|History of Frontier Town
|A Timeline of Some Important Events in the History of Frontier Town
|4 July 1952
|Frontier Town opens
|1952 - 1983
|Art Bensen and his partners run Frontier Town, continually adding attractions
|Art Bensen and his partners sell Frontier Town
|1983 - 1985
|The new owners operate Frontier Town
|Frontier Town closes
|26 May 1989
|Frontier Town reopens, having been bought by Panther Mountain Water Park - Ken Delafrange, President
|1989 - 1998
|Panther Mountain Water Park operates Frontier Town
|Frontier Town closes
|Frontier Town seized by Essex County NY for non-payment of taxes
|9 & 10 October 2004
|Contents of Frontier Town - including stagecoaches, trains, etc. - are auctioned off
|21 October 2004
|Land and buildings of Frontier Town auctioned off in two parcels
|Panther Mountain Water Park loses appeal of its suit to have the tax sale nullified
|(If anyone has suggestions for corrections and/or additions to this timeline, please email them to me and I will be sure to inclued them. Thank you.)
|Some Highlights from the History of Frontier Town
In 1951, Art Bensen found the site in North Hudson on which to make his dream a reality. As he writes in "Adirondack Mountain Adventure", his book about the history of Frontier Town, "So it was at the beginning of August, 1951, that after 21 years I left the Telephone Company with no pension, no severance pay, and no unemployment insurance. ... Soon, under the tutoring of Jim Liberty, I could handle the double bladed axe without too much danger to my feet and legs. By fall we had completed our twelve log buildings." Frontier Town opened to the public on the 4th of July the next year, 1952.
Below are some of my favorites from among the Frontier Town postcards I own. They are my favorite because they provide wide views of a large part of the park. That same fact allows me to place them in chronological order below. I have included them on this page because they graphically demonstrate how Frontier Town grew and changed throughout its history. (One of the things I find most striking is how large the trees have grown - compare these postcard pictures with pictures from my visits in the 1990s on other pages of this website.)
|This is the earliest postcard I have, as it must be from 1952 or 1953, since Art Bensen writes "During the first two seasons it was discovered that our visitors just loved cowboys, so at the close of the 1953 season, we began Frontier Town's expansion by building the first part of our cowboy section of Frontier Town which we called Prairie Junction", and Prairie Junction is obviously not in this picture.
|At first I thought this post card might be from 1954 because the trees were still small and Prairie Junction had obviously been build, but then I noticed, way in the back, what I believe is the rodeo arena sign. Art Bensen wrote that "In 1956, continuing our expansion program, we build a large rodeo arena." I am not sure if that meant before or after the 1956 season, but obviously this card must be from no earlier than 1956 if indeed that is the rodeo arena sign in the background. That means that the railroad tracks must also exist, as Art Bensen also writes "...by the 1955 season, our railroad was in operation." By really straining my eyes, I think I can make out a track bed just to the right of Prairie Junction, in front of what I take to be the rodeo arena. Note the railings that now border the paths in the Frontier Village.
|Here is another post card from the same time frame as Prairie Junction and the rodeo arena can be seen in the background. This post card shows the most of Frontier Town of any post card I have seen. As I mention in other places on this website, what amazes me is how large the trees grew to be over the years. Compare how wide open the area around the pioneer village looks in this post card to pictures from later years elsewhere on this website.
|This is my wife's favorite Frontier Town postcard because, she says, her favorite part of a western was when the cavalry came over the hill to rescue the beleaguered wagon train. The constant that ties this postcard to the first two is the church - it is the log building whose back can be seen on the right side of this picture. This is obviously the most recent of the postcards as the Silversmith and Western Outfitters false fronts have bracketed cornices, the top of the Music Hall can be seen over the top of the front street and the Prairie Junction and Dry Gulch water tower can be seen to the right of the saloon, but I do not know the exact date. I do know that this is pretty much what Frontier Town looked like when I first started going there in 1962, and the pictured layout of Prairie Junction is the one I remember best: Jail, Wells Fargo, Silversmith, Indian Trading Post, Saddle Shop, Western Outfitters and the Last Chance Saloon.
|Here is a postcard I purchased on eBay not too long ago. I don't know what year this was taken but I would guess it was more recent than early in Frontier Town's history. I like this picture because it gives a perspective of Frontier Town you don't often see.
|I have learned, by reading past articles from the Albany Times Union, that Frontier Town, which had been closed since 1985, was purchased in 1988 by Panther Mountain Water Park of Rivervale NJ. PMWP operated Frontier Town until 1998. They started construction on, and then abandoned, a second Frontier Town in Branson MO during the mid-nineties. In 2004, Essex County, New York, seized Frontier Town for delinquent taxes. The contents of Frontier Town were auctioned on 9 & 10 October 2004 and the land was auctioned on 21 October 2004.
|Over the summer of 2007, Panther Mountain Water Park lost its appeal of the tax sale by Essex County, allowing the winners of the auction to take possesion of the land.
I received the following interesting information from a visitor to the website:
- The sixth picture on Pictures Inside of Frontier Town in 2009 - Page 1 is of the ice house. It has double walls with sawdust insulation. They used convential rerfigeration to keep the ice cold. Somewhere there are pictures of the ice being cut from the lake. The ice house was was one of the last things built. As I recall, the construction order in Roth's Forge Village was sawmill, bloomery forge, then gristmill and ice house. BTW, I didn't notice any pictures of the forge.
- What was originally the airstrip is in many pictures such as the last two pictures in Pictures Inside of Frontier Town in 2009 - Page 3 At the south end are high voltage wires. At the north end is the gas station. For most of it's life the gas station was an independant Shell station owned by Henry Burkhart (?). Frontier Town had a small Mobil station near the A-frame. Before the A-frame, Frontier Town had a large Mobil station across Rt 9 from the old entrance, restaurant, and motel. The first Mobil station was destroyed in a fire.
A small plane taking off from the Frontier Town airstrip crashed in the 70's. It was taking off to the north. I'm not sure if it clipped the Shell station sign or what. It banked and crashed within a 1/2 mile or less.
I plan to expand on this page when I have more time in the future. A lot more was added during the 60s, 70s and early 80's. If anyone can fill in some details, especially for the period around the first closing of Frontier Town in 1985, I would greatly appreciate it if you would email me.
(For those that are interested, I have seen numerous copies of "Adirondack Mountain Adventure" available on eBay.)