Free Community Day at Great Camp Sagamore

Enjoy a free community day at Great Camp Sagamore. (Photo provided — Diane Chase)

Sometimes describing the significance of the Adirondack Great Camps to visiting friends isn’t enough. Sometimes we just need to go to the birthplace of the rustic architectural movement by visiting the area where it all began.

Though Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake isn’t the first camp designed by architect W.W. Durant, it is his last. His “Great Camp” style of using native materials such as log structures, local stone, bark trim, and twig/branch work created an affinity with nature for his guests. Durant used a board and batten building style to separate the workers’ quarters from his guests’ elaborate buildings. The guests would never have entered through the gate to view where the servants were housed.

Though rustic in style, Camp Sagamore never lacked any amenity for its guests. Guests invited to Sagamore may have been in what they viewed as a rustic creation, but they never lacked in any type of service. The surrounding natural preserve and lakes were stocked for hunting and fishing. A wilderness picnic would be a seven-course meal with formal wear required. The buildings were fully staffed and a variety of entertainments were available such as ping-pong, billiards and even a two-lane (still in use) bowling alley.

Durant was forced to sell Sagamore to the Vanderbilts in 1901, and by 1914 Alfred Vanderbilt had added flush toilets, a sewer system, hot and cold running water and electricity. The property was self-sufficient with a blacksmith, animal stock and gardens.

Beyond the servants’ gate are the various examples of Adirondack architecture. There are only 27 of the original 60 buildings left and each building serviced one particular purpose. The Wigwam Cottage, wrapped in white cedar bark, is where the gentlemen took their cigars and cocktails to discuss the politics of the day. The Main Lodge, the gem of the property, is a blending of rough-hewn log cabin and Swiss chalet, with locally hand-wrought iron details. Other buildings include the dining building, boathouse, and a playroom house.

Great Camp Sagamore is on the National Historic Registry and open to the public. To kick off the 2017 season, Great Camp Sagamore is celebrating a free Community Day on June 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guided tours are also available on Saturdays and Sundays through June 11. Summer guided tours are available daily from June 17 through Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. After Labor Day the tours are only held at 1:30 pm through Columbus Day. Please call 315-354-5311 or for more information. From state Route 28 in Raquette Lake, turn onto Sagamore Road and follow the signs for the Sagamore public tours. Park as directed and proceed to the red board and batten style buildings.

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more

family-friendly activities go to www.AdirondackFamily