Other names: Sekon Lodge
Year built: 1890s, rebuilt in 1905 after a fire
Owner, when built: Isaac Seligman
Built as a family great camp, in 1953, the camp, along with the adjacent Camp Calumet, was operated as the resort Sekon Lodge by New York hotelier M. Vladek Willy, who had previously operated Prospect Point under the name Sekon in the Pines.
External link: Sekon Association
From A History Of Sekon And Its Surroundings by Warren F. Longacker, c. 1994, pp. 10 - 14 “Ike” Seligman’s Fish Rock Camp was designed along the compound-grouping plan by William Coulter and built in the same period as Lewishon’s Prospect Point camp. It consisted of over twenty major structures, including six lodges, two boathouses, smaller cabins, staff quarters and support buildings.
A particularly striking feature used throughout SEKON is a roof called a “jerkenhead.” The form, originating in South Germany, is seen on all the larger buildings and is a gable or projection over a bay window, or as a dormer roof. Diamond-paned windows and the wood shingled wooden walkways connecting some of the buildings are reminders of the rustic ambiance of the camp. The expanse of sloping lawn sweeping down to the lake in front of Powell’s, Menke’s and Cavanagh’s gives Sekon a magnificent site, unlike almost any other camp on the lake. The copious use of cedar shingles and wainscoting would today cost a fortune to replace.
Some may remember that a section from Danker’s “Honeymoon” camp down (to the north) was called CALUMET. It was still called this at the time of the auction.
There is no mention of the name neither in the Abstract of Title nor on Sylvester’s survey maps. Map No. 2 does show George Seligman, 1905, and Edith Beer in 1938. The 1912 map of the lake does show CALUMET: Mrs. T. Hellman. She was Isaac’s sister Frances who married Theodore Hellman. Apparently she was in with her brother George when that piece was deeded to him.
A Janice Hellman died and her cremated ashes were interred in a niche in a rock near the small brook on Burn’s back lot. The urn was removed years ago, but the name Janice Hellman is still chiseled in the rock below the hole. The word “Calumet” means the ceremonial long-stemmed pipe of the Indians — their peace pipe.
The story of Calumet and Janice Hellman has interested me ever since we’ve lived here, and I was determined to get the story for inclusion in this history, never dreaming what a project it would become. Auntie Grace Grabenstein, who owned the camp next to mine and worked at Sekon when Willy ran it as a hotel, first told me about Janice Hellman’s burial but I never got the whole story from her.
It required considerable effort, many letters back and forth, and several phone calls for about two months, but it was very gratifying to receive nice replies to all the letters I wrote, which proves again the great appeal of the Adirondacks, plus the fact it brought back pleasant memories to all who answered.
Louis J. Simmons, who owned and edited the Tupper Lake Free Press for many years and has been town of Altamont historian for over 50 years, wrote that he remembers Fish Rock Camp well. He worked there in 1927 and said the Seligmans were nice people to work for and “class” people. He could offer nothing on the story I wanted but since Sekon was in the town of Harrietstown, he referred me to Edna C. Finn, the historian of that town.
Edna was interested in my project immediately and was very helpful. Although she, too, didn’t know anything about Calumet or Janice Hellman, she checked deeds in Malone, tracked down Harry Purchase who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and wrote to the Jewish Genealogical Society in New York City.
I then wrote to the author of “Our Crowd,” Stephen Birmingham, who wrote me a nice letter, short and to the point. He cleared up one point: the Hellmans related to the Seligmans were no kin to the mayonnaise or baking powder people who also owned Calumet Farms, a famous stable of thoroughbred race horses in Lexington, Kentucky, as I first thought. This was a California family who spelled their name with two n’s. He wrote that Geoffrey T. Hellman was a friend of his who helped him with “Our Crowd” and who had an article published in a 1954 issue of “The New Yorker” called “Sorting out the Seligmans.” And most important he gave me the name and address of Miss Rhoda Hellman in New York City.
Miss Rhoda sent me a lovely, hand-written letter in which she said that she is eighty-five years of age and the granddaughter of Frances Hellman, and not her daughter as Birmingham thought. She remembers the place well and seemed a little resentful that I called Calumet a small section of Fish Rock Camp. “Calumet and Fish Rock Camp were two independent properties,” she wrote. The former (Calumet) was owned by her grandmother and the latter (Fish Rock) by her great uncle, Ike Seligman. I wonder if they were on good terms with one another since there was some friction among these families.
She described the property quite well saying there were two main camps at Calumet: one owned by her father, George S. Hellman and her aunt, Mrs. George L. Beer (Edith Hellman). The other was owned by her Uncle Edgar Hellman’s family and her grandmother. I presume these would be the present Marshall and Kraus camps. Her description seems to indicate that this whole section form “Honeymoon” camp down to the end was Calumet. She said she heard the place was in “great disrepair” and she wondered if it still existed. She should see it now! She said there was also a tennis court there but I can’t imagine where. She gave me a little information about Janice Hellman, but referred me to Mrs. Fred Stein in Harrison, New York, Janice Hellman’s sister.
