Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fourth Lake Whispers

We hear that. . . Maryann Kowalsky is a grandmother. Her daughter, Kim, and son-in-law, Dave, have a beautiful daughter and are living in Saratoga Springs. . .Tyler Gervaise and his family have finished their camp leveling and restoration project at their Fourth Lake camp near Alger Island. . .Artist David R.C. Oster has been working on a pen and ink drawing of the new house at Penwood and will unveil it soon. . .Sarah Cohen has left Old Forge for the winter and is comfortably settled in her winter home in Guatemala. . .Dr. Robert Segaul and his wife Susie of Segaul's Nest are enjoying their grandchildren in Plantation, Florida. . .George and Madeline Spoll are enjoying the sunshine at their winter home in Longboat Key, Florida. . .Cathy and Paul Rivet, proprietors of the excellent Old Forge restaurant Five Corners Cafe, have closed the cafe for the winter and are enjoying time with their son. . .the venerable Old Forge Hardware has been sold to local residents Erica Wilcox Murray and Terry Murray by Sarah Cohen and Linda Cohen. . .

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Letter from Dan Rosenthal to Dorothea Rosenthal

The following is the text of an undated letter from Dan Rosenthal to his sister, Dorothea Rosenthal, my grandmother, found in a scrapbook kept by Dorothea.  It was written by Dan while he was a student at Harvard Law School.

Dear Dot:

I hardly have the time to write you the kind of letter I should - as I am smack in the middle of exams, as you know.  Nevertheless, I wanted this note to covey to you my fondest wish for a very, very happy birthday.  You deserve it, Dot, as you are a nice girl.  -- That's unusual for me to admit it, isn't it. -- Mother wrote me that you were admitted to Northwestern so all your worries on that score are gone.  Well, once again - Happy Birthday!


Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas inside the Blue Line

We had a holiday dinner last night, a mixed Christmas-Hanukkah evening of celebration.  The dinner was beef tenderloin, butternut squash soup, saffron risotto and asaparagus, followed by a salad of mixed greens and dessert of flourless chocolate cake.  Everyone was in bed and asleep shortly after dinner. We lit the menorah and watched the snow drifts outside the house.  The night before, there was a horrific howling wind, with 50 mph gusts.  If I had let the dog out, she would have blown away.  Branches flew by the windows and the wind dipped into the fireplace from the chimney above, making a creepy howling sound.  The lights fluttered and flashed; the power went out. We heard the hum of the generator come on and power was restored -- I think it was out most of the night.  This morning, I awoke to Audrey staring at me and begging silently to go out.  We went outside where it was eerily quiet and quite cold.  The winds had died away and the stars were bright. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

View from the City, Very Early Morning, December 24, 2008

It is 3:46 am and we have not yet made it out of the city for our holiday in the Adirondacks. The bags are packed and ready by the door.  We thought we would leave the city yesterday, but had a visit from a friend that extended into dinner and drinks, so we decided to stay the night here. We had our first holiday presents, including two scarves, two sweaters and two new pair of much-needed and much-appreciated winter gloves.  Anthony received a mini Etch-a-Sketch and I received some vintage playing cards for my collection of games for the house.  Audrey, our dog, is ready for some major Adirondack snow in which to roll and rollick.  Before we get on the way, we will stop to stock up on food and supplies for the holiday.  I have never cooked a beef tenderloin, but there is one sitting in our refrigerator now that I hope to have in the next few days.  We have a cooler that plugs into an outlet in the back of our car, which is necessary to keep the food cool during the long drive, which usually runs 4.5 to 5 hours.  I must confess that, looking at the footage from the President-elect's trip to Hawaii, I wish we had made plans to go somewhere warm for the holiday, but it was not in the cards this year.  I must make a New Year's resolution to plan our trips early this year or we will never get out of the city, other than our frequent jaunts to Fourth Lake.

The President's 2008 Christmas Message

Presidential Message 

Christmas 2008

"'I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"

Luke 2:10-12

Each year, Christmas brings together families, friends, and communities to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrate the wonderful gifts God has bestowed upon us. During this season, we remember Jesus' birth from the Virgin Mary, His justice and mercy that changed the world, and His ultimate sacrifice for all people. Though Jesus was born humbly in a manger, He was destined to be the Savior of the world. The light He brought into the world continues to break through darkness and change people's lives two thousand years later.

