Posted by: David Giacalone | December 10, 2009

rare snowmen spied in the Stockade (updated thrice)

Maybe it’s our lack of front lawns, or the relative scarcity of children living among us, but I’ve long believed that we don’t see enough snowmen here in the Schenectady Stockade.  That’s ironic, because snowmen entered into Stockade lore at the time of our infamous Massacre of 1690, when the French and Indian raiders slipped through a Stockade gate allegedly guarded only by snowmen made that day by the children of Fort Schenectady.   Indeed, Bob Eckstein, the author of The History of the Snowman has asked:

“Was the first snowman in America made in Schenectady, New York, on the eve of one of the bloodiest days in early American history?”

Eckstein concludes: “We may never know whether this was the first American snowman, but the Schenectady Snowman is definitely the earliest reference to one.” [The Gang here at Suns Along the Mohawk believe that Native Americans almost certainly made snow figures long before the Europeans arrived, but the Dutch or English or “Americans” were the first to write about North American snowmen.]

Eckstein displays the above drawing of the feckless Stockade Snow Guards in a posting at his site, Today’s Snowman.  He retells the tale in Chapter 12 of The History of the Snowman, at pp. 110 – 112 (which can be read in full by scrolling down this preview of the book). I’ve also discussed the Massacre Snowmen and Bob’s book (as well as his visit to Schenectady a year ago this week) at my weblog f/k/a.

The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market,” by Bob Eckstein (Simon & Schuster, 2007); The Open Door has a few remaining autographed copies.  If you need more encouragement to seek out Bob’s book for yourself or as a holiday present, see a sneek peek and a chapter-by-chapter pictorial YouTube Preview.

follow-up: see our sister local-issues weblog, “snowmen at the gates.”

That lengthy preface was inspired by my delightful Stockade Snowmen encounters today in Riverside Park.  The trio at the head of this paragraph were constructed by the Petta Family last Saturday night (December 5, 2009) after our first snowfall of the season.  You can find them at the west end of Riverside Park, near the flower garden and alongside 1 Washington Avenue.  I wish I had seen the charming threesome earlier this week to capture them in their full glory.   In fact, I obliviously walked right by them early on Sunday, when I was out taking pictures of our first snowy morning, after my camera and brain both froze up in the frigid air.

Here are two more shots of the Petta snowmen taken this afternoon (as always, click on a photo for a larger version):

. . .

The little snowman at the very top of this posting may look like he’s guarding a modern Stockade fence again marauders, but he’s really taking a well-earned nap after a long, windy morning being constructed in Riverside Park, west of the Pump House.   Thanks to an invitation from Loraine and Devin, I even had a small role in making the natty little snowmanoid.

Here are some shots I took during and shortly after his construction.  The shots need no explanation, you can find a brief description by scrolling over each photo and a larger version of the image by clicking on the photo.

. . .

. . . .

. . .

Finally, Devin proudly displaying his very first snowman:

  p.s.  The snowman’s posse forms a canine fence patrol.

update (Dec. 13, 2009):  As you can see at the head of this update report, the three Petta snowpersons are doing fine three days after our first visit.  I can’t say the same for the snowman made by Devin, Loraine and myself on Thursday (see below).  He’s still standing on guard, but has lost a couple accessories. I bet he’ll soon be back to his original dapper self (as always, click on a photo for a larger version).

. . .

follow-up (Dec. 14, 2009):  Devin and Loraine headed out to do some touch-up on their snowman early this afternoon.  With the temperature around 40 degrees F., we found soggy snow on the ground and a shrunken, terminally ill snowman.  I don’t know if a cute snow-woman was to blame, but our guy had lost his head.  Here’s what we found this afternoon:

. . .

As I left the Park,  I passed the three Petta snowmen, which I am happy to say had held their shapes and were only a little bit smaller than yesterday.

follow-up photos – more Stockade snow-person sculpture:

[Dec. 28, 2009] This lovely switch-grass blonde appeared in a Union St. backyard on Sunday, Dec. 27th, and a Stockade neighbor passed along a photo of the shapely snowlady:

More Stockade Snowmen: see out post “SnowMommy rules on Cucumber Alley” (Jan. 6, 2010); and “a cool Snow Gnome visits Lawrence” (January 18, 2010);

Devin’s 2nd Snowman, built with his crew on Feb. 18, 2010

followup: see Stockade snowmen 2011 . . .


  1. The one taken through the back gate certainly looks like he’s positioned to guard the rear entrance. That was insightful, David. It fits with the Legend of the Snowman. Perhaps his arms are raised to fend off all in a state of constant readiness.
    These are all really special. Many would make great holiday cards.

    • Thanks, Loraine. I hope our little snowman does a better job guarding the gate than his predecessors did in 1690. Of course, he’s backed up by his canine fence patrol — Foxy, Casey and Ruckus.

  2. Great pix David; I missed seeing one of you and the snowman.

    We may be getting enough snow here in DC this weekend to build our own snowpeople!

    • Thanks for visiting from down in my old neighborhood. I hope you do have a chance to make snowmanoids in DC soon, and send me a photo. You won’t find photos of me at this weblog, but you can see the Giacalone kids with their snowmen in 1953 here.

  3. […] for the Couture family to add to this winter’s Stockade Snowman Census (see our post “rare Stockade snowmen spied” from Dec. 10, 2009).   Daddy Aaron and the twins indeed did themselves proud last Sunday […]

  4. […] to call Gnoman — before the sun stole some of his many charms.  Given my attempts [like here and there] to encourage such snow sculpture in the Stockade, I detoured back home for my camera to […]

  5. […] Devin’s second snowman (click to see his first), was constructed on Thursday, Feb. 18.  He has not stood up too well, having lost all of his […]

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