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Archive History

HISTORY OF THE SIMON LAKE ARCHIVES

   During the early 20th century, Simon Lake maintained his mansion in Milford Ct.  with a separate building for his engineering office, experimental laboratory and personal museum. Here, Simon Lake collected and maintained all his records as reference for future publications, posterity and for the possibilities of a movie production enacted, hopefully, by his descendants! There was considerable interest during his lifetime for a movie portraying his life story; however, Mrs. Simon Lake did not feel it appropriate to do so while Simon lived, as he continued to work until his death in 1945.

   Simon’s son, Thomas Alva Edison Lake retained the massive collection for 34 years at his residence in Stratford, CT., relinquishing some materials to family with various loans made to museums like the Smithsonian and the Groton Submarine Force Museum. Tom Lake had produced a movie script outline and had made a number of contacts and proposals with the movie industry, such as Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, Warner Brothers and CBS. Since the movie studios did not have the present day capacity of researchers and writers needed by Tom's proposals, he was referred to the Writers Guild. Ailing health prevented his progress and he passed on in 1979. The interest in the Simon Lake Story waned as the flair of Simon's illustrious life slipped away from the hands of script writers and public awareness.

 Simon Lake III, Simon's grandson and his spouse (my father & mother) inherited the daunting task of sorting through the vast Lake Estate which included the immense Simon Lake Collection. During those three months, it became quite evident to Simon III that Tom had hoarded the materials for so many years in the attempt to maintain the integrity of a most unique collection. Unfortunately some materials were destroyed by time and others by nibbling rats in the basement. Some materials had been donated or loaned to appropriate museums, but Simon III retained select materials, realizing they contained the documentation that would substantiate the good name and works of Simon Lake for future generations.

   Following the disposition of the Thomas Lake Estate in 1979, my mother & father, with the assistance of myself, relocated the Simon Lake Collection to their residence in Bethlehem Pa. To get an idea of the size of the collection, the materials filled a single car garage nearly to the ceiling, leaving only a narrow passageway and sorting table by the garage door. Here, my father worked for two summers sorting and organizing the collection until his sudden passing in 1982.

 My mother, Mrs. Simon Lake III, designated me, Jeff Lake (a great-grandson), to manage the Collection. After a summer of sorting through the huge mass, my mother and I loaned additional materials to the Submarine Force Museum. The Lake homestead in Bethlehem was sold and I relocated the collection in 1983 to my mother's residence in Florida. I further refined the collection at times and finally relocated it to my residence in 1989 where facilities had been constructed as a depository for the Simon Lake Archives and a small museum & library, complete with security system and steel bars on all windows. The materials were removed from fifty year old boxes and folders, dusted off and placed in new protective folders and secured in good ole steel military file cabinets acquired from local thrift stores. An office was established with computer graphics equipment and copier to process the valuable information contained within the collection.

By 1993 and three generations later, the materials are ready to be properly archived and the treasure trove of information extracted from the collection. The significant value of these documents was clearly recognized by all generations of the Lake Family in formulating an accurate and detailed story of the fascinating life and times of Simon Lake. Each generation participated in the refinement and preservation of this most unique collection. Dr. Philip Lundeberg, past Curator of Naval History at the Smithsonian Museum, described the collection as “priceless” and is the “best collection of any marine engineer’s works in the world.

I was authorized as Lake Family Representative and Curator of The Simon Lake Collection on June 18, 1990 and The Simon Lake Project was licensed, effective April, 1991.

The main purpose of The Simon Lake Project is to achieve a completely organized and properly preserved archive, as well as a proper museum and library. The mission of the project is to achieve major media presentations, in order that Simon Lake may take his proper place in the annals of history.

See Archive Description

 

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