This holiday season, as you rejoice in the good news of Jesus' love, forgiveness, acceptance, and peace, I encourage you to show grace to those less fortunate, just as God showed it to us. By serving those in need and through other acts of love and compassion, we can honor God's goodness and affirm the immeasurable value God places on the sanctity of life. We remember the members of our Armed Forces serving to protect our country and secure God's gift of freedom for others around the globe. All Americans are indebted to these men and women and their families for their sacrifice, devotion to duty, and patriotism.

Laura and I send our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas. May you be surrounded by loved ones and blessed by the Author of Life during this joyous holiday and throughout the New Year.


The White House Ornament 2008 Honoring President Benjamin Harrison's Administration

September 3, 1938: The Boulders, Summer Home of Rosenau Family, Consumed by Fire

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

President Harrison's Adirondack Lodge

In Love with the Adirondacks: Ex-President Harrison Purchases Land to Build a Cottage

From The New York Times, January 11, 1896

ROME, N.Y., Jan. 10. --Ex-President Harrison, who spent a portion of last summer at Dodd Camp, First Lake, Fulton Chain, was so well pleased with the North Woods that he has bought of Dr. Seward Webb about twenty-five acres of land at the point where First and Second Lakes join, and will build a cottage.

The plot has a water frontage of about 1,000 feet. Gen. Harrison has had the land cleared of stumps, logs and under-brush, and as soon as possible will build a handsome cottage, which he expects to have ready for occupancy next Summer.  His purchase is on the south side of the lake, about three and a half miles from Old Forge, and about one mile above Dodd Camp, which is on the opposite side.  

A survey has just been completed for a standard-gauge steam railroad from Fulton Chain station on the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad, to Old Forge, at the foot of First Lake, Fulton Chain, and the road will be built as soon as the snow goes off.  An electric railroad is contemplated, which will connect Fourth Lake with Racquette Lake, eight miles further north.

White House Christmas Ornament 2008 Honors Adirondack Pioneer President Benjamin Harrison

The White House Historical Association sells a limited edition ornament to support the mission of the Association -- to preserve and promote the history and historic collection in the White House.  This year's ornament honors the administration of President Benjamin Harrison, whose Adirondack camp on Second Lake, Berkeley Lodge (sometimes known as the Harrison House) is still a functioning camp well known to Adirondackers.  His desire to receive regular mail at his lodge helped create the first mail boat delivery service, which continues to this day. The 2008 White House Christmas ornament honors the administration of President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), the twenty-third President of the United States. Serving one term, from 1889-1893, Harrison was a centennial president inaugurated 100 years after President George Washington. Inspired by the Harrison family's Victorian Christmas tree, the ornament interprets the first recorded tree to decorate the White House.  The tree, laden with baubles and garland, is a canvas for all sorts of treats and toys.  Beneath the tree are the presents the Harrison grandchildren received: a toy train and a wooden sled await Benjamin, and nearby is Marthena's much wished-for dollhouse. A three-foot high Santa Claus completes the season's spectacle.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Inside Twin Coves, Fourth Lake

The Next Generation: Hope Madison Levy

Arts and Crafts Architecture and Design: The Gamble House

From a profile in the Los Angeles Times.  This is the front view of the iconic Gamble House in Pasadena, which was designed by architects Charles Greene and Henry Greene for David and Mary Gamble of Procter & Gamble Co. In 2008, the house celebrated its 100th anniversary. The interior decoration and design of our house was heavily inspired by the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement, including the work of Stickley, Roycroft and others.

Adirondack Bookshelf: Historic Images of the Adirondacks

Historic Images of the Adirondacks, Compiled by Victoria Sandiford. If nature has always been the measure of the Adirondacks, the story of man in these mountains has been the measure of the Adirondack Museum. Here, preserved for generations to see and enjoy, is the beauty he created in response to the beauty around him. Historic Images of the Adirondacks features a diverse selection of images from the Adirondack Museum’s collection of over 70,000 photographs. Included are images of great camps, hotels, Adirondack Guides, lumber camps, early settlers, and much more. With over 140 historic photographs. Softcover. 2008. Available from the Adirondack Museum Store.

