Wanakena was founded in 1902 by brothers Herbert and Horace Rich, founders of the Rich Brothers Lumber Company. Rich Lumber purchased 16,000 acres on the southwestern shore of Cranberry Lake, and constructed a lumber mill. Housing for the millworkers was built in part from lumber salvaged from the company's abandoned Pennsylvania lumber operation. At one time Wanakena was home to some 1,500 residents including mill workers and their families.
Along with the business, residential housing for workers, and a General Store, Rich Lumber Company also built a logging railroad and connected it to the Adirondack Railroad in Benson Mines in 1905, a school in 1912,(The New York State Ranger School which still stands and is still in operation, now known as SUNY ESF Ranger School) and a 171 ft wooden suspension bridge in 1902 spanning across the Oswegatchie River in the center of town, which connected the village on one shore, to the Lumber mill and timber harvesting operations on the opposite shore.
This bridge (an iconic symbol for the Hamlet of Wanakena) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Sadly, In January of 2014 an ice jam completely devasted the 111 year old Footbridge and it has since been removed. Rebuilding efforts are underway to rebuild this iconic and beloved bridge, and return it and Wanakena, to it's former glory! You can read about all the efforts to rebuild the bridge "HERE!"
Courtesy of Bob Hicks