Bircholm main camp
Upstate Real Estate
The southern section of Upper Saranac Lake, 1913Location: Deer Island, Upper Saranac Lake

Other names: Rest-A-While, Bircholm

Year built: before 1909

Camp Restawhile, or Bircholm is located on Deer Island.  Ellsworth Petty served as the camp caretaker from before 1917 until his death at age 96, while rowing back down the lake to his home.

From A History Of Sekon And Its Surroundings by Warren F. Longacker, c. 1994, p. 10

Originally part of Col. Norton’s timber empire, [Deer Island] was later acquired by the Santa Clara lumber company run by the Meigs family. The Meigs owned a large camp on Big Wolf Lake and did not settle on Deer Island. The Ferrises, related to the Meigs, owned half of Deer Island, a part of which is now owned by Dr. Craig Potter and his wife. Alfred White bought the other half of the island from Meigs and built a camp named “Rest-Awhile.” These last names are shown on the 1912 map...

After Mr. White’s death the Lyons bought “Rest-A-While”, and in 1917 with their three daughters – Elizabeth, Carolyn (May) and Linda (June) they took over the island home which Mrs. Lyon named “Bircholm.” Later she bought an open-cabin Richardson cruiser – the familiar To-N-Fro. It was 50 years old in 1979. Six generations of the Lyon family have enjoyed Deer Island.

The Centennial edition of the Upper Saranac Lake YearLook, 1901-2001


(Deer Island)

by Carol Robinson, August 2000

To the best of our knowledge, our camp was begun in 1887 as the summer home of Mr. And Mrs. Alfred White and was called "Rest-a-while."

It consisted of six buildings: the main house connected by a covered runway to the dining room and kitchen, a lodge, a guide house, a one-room cabin and a•small canoe house. By the summer of 1916 when Mr. and Mrs. Lyon of Rochester, NY visited the place, a second floor had been added to the main house and a large boathouse with a poolroom on the second floor had been built in 1913. Mr. Lyon loved the view from the boathouse of little Mink Island with the mountains of the Seward range behind it and he told the Whites if they ever wished to sell the place, he might be interested. Six months later Mr. White died and his wife sold the camp, complete with furnishings, to the Lyons and the summer of 1917 they took possession of it. There were Mr. and Mrs. Lyon, their three daughters, Mrs. Lyon's father, servants and a gardener who came to camp. They were met by the White's caretaker, Ellsworth Petty, who continued being the caretaker until he died in 1956 while rowing his guideboat home from work on the island. He was 96 years old and had been caretaker for over 50 years! That first summer the Lyons changed the name of the camp to "Bircholm"— home of the birches.

Mr. Lyon only enjoyed this retreat for three years before his death, but his widow, my grandmother, continued enjoying summers there along with her father, children and grandchildren. During those years, she added a sitting room off the kitchen for the servants, built a larger cabin to replace the one-room cabin that burned down and acquired a 1929 Richardson cruiser, the "To-n-Fro" and built a boathouse to accommodate it. This boat, which is still in operation today, was used as the Chapel Island boat for years.

After my grandmother's death, her twin daughters, May Remington and June Van Voorhis, took over alternating summers. I, as one of May Remington's three daughters, remember many happy summers spent growing up on the island-picnics on Wind Island, Deer Island follies, playtime down at the Three Bear's House (a cow shed turned into an art studio and finally a play house situated at the end of the island), and summer romances with boys who were waiters at the Wawbeek. During WWII, we'd take the train from Rochester to Saranac Inn and take the mailboat to the island. We didn't have a car at the lake during the war. We got our groceries by calling into the grocery store at the Inn and then getting them delivered by the mailboat. Guests arrived either on the mailboat, or we would sail down to the Inn to meet them-sometimes getting becalmed in the Narrows for hours. Well do I recall VJ Day in Aug. of 1945 when we gassed up the "To-n-Fro" and drove around the lake banging pots and pans, blowing horns and celebrating with great joy the end of the war.

With the advent of the '50s, May and June's children married and began families of their own and "Bircholm" was the ideal place for the cousins to get to know each other. By the 80s, the twins were ready to hand over the care of the island and two of the Remington girls, Carol Robinson and Linda Dietel and the Van Voorhis girls Emily Harris and Allis D'Amamda took over. These four cousins became known as the A-Team and have managed "Bircholm" until recently when it became incorporated and a board of directors was appointed from the next generation. Were my grandparents to come back, I believe they would be pleased at what they would find. At present, grandchildren of the A-Team represent the 6th generation of the family enjoying the island. There have been improvements such as modernizing the kitchen, adding sleeping quarters to the Lodge, etc., but the camp remains unspoiled. Children learn to use their imaginations (no TV) and experience the joys of a simpler life. We hope this will continue for many years and many generations to come!

New York Times, September 21, 1909

Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. White have left their Camp Restawhile on Upper Saranac Lake and returned to Dunedin, Dobbs Ferry.

New York Times, September 26, 1913

Mr. and Mrs. Alfred L. White have closed Camp Restawhile, on Upper Saranac Lake, and have returned to Tarrytown, N. Y.


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