Dorothea Rosenthal Gordon Remembered

This is a photograph of my grandmother that I found doing research online.  It is from her high school yearbook.  Her name was Dorothea Rosenthal Gordon and with my grandfather, Albert Gordon, acquired Penwood in 1953.  She was an artist and a creative talent ahead of her time.  She attended Northwestern University and became a journalist when there were few women in journalism.  She was a fine painter, as a hobby, but her work was quite exceptional.  Today, she could have sold it at auction, in a gallery, or on Etsy or ebay at least.  It is strange to continue to learn about her 16 years after her death, and to be learning about her using technology she could never have imagined possible. More importantly, I think, is the fact that the more I learn about her the more extraordinary I think she was. She possessed a tremendous creative impulse -- to paint, write, read, do needlepoint.  She created magnificent dollhouses, had an exceptional antique doll collection, and seemed happiest when she was engrossed in a creative pursuit.  She also loved gardening.   I wish I could talk to her now about what she planted at Penwood, and why, and where and what she would say about what we have done to the landscape.  We used to have special lunches out on the town and would talk about how Penwood looked when she first moved in.  She had a very particular and wise eye regarding its history and its preservation.  I would like to go back to the 1950's and visit with her for a long day on the dock.  She had much to say that I could not really have understood when we had our talks, when I was in my early 20's.  

Adirondack Camp Signs

For the past four years, I have been looking for the right artist and craftsman to create a new sign for Penwood, one that will stand the test of time and represent the camp's character.  The sign now posted on the road was purchased, believe it or not, at a horse show at which my sister was riding many, many years ago.  It was never great to begin with and now is past its prime.  It's rare to see a really great camp sign, one that is not too large or overdesigned.  To be honest, the best sign I have seen recently is the Twin Coves sign, which is a plank painted white, with hand painted black lettering. Very simple, very true to the camp.  If anyone knows of a great camp sign designer and maker, please let me know.  We would love to find the right person to make this sign that I hope will stand for the next several decades as a faithful sentry to Penwood.

Friday, December 19, 2008

William West Durant at Camp Pine Knot

The Secret Gardens

When I was little, I used to imagine that I was a character from Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel, The Secret Garden.  There were no walls in my garden at Penwood but I created imaginary walls among the tall ferns in Fern Village, and the grassy field in the Morning Bay.  Today, as we work on the landscaping of Penwood, there are outdoor "rooms" that we are gradually creating -- the Park, a flat grassy area by the water, where the flags fly and the hammock swings in the wind; Hobbiton, a secret area near the bay behind a series of trees and saplings, where there are wild grasses and a marshy beach in the lake; and Nina's Point, the tip of the smaller of the two peninsulas that comprise the best parts of the land; the Beach, separating the two peninsulas and providing a play space for the children and a place to park the canoes.  Each has its unique character and provides a different view of the park and the lake.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things I Love, by Dorothea Rosenthal

If one were to ask each individual in any group what he loved, the answers would be very revealing. Perhaps the answer would be riches, power, fame, or gems.  Yet, it might be a painting, a symphony, or a set of dishes. Probably no two people would have the same list, though in some places they might agree.  These lists may suggest to others an experience unknown, a joy as yet untasted, an idea never before received.  I made my list.  It may not be acceptable to others, but it represents my point of view. I love odd things that to others would seem silly.  I love to swim in the ocean with the taste of salt on my lips, to lie with my eyes closed on the burning, arid sand near the water's edge and feel the spray.  I love the smell of freshly scrubbed woodwork.  I love a spot-clean kitchen with sunny flecks dancing around the rims of glasses.  I love an early summer morning after it has rained and the dampness is like the earth's coverlet.  To lie on the wet grass and watch the clouds moving majestically across a blue sea, to ride horseback through dark woods, to feel the wind and foam on my face as I sit in the prow of a sailboat, to feel the spank of the water while skimming the water in a "put-put"; all these I have loved.  The dancing of a ballet, the acting of the players on the stage, the music of a symphony, the melancholy strains of a violin, the deep, rich colors of a painting, I have also loved.  There are immeasurable others: the silver coins on my window that are rain, the white comfort that is snow, the first daffodil in the spring.  To some there is no beauty in such things. They, too, can give lists of many things which perhaps I could not appreciate.  That is very easily explained.  Doesn't everyone say, "Love is blind"?

-- Dorothea Rosenthal '36

Dorothea Rosenthal Gordon was my grandmother and purchased Penwood 17 years years after she wrote this in her yearbook.  

Eat Local, Buy Local, Grow Local!

