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"Adventures in the Wilderness."
In 1868 William Murray's "Adventures in the Wilderness!" opened the nearby Adirondack wilderness to both millionaire tycoons and ordinary citizens. The vision of a "wilderness retreat" seems to have the same fascination for twenty-first-century vacationers as it did a century ago.
CLICK & GO! (On this page.) 1868, William Murray publishes "Adventures in the Wilderness," an early account of the Adirondack backcountry. Camp Sagamore, Raquette Lake, NY. White Pine Camp, Paul Smith, NY. The Point, Upper Saranac Lake, NY. Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, NY. Fourpeaks--Adirondack Backcountry Camps, Jay, NY. The Adirondacks is now only a short commute. Captions to Adirondack Photos on this page. Great Camps: An Annotated Bibliography. CREDITS: Great Camping! a magazine article. More pages in An Adirondack Miscellany: Newspaper reports, Magazine articles and Book notices. (On the next page.) 10 Best Visitor Information Pages. (Quick Index.)
Soon after publication of Murray’s book, the Adirondacks entered into what has been heralded as the Gilded Years, between 1870 and 1910. Backwoods homes, such as the one constructed by Paul Smith on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake grew into a majestic hotel, attracting the rich and famous from all over the world. P.T. Barnum, of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, slept there and had a brook and pond named after him. Teddy Roosevelt also visited. CLICK HERE for Murray's Whitmanesque DEDICATION to Campers. CLICK HERE for Bibliography.
Families came for the entire summer, bringing along chests full of their finest china, linens and silk dresses. The fashionably dressed guests, being treated like royalty (a few of them were), served in marked contrast to the harsh life of the lumbermen in the region.
As the Adirondacks began to top the fashionable-place-to-be list, wealthy summer residents including J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers began building what came to be known as the Adirondack Great Camps. (More than just a single building or summer home, Great Camps are something akin to a small village.) Great Camps of the era often included main residences, guest cabins, dining halls and game rooms. The primary facilities required the support of a large staff who were housed in separate quarters and worked in the Camp’s blacksmith and carpentry shops, stables and gardens.
The architectural style of the camps was a combination of rustic materials from the wilderness, such as log beams and fieldstone fireplaces and elegant items imported to the area.
Unfortunately, only a few of these rustic wonders have survived, with the majority succumbing to fire, as did most of the major hotels in the region. And only two--Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake and White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths--are open to the public on a regular basis. Vanderbilt's Camp Sagamore is now a non-profit institution that hosts workshops and seminars on the history of the Great Camps movement, including tours of Camp Pine Knot and Uncas. Pine Knot, which has about 3 dozen buildings connected by covered walkways, was maintained but not inhabited, so it is a virtual museum of turn-of-the-century culture. Camp Sagamore, Raquette Lake, NY, 315-354-5311.
White Pine Camp was built in 1907 for financier Archibald White and later served as the Summer White House for Calvin Coolidge in 1926. The complex was in serious disrepair in the early 1990's, when it was purchased by University of Rochester Professor Howard Kirschenbaum, who hoped to restore it as a museum and historic site. (Kirchenbaum also owns Camp Uncas.) It quickly became clear, however, that ticket sales alone would not be neatly enough to finance the renovation, which will probably take another eight of ten years; so, reluctantly, Kirschedbaum agreed to turn some of the cottages back into lodgings. Now you can stay in one of several cabins with fireplaces, clawfoot tubs and kitchens; admire the Japanese tea house on its artificial island or use the bowling alley down by the pond. In the two years since White Pine began renting out cottages, says manager Lyn White, "it has reallytaken off. We've had visitors from 30 different states, some as far away as California and Texas." White Pine Camp, Paul Smith, NY 518-327-3030, Cabins from $1,000 a week.
Visitors can also enjoy the Rockerfeller way of life at The Point, on Upper Saranac Lake, which was orginally William Rockerfeller's Camp Wonumdra. There, for a mere $850-$1,350 a night (inclusive), you can have breakfast in bed, order a picnic lunch, sip unlimited champagne on the cocktail criuse, and dine on foie gras and roast pheasant with fine wine. The Point, Upper Saranac Lake, NY, 518-891-5674, doubles (inclusive) from $850 per day.
Only slightly less comfortable accommodations at Lake Placid Lodge, which dates to 1882, range from $300 to $650 a night. Fine Adirondack furnishings, many made by the current owner, David Garrett, in a lovely lakeside setting, are definitely worth seeing. Amenities include biking and canoeing. The place has a fine restaurant for dinner, pricey but worth it. Lunches are a bargain (luncheon plate $15, July '99) and a fun way to see the place. Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, NY, 518-523-2700, rooms from $300 per day.
