1800. About the year 1831, a mill known as the Watkins Glen Grist-mill was built by direction of Dr. Samuel Watkins in the Entrance Amphitheatre, the widening of the Glen at the eastern end of the reservation. With the building of this mill, the first rude paths of the Glen were outlined. A flume dam was built at the top of the first fall above the mill, and a few hundred feet farther up-stream, at the point near which was later erected the Glen Mountain House, a storage dam was built. To enable workmen to reach these structures, rough stairways and rudimentary rock-hewn paths were constructed. The storage dam
was subsequently destroyed in a great flood and the bottom timbers of the flume dam were carried away in 1889.
Watkins Glen was opened to public patronage under private auspices along the grist-mill path in 1863, and in 1864 the paths were extended to the shallow basins, known as the Small Punch Bowl and Large Punch Bowl, west of the railroad viaduct. The property was then owned by George G. Freer, but the active propagation of the fame of the Glen was conducted by Morvalden Ells, a newspaper man. The result of the advertising which the Glen received was that tourists began to visit it and in a few years capital was tempted to investment. In 1869, E. B. Parsons, of Pennsylvania, bought the property for $25,000, and a public resort, called the Glen Mountain House, was built in the Glen about 1,450 feet west of the entrance at Franklin street. As time went on, other structures were erected in the Glen. Around the Glen Mountain House were built an annex, an amusement hall, a dining hall, an excursionists' pavilion, a photograph gallery, a barn, an ice-house, etc. At this point the gorge was spanned by a suspension bridge. Throughout the Glen paths were crudely cut into the face of the cliffs, and protected only by fragile railings of irregular sticks of wood and saplings, lightly supported by slender posts. Several wooden bridges of crude construction were thrown across the Glen at various points, and paths of different levels were connected by long flights of unsightly wooden stairs, greatly marring the natural beauty of the scenery. In addition to the revenue derived from the patrons of the hotel, the proprietors charged an admission fee of fifty cents each for transient visitors who desired to make their perilous way through the Glen along the unsafe paths.
In the course of time, the public, with that instinctive feeling of right to the enjoyment of natural beauty which is at the basis of the movement for the creation of public parks, began to feel that the tax levied upon visitors to the Glen was a sort of imposition. Members of the Granges and other bodies and individuals who desired to make picnic excursions to the Glen, felt that after paying their transportation expenses they could not well afford to pay an admission fee for the privilege of enjoying what was regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in that part of the State. Thus a state of public sentiment, similar in kind to that