Guest Post: Florence Levy - Memories of Penwood

There is no better place than Camp Penwood.  My earliest childhood memories are swimming at the beach, swim lessons at the Inlet beach, anticipating Fridays when our dad would arrive with a car full of toys, visits to Enchanted Forest, getting to know my parents' friends on their weekend visits, stopping at Kayuta on the way into town, getting my boating license and spending hours on end in the Fulton Chain of lakes, meeting local residents, working at the ACE Hardware, creating lifetime friendships (Jenn Stoll), spreading the love with my high school friends, and the list could go on and on. There is truly no place I would rather be. Camp Penwood is majestic in beauty and calming in spirit.  I feel so fortunate that now that we have our own kids (twins who will be two at the end of December), Camp has taken on a whole new meaning.  I want them to be able to experience the same kind of childhood magic my brothers and I were able to experience. It breaks my heart being so far away in Colorado, but my goal is to get to a point where we can spend at least a month there every summer.  The girls have already had a taste of its wonderment - a month there as 6 month old babies, and 2 weeks there over Rob and DJ's wedding when they were 20 months old.  They played at the beach and finally started to enjoy days on the boat!  There is nothing that Joel and I can say or do to make Hope and Campbell appreciate Camp, but I know that there is also nothing we can do to keep them from loving it. Just from spending time there with our family, the girls will inevitably grow to be Old Forge residents at heart. I look around the property and I see many more years of Burstein Family memories to be created.  

The Music of the Night

There are certain sounds that tell me it is summer at Penwood.  One of them is the distant sound of live music and revelry coming from the North shore of Fourth Lake, from Daiker's.  I remember hearing those sounds as a kid and wondering what was happening there, what it would be like to be there.  Now the sounds fade into the background: soundtrack of the summer. Daiker's is one of those Adirondack businesses that has survived and thrived.  The music and joyful shouts continue to echo across the lake every summer, like clockwork.  I am in Manhattan now and there is a very different soundtrack, but it too becomes secondary and fades into the background, like the faint and reassuring music from Daiker's.  We hear horns and the shouts of kids leaving class at the high school across the street; sounds of drunk guys coming back from the bar with their friends at 3 am; the sirens punctuating everything else with their jarring staccato bursts.  

Public Art: The Gates, Central Park

A Perfect Day on Fourth Lake

Through the Woods and Back in Time, Part One

More than four years ago, we embarked on the project of building a home in the woods, a place that could be used year-round, be an extension of the old camp in the summer to accommodate friends and family, and to be our home away from the city.  Since the day we received the certificate of occupancy in 2004, when we mistakenly thought we were "done", we have been on a quest to reach the real finish line with the place. Looking back, we have found many mistakes we made and things we overlooked in our planning for the house. Some of them we have fixed, others still cause grief. So for those of you with the will and the faith to build a new house, in the Adirondacks or elsewhere, here is the first post with a few of the mistakes we made.  We hope you avoid them in your project.  (1) Radiant Floor Heat.  First, we regret not installing a radiant floor heating system.  We knew that we wanted to do it from the start, but because of the extremely cold temperatures in Old Forge and the major changes in temperature that can come up quickly, we were advised to install a forced air system only.  In retrospect, we think the radiant heat would have been sufficient alone but even if we needed a supplementary forced air system, it would have been worth it to install radiant heat.  There is just a quality to it that cannot be replicated with forced air or other heating options.  It is also silent and clean.  (2) Anticipate a Battle with Nature.  The single greatest thing we underestimated was the power of nature to impact the house.  We insulated with spray foam insulation.  We used high quality materials.  We reinforced the roof and structure to withstand enormous snow loads. Still, we failed to anticipate the enormous stress water, wind, snow, cold and heat would have on the house.  One thing we had to do was install gutters to deal with water flow off of the roof. The amount of water was more than we anticipated and you just never know how it will react with the house until it is standing there.  Without gutters, you also get drip lines in all of your planting beds.  We had to install freeze detectors on every floor and in each section of the house to detect cold temperatures to avoid bursting pipes in the event power fails.  We had pipes burst, we had flooding, power failed and so did the backup generator, and we learned that we needed multiple layers of protection against these risks.  We replaced the generator with a more reliable model. In the Adirondacks, in winter, a backup generator is essential.  The worst of the problems relate to the screened in porch.  It takes a whipping from the water and wind blowing off of the lake and has leaked into the basement below.  If you have living space beneath an exterior porch, you must be certain that it is weatherproofed and waterproofed, and then check it yourself before flooring is installed.

