Camping has been a major part of the Adirondacks since before Europeans came to the area, and one form of "camping" involves the creation of a permanent camp. Camps have ranged from open-faced lean-tos to elaborate and luxurious (though always "rustic") compounds recently labeled "Great Camps".

Great camps were grandiose family compounds of cabins that were built in the latter half of the nineteenth century on lakes in the Adirondacks. The camps were summer homes for the wealthy, where they could relax, host or attend parties, and enjoy the wilderness. In time, however, this was accomplished without leaving the comforts of civilization behind; some great camps even contained a bowling alley or movie theatre.

The style of the Great Camps was influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement and the related American Craftsman style as well as by Swiss chalet design. William West Durant, an early developer of the camps, was familiar with all three styles and adapted them to local materials and the skills of craftsmen.

Camp Cobblestone A boat house at Camp Topridge Birch Island boat landing 1886. Stokes Records, vol I, after p. 230; also in Camp Chronicles, p. 38. The boathouse at Knollwood Club. The front of one of the cottages can be seen on the extreme left. A covered walkway at Prospect Point Examples of various historic camps include:

On Lake Kiwassa

On Oseetah Lake

On Lower Saranac Lake:

At Santa Clara:

On Upper St. Regis Lake:

On Upper Saranac Lake:

On Spitfire Lake:

On Osgood Pond:

Forestmere Lakes: Chain Lake, Clear Lake and Spring Lake

Plattsburgh Press, May 29, 1906

Many of the yearly visitors to the Adirondacks are already at the Riverside inn, where they will remain for a few weeks before re-opening their camps on the different lakes in the neighborhood. It is prophesied by the hotel, men that this will be a record season for summer business. All the large houses in the village and on the outskirts have been thoroughly renovated during the past month.

Malone Farmer, June 17, 1903


Some New Ones—Some Greatly Improved.

A Paul Smith's dispatch of recent date says:

"There has been much building by the owners of private camps along the lakes of the St. Regis Chain this spring, and a lively interest is manifest in the rental of furnished camps and cottages and in the securing of accommodations at Paul Smith's Hotel.

"George H. Earle, of Philadelphia, who bought the camp of Mrs. E. C. Brooks, of New York, on Spitfire Lake last year, has recently completed many improvements. All of the new buildings are or stone. The main structure is octagonal, while the sleeping apartments are in a long building, the walls being of stone two feet thick.

"In the H. McK. Twombly camp on the Upper St. Regis Lake, purchased by F. W. Vanderbilt a year ago, have been erected three Japanese buildings for sleeping apartments. The work is being done by Japanese carpenters, and will be finished for the coming of the Vanderbilts in July.

"Extensive improvements are being made to the camp of Mr. and Mrs. C. H. McCormick, on Upper St. Regis Lake, for the accommodation of Mrs. McCormick's father, John D. Rockefeller, who will spend the summer there.

The Pearl Island camp of Anson Phelps Stokes has been leased for the summer by Walter Ferguson, of New York. At Birch Island Mr. Stokes is having two new boathouses constructed.

"Dr. Walter B. James, of New York, who purchased the Schlessinger camp on Upper St. Regis Lake two years ago, has added several new buildings. An interesting feature is the use of old fence boards in the interior and in doors and other places quickly noticed by the eye, with the object of giving the camp a weathered and rustic appearance. Another feature of the James camp is the winter building, the exterior of which is of two by six inch beams ship-lapped.

"A new camp has been built in South Bay, Upper Saranac Lake, for Thomas Sturgis of New York, the fire commissioner. Mr. Sturgis has been stopping at the Inn for some time this spring.

"Among the several new buildings in construction along Upper Saranac Lake is a camp for Levi P. Morton on his Eagle Island property. Last fall Mr. Morton sold his camp, Pine Brook, near the Wawbeek, to Mitchell A. Cass Levy, of New York, and Mr. Levy has leased it to Mr. and Mrs. Percy R. Pyne. There are seven buildings in the new Morton camp, which consists of a family lodge, dining room, Mrs. Morton's lodge, guests' cabin, laundry, guide house, &c. Shingles are used on all the exteriors. A feature of the interior of the dining room, which is finished in peeled spruce, is what is called an umbrella in the ceiling. Timbers center here from each of the eight angles of the room, the center post being fourteen inches in diameter and supported by trusses in the roof.

"Dan R. Hanna, son of Mark Hanna, has a new cottage on Ampersand Bay, near the Algonquin, and on the same shore a new cottage has been built for Otis L. Williams, of New York."


Plattsburgh Republican, March 28, 1903

New Adirondack Camps

A number of elaborate camps are being built in the Adirondacks, and extensive improvements and additions are being made to others. Mrs. Thomas Carnegie, sister-in-law of Andrew Carnegie, is erecting a large camp on Raquette Lake. It is of Swiss architecture, and will cost about $35,000.

Camps are also being built for Hon. Levi P. Morton on Eagle Island, in the Upper Saranac Lake, by Trombley & Corried [sic: Carrier] of Saranac Lake, to cost about $25,000.

R. D. Douglass of New York is having a new camp, boat house, power house and steamer dock built on the Upper Saranac. The boat house will probably be the finest on the lake, the lower part containing launch slips and boat racks, with the second story a billiard room.

Adolph Lewisohn of New York is also building a large camp, with boat house, guide house, etc., on Prospect Point, Upper Saranac, to cost nearly $75,000.

A large cottage is being added to the Kahn camp, on the Upper Saranac. S. B. Ferris is also adding a cottage to his camp on this lake.

These, with the extensive improvements being made by the Upper Saranac Lake Association to the Saranac Inn property will make the upper lake one of the most popular in the mountains.

A large cottage is being built for Daniel Hanna, son of Senator Hanna, on Lower Saranac Lake,

An expensive cottage is to be erected on Reservoir Hill, Saranac Lake village, for Baroness Halcott.

George H. Daniels, General Passenger Agent of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, is erecting a beautiful cottage at Lake Placid.