For those looking for an affordable destination for wilderness getaways just hours away, The Fourpeaks resort complex, on the East Branch of the AuSable River, maintains the Great Camp tradition with six secluded backcountry camps in early-nineteenth-century farm settings on a large property with private hiking trails (gas lighting, hand pumps and authentic Adirondack camp furnishings) for from $750 to $1100 per week. Fourpeaks--Adirondack Backcountry Camps, Jay, NY 518-524-6726.
Renewed interest in the Adirondacks has resulted in an estimated 10 million visitors during the past several years. The vision of a "wilderness retreat" seems to have the same fascination for twenty-first-century vacationers as it did a century ago. But one thing has changed dramatically: the "commute." No longer a journey of many days by rail, steamboat and carriage, the Adirondack Wilderness is a morning drive from New York and Boston, and not much longer from other cities farther down the Eastern seabord and the hinterlands of the American midwest. Greater accessibility has brought the adventuring family, honeymooners and weekenders in great numbers. Welcome to the Adirondacks Great Camps!
Great Camps: An Annotated Bibliography
William Murray, Adventures in the Adirondacks, or, Camp-life in the Adirondacks, 1868, Boston, Ticknor and Fields Co., 236 pages, illustrated. The book that made the author and the Adirondack region famous overnight. Many reprints available. Read his Whitmanesque DEDICATION excerpted below.
William Murray, The Adirondack Tales, 1897, Springfield Printing and Binding Co., Springfield, 5 volumes, 2082 pages, illustrated. A collection of woodsman's and hunter's yarns about John Norton, the trapper. Published late in life. Read his WhitmanesqueDEDICATION excerpted below. Limited printing.
Brown and Mendrick, The Insiders' Guide to the Adirondacks, 1998, Falcon/Insiders Publisher, 456 pages. A comprehensive and authoritative travel book for the Adirondacks. Don't leave home without it. Available from the publisher at www.falconbooks.com for $15.95.
Harvey Kaiser, Great Camps of the Adirondacks, 1982, David Godine Publishers, Boston, 240 pages, illustrated. All you'll want to know about the Great Camps. History, photos, art.
Ann Stillman O'Leary, Adirondack Style, 1998, Clarkson Potter, Publishers, New York, 180 pages, illustrated. A fine book from the perspective of years spent restoring, propogating and re-inventing the Adirondack style at the Lake Placid prestige camps.
Charles Brumley, Guides of the Adirondacks, 1994, North country Books, Inc., Utica, 375 pages, illustrated. Charles brings William Murray up to date. A "must read" for the serious visitor.
To The Adirondack Tales, 1897.
[Parson Murray must by then have been in his eighties.]
To all that camp on the shores of lakes, on breezy points, on banks of rivers, by sandy beaches, on slopes of mountrains, and under green trees anywhere, I, an old camper, a wood lover, an aboriginal veneered with civilization, send greeting. I thank God for the multitude of you; for the strength and beauty of you; for the healthiness of your tastes and the naturalness of your natures. I eat and drink with you; and with you by day and night enjoy the gifts of the good world.
Kneeling on the deck of my yacht, stooping far over and reaching low down to fill to the brim the old camping cup that longer than the lives of some of you has never failed my lips, and holding it high in the bright sunlight, I swing it to the circle of the horizon, and standing bareheaded, with the strong wind in my face, I drink to your health, O campers, whoever and wherever ye be. Here's health to you all and long life on the earth and something very like camping ever after.
The Murray Homestead
This page is a reprint of
Great Camping (8pp. illustrated) By E.J. Hughes.
New England Financial Journal, Spring 1999, Vol. 1 #3.
Published by Forbes Special Interest Publications Group
New York, NY.
I had the idea for a Great Camps page early on, but when a freelancer working for Forbes and a Times staff writer called one right after the other back in March, I knew the time was right for Fourpeaks visitors to hear how our place fit in with the Great Camp tradition. I never saw the Times article. It was supposed to be in the Friday Lifestyles section.[MS, 1999]
Are you in this picture? Fourpeaks hosts now welcome paying guests to a 700-acre rest and playground for vacations in the Adirondack Great Camp tradition. Couples appreciate Fourpeaks secluded settings. Outdoor loving families have fun exploring our accessible wilderness. Folks with dogs enjoy the open spaces to run their pets. A private nature rereat. For a vacation away from it all. Are you in this picture? CLICK HERE to find out! [More about this at Frequently Asked Questions.]
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