The Adirondack Boys Love: Ladette to Lady

Camp Eagle Cove Memory

Moses Cohen, 84-Year-Old Pioneer Merchant in Old Forge Looks Back

Adirondack Empire is Founded by Poor Immigrant

Horse, cutter and small hardware stock establish Cohen in 15-building town; Now it takes time to count his holdings

"Yes, a half century brings a lot of changes" mused Moses Cohen, 84, gazing out of the wide front window of the Old Forge Hardware Store at the snow swirling through the brightly lit streets of that thriving Adirondack community.

Looking in any direction he could see buildings and business enterprises which he and his family or business associates own.  The modern super-market, the ultra-modern Old Forge Motel units dominating the tip of First Lake, restaurants, a liquor store and other business buildings.

Cohen was talking about the physical changes that had taken place in the village since he arrived in Old Forge in 1900.  But he must have been thinking, too, of the change in status of the man who came to Old Forge on that March day in just such a snowstorm as this one.

His worldly possessions then consisted of a horse and cutter, which he had bought in Utica and a meager shipment of hardware supplies scheduled to come in to Old Forge by rail.  The horse and cutter, which he would need in the business he planned to set up in Old Forge, could be brought to that isolated community only by way of Boonville, then along the Moose River bank and finally through the dense woods on an old logging road.

There was one other asset Cohen brought with him, the hard-earned knowledge of the buying habits of people who live scattered miles apart in isolated sections of the Adirondacks.  Eleven years experience as a peddler and store owner in the Bloomingdale and Saranac Lake region had taught many lessons to the immigrant who had come to this country as a 15-year old youth from Lithuania in 1899.

One bit of knowledge on which Cohen was staking his future was the certainty that dwellers in these regions would travel scores of miles to buy the hardware supplies that were essential to their way of living.

Old Forge then consisted of some 15 buildings on Main Street, and a few outlying dwellings, hotels and camps.

"You'll never make a living there," friends told him. "There aren't enough people up there in the woods to bring you the trade you need."

His father-in-law in Utica had made inquiries about the area and he echoed the opinions of the others.

Cohen was thinking of these things as he drove his cutter through the woods.  The trail was only slightly defined and he would have lost it more than once in the blinding snowstorm if it wasn't for a logging wagon proceeding ahead of him.

The next day, seeking a location for his store, he could find only one.  That was a store near the center of the village, empty except for one corner in which a Mr. Abbott, the owner, conducted the village post office.  

Abbot refused to rent the remaining part of the store.  Cohen even offered to build a separate building in which the post office could be maintained, but Abbott remained firm in his refusal.

Finally, Cohen found a friend.  At the Old Forge Hotel, then located at the lake's edge and since demolished by fire, the proprietor offered to let him an abandoned room in the rear of the building for his store.  The out-of-the-way location was not the best, but it was the only one available.  Cohen accepted the offer.

As he prepared to put the space into shape for use as a store, he was approached by a resident of the hote., William Tracy, who asked for a job.  Tracy said he could keep books and that he knew most of the residents of the area.  Cohen hired him on the spot and Tracy remained in his employ until he died many years later.

Shelves, counters and benches were built in the rear room of the hotel.  Then, with some misgivings, Cohen opened the place for business.

"Customers really swarmed in on me," he recalls. "I never saw anything like it, the first day. Camp and hotel owners were beginning to get their places in shape for summer, and they didn't want to waste the two days it would take them to go into Utica for supplies."

Six weeks later, Abbott came into the store and offered to rent his store to Cohen.

"Why didn't you rent it to me in the first place?" asked Cohen.

Abbott was honest.  "Nobody here thought you would be in business more than a few months," he said.  "But now I can see that we need you and your business around here more than you need us."

So Cohen moved into the better-located Abbott store.

But he dreamed of a building of his own.  Within a year he had begun to dicker with the Old Forge Company, holders of most of the land on which the village stood, for a parcel of land at the corner of what are now [unreadable] and Hotel Sts.

The company sold him a 150 by 75-foot lot for $500, after Cohen had promised to erect a structure costing $20,000 on the site.  A few months later, when one of the directors saw the three-story block Cohen was having erected, he told the hardware merchant he was "crazy" to erect such a building in the woods.

"If you had money for such a building why didn't you erect it in the city?" he asked.

But Cohen knew what he was doing.  The building, in which he set up separate hardware and furniture stores, became a supply center for a wide area of the Central Adirondacks.  Four apartments in the upper stories provided him with further income.

That building burned to the ground in a disastrous fire in the early morning of May 10, 1922, a fire which nearly wiped out the entire village.  Cohen rebuilt, and the new structure still continues as the location of the business which is now conducted by his son, Richard.

