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From Sylvan Lake Back to Rock Brook

Updated: Jun 19, 2019


This section of Skillman Park on the northern border of Blawenburg used to contain Sylvan Lake, a man-made lake that served as a source for ice for the previous institutions on the park grounds before modern refrigeration. It also served as a recreational spot for people from Blawenburg and surrounding villages. When the park took over, the dam was removed for liability reasons, and the lake went back to being a brook. Many geese used to populate the lake and many still come back to it, perhaps to do genealogical research on their ancestors!

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I've been thinking more about it and there are 2 other things that I really miss about the former Sylvan Lake. Firstly, I miss the large, weeping willow trees that used to grace the banks of the "lake". Secondly, I miss the Miller's old house that was directly across from those willow trees. It was another one of the old houses that could have been saved, on another of the alternative access roads that have been closed. Harold Miller worked as an administrator of the state institution and he had a son, Randy, who was my age. He was one of my first friends.

When the family moved to Mountain View Rd, Randy became a true Blawenburg boy. Randy …


I remember now there was a flag on the pole, naturally, to signal if the ice was safe. The life preserver could have been thrown to someone who had fallen thru the ice. I remember there was an ice house from back in the days before electrical refrigeration became common. Wiki says home electrical iceboxes and fridges became common between 1920s and 1940s. Harvesting/delivering ice for old-fashioned ice boxes was a biz before that.


I enjoy your blog, Dave. I remember skating on Van Zandt's Pond. Fascinating to learn it was a demonstration project for their heavy equipment sales.

This posting about Sylvan Lake (proper name) struck a nerve though. Though I never skated on it, I know people used to and there was a post with some sort of way to signify if ice was safe along with a life preserver to be throw to someone who may have been swimming/wading in warmer months. That the partially re-built dam/dredged "lake" was removed when the political tides turned and the Village was sold for the Park was a travesty. That it was justified by the fear of a Jonestown-like flood should the dam…

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