Mrs. Stein (Margaret Hellman) phoned me from Naples, Florida, where she was vacationing and added a little to Miss Rhoda’s letter. She is eighty-seven and Rhoda’s first cousin. Janice was her older sister who died in 1936 of cancer in Scarsdale, New York. They all loved Saranac Lake so much that she wanted to be buried there. Mrs. Stein thinks Fish Rock Camp was built in 1902 since the Seligmans stayed there in 1903. She also said that Calumet was independent of Fish Rock Camp and that her family is no relation of the “rich” two-n’s Hellmanns. In the 1915 picture of the “Our Crowd” family on the stone steps of Powell’s camp, Margaret is the little girl on the far right with the ribbon in her hair. How time does fly.
Harry Purchase wrote that he knew the Hellmans well and that they had dinner at Wawbeek during their last week at camp. This would bring us up to 1953, the year Willy bought the whole place.
Geoffrey T. Hellman’s article from the 1954 issue of The New Yorker did not reach my library in time for inclusion in this. It is probably no more than a genealogy of the two families. The two Hellman ladies gave me the story I wanted.
This concludes my small history of SEKON and its surroundings, except for one added page on the Auction.
SEKON was auctioned off Saturday, July 11, 1964, by Charles Vosburgh of Cortland, New York. The Saturday before this the property was open with Charlie and his sons in attendance so that the prospective buyers could inspect the buildings, contents, and land. Brochures were handed out.
It was a beautiful Adirondack day. A large tent had been set up in front of Cavanagh’s. Cars from all over were parked all the way down Panther Mountain Road. DeSormo states there were over a thousand people here. The morning session took the chant of a tobacco auction when all the furnishings were offered. Hotel equipment, furniture, stuffed animals, kitchen and dining stuff, blankets, and paintings all went.
It was quite a show and those who were there will never forget it. As the bidding became more spirited, so did the excitement. When one became excited after bidding on a building or a lot of his own, how could he pay attention to the rest? Even I must have gotten excited, for I remember my sons scolding me: “Dad, put your hand down. You just bid against yourself.”
In the summer of 1994, thirty years will have passed since the Auction. It is sad to note that not many of the original bidders are still alive. At least twenty-two of the first owners and their spouses have passed away.
But those who are here and their families can be grateful to Ike Seligman and Charlie Vosburgh for enabling us to own an Adirondack “camp” at a great bargain, on one of the most beautiful spots in the mountains.
The information for this history was garnered from the following books:
“Our Crowd” by Stephen Birmingham
“Adirondack Country” by William Chapman White
“Heydays of the Adirondacks” by Maitland C. DeSormo
“Summers on the Saranacs” by Maitland C. DeSormo
“Great Camps of the Adirondacks” by Harvey H. Kaiser
Previous owners of Sekon – From the Abstract of Title
|Isaac N. Seligman||Aug. 31, 1892||Apr.18, 1907|
|George W. Seligman||Oct, 28, 1894||June 8, 1911|
|Guta Seligman||Feb. 12, 1907||Dec.5, 1944|
|James Loeb||July 30, 1893||Mar. 30, 1907|
|George W. Seligman, Atty.Joseph L. Seligman, Atty.Harding Johnson, Atty.||Dec. 23, 1926||Dec. 5, 1944|
|Mildred Carlotta Dellevie||Aug. 16, 1944||Aug. 16, 1948|
|Charles Fleschner||July 26, 1948||June 24, 1952|
|Franklin County||Sept. 16, 1951||Aug. 7, 1952|
|Adirondack Lodge Inc.||Apr. 30, 1950||June 3, 1953|
|W. Mladek Willy||May 25, 1953||July 1, 1964|
|Charles Vosburgh||June 29, 1964||(July11, 1964)|
New York Times, August 20, 1904
I. N. SELIGMAN'S FAMILY ESCAPE DEATH BY FIRE
Flee with Guests in Nightclothes from Burning Camp.
MRS. SELIGMAN ILL CLOSE BY
Adirondack Guides and Visitors Keep Flames from Cottage in Which She Is Lying.
Special to The New York Times.
LAKE PLACID, N. Y., Aug. 10.—Four buildings in Fish Rock Camp, on the Upper Saranac Lake, owned by Isaac N. Seligman, the New York banker, were destroyed by fire this morning that originated in the living room of the main lodge, where there had been a fire in the fireplace throughout the preceding day.
Mr. Seligman was on a visit to New York. Mrs. Seligman, who is seriously ill, occupied apartments in the Seligman cottage overlooking the camp. Joseph Seligman and Miss Margaret Seligman, son and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Seligman, and George Seligman, brother of Mr. Seligman; Mrs. Lowengard, and Richard Lowengard, members of the house party, had apartments in the main lodge.