Business rivalry increased as others saw the opportunities which they had not recognized until Cohen had pioneered the way.  He managed to forge ahead and to outlast the competition that arose from time to time.

Today his business interests are so wide in scope that they embrace all facets of life in the village.

How many buildings does he own in whole or in part?

"To be honest, I couldn't tell you without sitting down and taking the time to count them up," he said.

In addition to the buildings mentioned earlier, his family has a major interest in the Enchanted Forest, the spectacular tourist attraction opened near Old Forge last year; the building in which the Post Office is located; and camp property along the lake shore.

One of the most recent acquisitions by his son was that of Pine Acres, the former Horace De Camp estate on Second Lake which was once the summer home of President Harrison.  Cohen used to deliver hardware and supplies to the president's estate.

When Cohen first came to this area from Bloomingdale he was married to a Utica girl, Harriet Galinsky, who died in 1903.  His present wife is the former Jane Myers of Utica.

Mrs. Bush's Carrot Ginger Soup

Friends and Family Christmas Dinner: Wild Mushroom Soup

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The White House at Christmas: Final Barney Cam

The Centennial of the Adirondack Park

The Adirondack Boys Love: Heath Ceramics

We were recently looking for a new set of flatware for New York and we found an amazing shop, very well curated, called Heath Ceramics. Heath, it turns out, is a venerable old company with a history of producing wonderful earthenware and pottery, including tableware, mugs, bowls and other handmade products.  They also select very high quality and unusual products that are sold on their website and in the Heath Ceramics shop and factory in Sausalito, California.  They carry beautiful glass by Holmegaard and David Mellor flatware, among other finds.  The collection is selected carefully and includes only items of high quality, beauty and craftsmanship.

Extraordinarily Good Children's Books: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.  Winner of the Caldecott Award.

Tiffany and Bill Base Ball Park, Inlet, New York

Would you believe that I played little league baseball on the Inlet Mets summer team?  I didn't think so, but it's true, I swear!  I got the worst uniform and had to stand in the outfield in the hot sun.  There were no grand stands, as in this view of an Inlet base ball park, when I was a little baseball star, and I have no clue who "Tiffany and Bill" are, but it's a nice shot, isn't it?

"Felling Timbers" in the Adirondacks

Here is an image of two Adirondack loggers with their saw and axe.  It seems that we have had more than our usual share of dead and diseased trees lately.  We lose several every year to storms, wind, ice and disease, but lately it has been more than that.  I think we had at least ten trees removed this past summer and there were a dozen more that were flagged as potentially dangerous in the event of high winds or storms.

Vintage Posters: Blue Mountain Lake Water Carnival!

Revolving Door: Adirondack Businesses For Sale

 As we have written in previous posts, running a profitable business in a seasonal economy such as the Adirondack region, is very difficult. What's the right formula to achieve enduring success? Closing during mud season? Catering to locals and to summer or winter seasonal residents? Doing something unique? The answer seems elusive. Here is a sampling of some of the local Adirondack businesses for sale in the Old Forge area today:

Winter Comes to Nina's Point

Camp Uncas, a Designated National Historic Landmark

Camp Uncas remains one of the preeminent and best preserved cultural resources chronicling the nationally-significant development of Adirondack camp architecture. William West Durant, a real-estate investor and proponent of the region, devised the camps to promote the area as a premier resort for affluent Americans. Over a fifteen-year period leading up to the design and construction of Camp Uncas, Durant experimented with combining rustic architectural expression and urban comforts. Through trial and error at Camp Pine Knot, he launched a new American property type that decentralized the components of an Anglo-American country seat, a physical outcome purposefully designed to be subordinate to the natural landscape. Built over a course of two years, Camp Uncas was Durant's first effort in applying the architectural principles that evolved at Pine Knot into a unified and comprehensive development. Camp Uncas is situated on a peninsula on a private lake and buffered from neighboring properties by its own forest preserve. Durant’s camp compound plan is expressed through the deliberate, yet informal siting of the buildings, which display a rustic aesthetic in part a reflection of the regional building vernacular and in part influenced by the alpine structures of Europe. Camp Uncas and its period neighbors are notable not only as evidence of Durant's success in transforming the Adirondacks into a destination for leisure, but also for their rustic architecture and camp organization, both of which gave shape to organizational camp design and state and national park architecture in the twentieth century. A milestone in Durant’s career and camp development, Camp Uncas retains an unusually high degree of physical integrity—including character-defining features related to siting, materials, and workmanship—making it one of finest examples of its type in the country. Source: U.S. National Historic Landmarks Program

