“The Past Is Here” A monthly column from the Skaneateles Historical Society

~ 1934 ~

1934 saw the turning point in the Great Depression in America with unemployment decreasing to  22% . But in other parts of the world some of the political changes occurring would cause the next  world war. In Germany, Adolf Hitler declared himself the fuhrer and “absolute leader of the  country”. In Russia, Stalin began his massacres with “the Great Purge”. And in China, Mao  Tse-Tung spread the communist doctrine. In the United States drought problems in the Midwest  continued and some 35 million acres of farmland were utterly destroyed with a further 225 million  acres in danger. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set up public works around the US through  the WPA program, including building bridges, roads and flood control dams in an attempt to put  America back on its feet. The FBI had considerable success that year ending the careers of John  Dillinger , Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson. And the  Loch Ness Monster was spotted for the first time! 

Closer to home here in Skaneateles, as noted in the weekly articles in The  Skaneateles Press, the village acquired land from the Shotwell family at the corner of  West Genesee Street and West Lake Street to create Shotwell Park. The lake froze  over in February for the first time since 1922! Work was progressing nicely on the sea  wall in the area now known as Thayer Park. The Village issued their annual financial  report, noting that the available resources were $98,288.10, without having had to levy  additional taxes for two years. The Cherry Valley Turnpike Road was finally completed  where it intersected with Route 20, and a community event to celebrate was held with  “throngs of residents attending” the ribbon cutting ceremony. Articles every week  featured lengthy and informative stories about local clubs and civic organizations, and  programs at the Library and schools. The paper also highlighted residents’ births,  deaths, marriages, and anniversaries each week. 

And most importantly for our organization, in 1934 a group of approximately 60  Skaneateles citizens formed the first Skaneateles Historical Society. We wonder if  those citizens envisioned their successors collecting artifacts and archival materials  related to Skaneateles history for the next nine decades; we believe approximately  20,000 items as of this writing. We are reading through the next few years volumes of  The Skaneateles Press to find highlights about what the original society’s goals and  plans were.  

If any of our readers are celebrating a 90th birthday this year, their extended  family has lived in the same home for 90 years, and/or a business has been in operation  for 90 years, please reach out and let us know! We’d love to document these important 
milestones, as we celebrate our own special anniversary. Readers can visit our  website, email us, or call 315-685-1360 for more information about the SHS and our  current mission. Here’s to this very special year to come…