While the flames that seemed to envelop the entire lodge had attracted the attention of some early fishermen who were hastening shoreward to give the alarm, the butler of the Seligman camp was the first of the household to realize the danger. He rang the huge fire bell of the camp and then aroused the sleepers in the main lodge.
There was not any time to dress or to gather up valuables. The guests of Mr. and Mrs. Seligman in the building and the twenty guides and servants in cottage buildings turned out in their night garments to find the morning one of the coldest ever experienced in the mountains at this time of the year, the mercury standing at 40 degrees.
The main lodge, in which the fire originated, was connected with the dining room, the kitchen, the houses of the guides, and the storerooms, it was of heavy timber, mainly of logs, the interior richly furnished, and containing an extensive library.
The flames worked rapidly, and with the exception of the silver in the dining room, not an article of consequence was saved.
Several times the flames caught in the rustic work of the veranda of the cottage where Mrs. Seligman lay. Blankets were spread over the roof and men armed with buckets kept them wet. Mrs. Seligman's critical condition was made known to the fire fighters, whose ranks had been swelled by people from the camps and hotels in the locality, and they worked with as little noise and confusion as possible in the dense fog and smoke. The flames from the main building communicated to pine and spruce trees surrounding the camp and it became necessary to chop many of the trees away, but it was not until the greatest danger was over that Mrs. Seligman learned of the destruction of the principal buildings of the camp within a hundred feet of where she had been sleeping.
As the news of the fire became known there were many volunteers among the campers and their guides to assist in stopping the flames. John G. Agar sent a corps. S. A. Swenson used his electric yacht to carry fire fighters. Adolph Lewisohn dispatched two companies. Mrs. Stanley Mortimer assisted by sending men, food, and clothing, and there was a corps from Levi P. Morton's camp.
When the fog lifted it was found that the flames had spread to the forest and the men turned their attention to checking it. At 10 o'clock the fire was under control. It had burned itself out of the main building of the camp and had been fought with stubborn resistance in the woods.
Meanwhile tents had been erected for the Seligman family and their guests.
The damage to the property is estimated at upward of $100,000. The insurance is about $20,000.
Mr. Seligman arrived to-night on a special train.
New Era illustrated Magazine,
[Upper Saranac Lake] was primitive and wild enough fourteen years ago when Isaac N. Seligman, who is one of the pioneer campers, went about the lake looking for a site for a permanent camp. A sturdy Adirondack guide pulled him along the shores in one of the long, narrow boats which are typical of the region. They came to a densely wooded point near the lower end of Upper Saranac. The brush was so thick that they had to chop out a trail that they might reach the heights and study the view. The point commanded a magnificent stretch of lake in both directions, and stately mountains lay to the east and south, among which were Ampersand, Seward and Whiteface.
Axemen were put to work and soon cleared out room for a small cabin. This was the beginning of the extensive Fish Rock Camp of to-day-a cluster of half a dozen rustic buildings near the lake. The main lodge is a two-story structure with wide verandas, and near it is the dining-house, the main room of which, finished in the bark of the silver birch, is a marvel of beauty. A fine collection of game heads and skins adds to its attractiveness. A launch-house and electric power station are part of the camp equipment, while a short walk back in the woods is a perfect tennis court on which Mr. Seligman spends much time...
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, September 2, 1921, reprinted September 5, 1946
THE SENSATIONAL BURGLARY of Fish Rock Camp, on nearby Upper Saranac Lake, was the big subject of conversation here that week. Mrs. I. N. Seligman the owner, was awakened by noise in her room and caught a masked man in the act of rifling a dresser drawer. Her screams awakened the household, but the intruder escaped through a window and took a good haul of valuable, jewelry, including a $4,500 diamond ring with him.
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, September 26, 1919
HEAVY LOSS BY FIRE AND A MAN BURNED
A serious fire occurred at Fish Rock Camp out in the upper Saranac region Friday afternoon, which resulted in the burning of a launch building and landings and injury to one man. While working at the engine in the launch, Joseph Petersen, a chauffeur attached to the camp, was severely burned about the hands and arms by a back-fire from the gasoline tank, which he endeavored to extinguish The fire got beyond his control and soon enveloped the launch and the blazing craft set fire to the building in which it was moored. Petersen made his escape, but was so badly burned that he was taken to Mercy general hospital for treatment, where he is now recovering from his fiery baptism.
The building was also consumed by the flames and the loss is estimated to be about $17,000, only partially insured,
Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, May 11, 1967 (for the full article, see Upper Saranac Lake)
Fish Rock Camp, which comprised a score of rustic log buildings, built by Isaac Seligman and a landmark on Upper Saranac since the turn of the century, has been subdivided into more than fifty parcels, with the main camp operated as Sekon Lodge.