He is Coming!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Boys are Back in Town

I just read a nice post on Adirondack Base Camp about the return of this blog, and I appreciate the support very much.  Why are we back? What happened in the intervening two years or so? Well, the short answer is: I recently left my job and have been at home, in a little Manhattan apartment, with some time of my hands.  And it's been cold outside, and I've been thinking a lot about the Adirondacks -- so here we are, or more to the point, here I am. Anthony is pretty much engrossed in his work, so right now it's more like AdirondackBoy for the moment.  I have two years worth of blogging to catch up on and I look forward to sharing it with you.  Thanks for reading. 

The Lost Guideboat

There are few things as essentially and uniquely Adirondack as the guideboat.  I have thought about purchasing one for many years, but keep thinking that once I have it, I will never actually take it out. Since we built the house, I have spent most of my time focusing on the house and landscape, rather than the water and water activities.  I used to waterski and swim almost every day and over the past ten years have stopped doing both.  It's strange because I used to love going in the lake; now, it seems somehow unappealing.  Anyway, back to the guideboat. Penwood had an antique guideboat that sat unused in the old garage, maybe it came with the camp when it was first bought by our family.  Years later, it was donated to the Adirondack Museum.  I guess it would have been expensive to restore and the Museum would accept it for its large collection of guideboats. But the thing that troubles me is that it is another lost piece of camp -- something gone and never to be recovered, like the original boathouse that burned down when guests started a fire in a broken fireplace; the pump house, torn down when it began to rot; and the hemlock bark shingles that covered the exterior of the camp, removed when they became infested with bugs.  Would a new guideboat be the same as that old one that was somehow a part of the camp itself? If I did buy a new guideboat, there is a guideboat builder I would use that looks pretty good: Adirondack Guide Boat.  The boats look beautiful and purely Adirondack.

Support Great Camp Sagamore

Great Camp Sagamore is one of the real treasures of the Adirondack park. Once the home of William West Durant and later, the Vanderbilts, it is operated now by a nonprofit group that maintains and restores it.  Please support Sagamore and help ensure that it will endure for future generations to enjoy.  Visit the Sagamore website to become a member and find out how to get involved. 

Easingwold No More

When my mother was a child spending summers on Fourth Lake, there was only one neighbor close to Penwood: the Knights of Easingwold.  There was a footpath between Penwood and Easingwold over the woods now occupied by three newer camps.  The Gordon and Knight children hiked back and forth over the path to play.  Easingwold, the Knight camp, was a classic Adironack camp, designed to be used only in the summers, with a large porch and a rambling wing of bedrooms and stairways.  Betty Knight and her husband were fond of drinking with friends on the lake, including my grandparents.  As a child, I remember Betty Knight sitting on the porch of Easingwold chain smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails.  Her granddaughter Shelby and I were sometimes friends.  It must have been in the 1970's that I remember Betty Knight and Shelby, because Shelby once told me she had met Elton John, who was at that time as big as Michael Jackson was in the next decade.  We would swim back and forth between the Penwood and Easingwold docks.  There was nothing but water in between them.  Later, after Betty Knight died, her son Dick and his wife Jane moved back to Easingwold and winterized the house. They were, as I recall, sensitive to the historic character of the house; it must have been hard and expensive to winterize that place.  But it was lovely - I think it was even older than Penwood but had similar characteristics - lots of woodwork, beadboard, wood siding. Not as many large beams as Penwood has, but intricate and detailed woodwork nonetheless.  I liked the fact that there was just Easingwold on one side of Penwood, but acres away, on one side, and Twin Coves, also acres away, on the other side.  The two bays sat like sentries guarding the place which juts out into Fourth Lake on its peninsula.Eventually, Dick and Jane sold Easingwold and moved to a new "Easingwold" in the lot next door.  They also sold two adjacent lots, one of which borders Penwood. The "new" Easingwold, built in 1989, is for sale now for $1.875 million. The original Easingwold died when it was remodeled by the new owners, the Johnstons.  They replaced the wood with vinyl siding and built a huge addition with a wall of windows, effectively subsuming the Adirondack camp into a pseudo-suburban mcmansion.  

The Adirondack Garden: Chinese Privet

Fragment by Tash Taskale

Is the APA Corrupt or Just Inept?

A psychological study of the pathology of the Adirondack Park Agency needs to be written.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that the APA is inefficient at best and corrupt and completely ineffective at worst. Why is it that the agency paid for by New York taxpayers continues to confound, upset, enrage and confuse citizens with interests in the Adirondack Park and the New York State citizens and taxpayers who foot the bill for the agency's operations?  I think the APA and all of the stakeholders - property owners, businesses, the citizens and taxpayers, others -- could work together in a remarkable partnership to really effectively protect and improve the Park.  What great things could be accomplished if there was more goodwill and cooperation and common purpose between the APA and the people of the Park and of this State. Every time I hear a story involving the APA, it has a bad ending.

The Hemmer Cabins, Park Avenue, Old Forge

Decorative Arts: Mignot Toy Soldiers

There is a special French company called Mignot that hand-manufactures lead toy soldiers.  It has been in business since the era of Napoleon and is still creating exceptional, tiny pieces of art.  I began collecting Mignot soliders last year and have a shelf devoted to them by the fireplace.  The amount of work, patience and detail in each piece is amazing.  This photograph was taken by a friend on a visit to Paris, where you can find entire shops devoted to these pieces, with thousands on display.  They are regularly available on ebay and a few online sellers specializing in toy soldiers.

The Five Bedrooms

Bedrooms in Adirondack camps often have nicknames reflecting their history.  Ours have evolved over time. The five bedrooms at Penwood are knows as (1) the Eisenhower Room, my brother's bedroom that was once the nursery for me, was previously separated into two smaller bedrooms to accommodate a housekeeper; the room is very 50's with mod wicker chairs and 50's lamps. (2) the Boys Camp, my old bedroom and before that, my Uncle Chuck's bedroom, shown here, is decked out with vintage camp signs, maps, fishing creels and snowshoes, as well as a sign with the single word "MAIL" in bold black paint to remind us to get the mail from the mail boat each morning.  (3) Nina's Room, which was the original master bedroom and is the largest of the five.  It was the room in which my grandmother and grandfather stayed when they owned Penwood.  It is connected to the Boys Camp room by a door hidden in the closet, installed by the Kennedys - we think to allow for the Boys Camp room to be used as a nursery with easy access to the parental bedroom next door.  (4) Florence's Room, which was my mother's childhood bedroom. Some people say that this room is haunted with a female presence who visits from time to time, perhaps my grandmother or the original owner of the house, Helen Seymour Sylvester. We know that at least two people died on the property - Helen and one of her relatives named Wiley.  (5) the Master Bedroom, where my parents sleep now.  I don't think we've come up with a more suitable shorthand name for that room yet.

Vintage Prevent Forest Fires Poster

A Ride in the Chris-Craft

Each year, we take a ritual last ride around the lake in the 1953 Chris-Craft that my great-grandfather bought when my grandfather purchased Kenwood from James Kennedy.  The Chris-Craft, like any antique boat or car, has its own temperamental personality.  Jiggle the throttle this way and it starts, that way and it stalls.  Anyway, this year we left on our final voyage of the season heading toward Inlet and the boat began to make troubling noises and then just died in the middle of the lake.  We paddled to shore, docked the boat at an empty camp, and walked back to Penwood.  We returned in the other boat to tow it back to the boathouse and disccovered that we were out of gas.  The boat has no gas gauge other than an old yard stick that has to be dipped into the fuel tank, so sometimes we forget what's in the tank.  Anyway, it was a memorable end-of-season voyage.  The Chris-Craft is sleeping soundly now through the winter.

The Beauty of the Bunk House

A few years ago, our friends who have a camp on Fourth Lake saw the writing on the wall: their kids were having kids and the original camp didn't have enough space to support the growing family if they, or some of them, visited at the same time.  Their solution? Build a new, simple and functional bunk house up the drive from the main camp to house overflow guests and family.  The bunk house is small but very functional - it has three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, as well as a living room with a small kitchen and sofas that could sleep one or two more in a pinch.  The guests can sleep, shower and get some privacy in the bunk house and take advantage of the comforts of the main camp the rest of the time.  In the end, guests to our camp always want to be outside when the weather allows -- swimming, boating, hiking and just enjoying the lake and the beauty of the Adirondack wilderness.  And the bunk house is there when they are weary and ready for a hot shower and a restful sleep.  It is a simple solution to a problem that faces the family camp and allows everyone to be together without rolling out the sleeping bags.