Jean Hardy was 23 when she first came to Boulder Island. As of 2014, she will have spent the past 70 summers here. That is the proud admission of Hardy a summer resident of Upper Saranac Lake.
At the age of 93, she is once again sitting on her beloved front porch of her rustic house on the island that holds a lifetime of memories for her and her family. This summer marks the 90th anniversary of the Hardy families' ownership of Boulder Island.
The Hardy Family had purchased the island formally denoted as Corey's Island on U.S. Geological Survey maps at the south end of Upper Saranac Lake in 1924.
(Photo — Newton Greiner)
It was Art Hardy, as a young boy, who originally christened it "Boulder Island" because of the large boulder perched precariously on the rocky shoreline. "Upper Saranac Lake was a vacation getaway for Arthur Hardy Sr., who was a doctor in Mt. Vernon, and his wife May Adams Hardy," Jean said. "He generally did not practice medicine in the summer months when he was here."
Shortly after the Hardys purchased the island, an emergency arose on the other side of the lake at the Jules Bache Camp, Wenonah. Mr. Bache's grand daughter had been stricken violently ill with food poisoning and needed immediate medical attention. Mr. Bache sent their caretaker over in the middle of the night to wake Dr. Hardy, who they knew was across the lake on Boulder Island. Dr. Hardy instructed the caretaker to drive to Saranac Lake to get the proper medicine for Bache's granddaughter, who "wonderfully survived the ordeal."
Mr. Bache contacted Dr. Hardy to ask what he could do to repay that kindness and a great new friendship ensued.
Jean became part of the Hardy family through marriage to Arthur H. Hardy Jr. in October 1942. As a new bride, in the summer of 1943, she said, "I came up on the train from New York City for the first time."
She arrived at the island via steamship from Saranac Inn, along with the groceries, the mail and the laundry. "I loved this place from the moment I walked onto it," Jean said.
That was when her husband, Arthur H. Hardy Jr., was serving in World War II in the U.S. Navy as a mid shipman on a Navy destroyer.
Jean said she met Art through her cousin who lived in Pelham, and was a family friend of the Hardy family. In 1939, Art graduated from Yale University. With The country on the brink of WWII, he traveled to Chicago to attend mid shipman school. On advice of the family Art was encouraged to meet Jean who was a senior at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.
For Art, it was love at first sight and their courtship began. However, Art was soon after assigned as mid shipman to a destroyer in the North Atlantic fleet, where his ship captured a German U boat and took the entire crew prisoner. He was the lieutenant commander of the ship and was eventually promoted to full captain of the U.S.S. Clemson.
Later his ship entered the South Pacific, following re-outfitting and then they faced the Japanese kamikazes in the South Pacific.
"Due to the atomic bomb, the war ended," Jean said. "I believe none of these men would have come back alive if not for that event. World War II was a horrible, stressful time at home, and there was no communication; we did a lot of praying.
"That was our generation. They call us the 'greatest generation,' and we all did our share.
"It was during World War II that I first came up here to the lake with the Dr. Hardy family, while Art was in the Navy. Gasoline was rationed at that time, but due to the fact that Dr. Hardy was a physician, he could get enough gas to get everyone up here, and enough to make a few trips back and forth to the mainland with a motor boat, but beyond that, everyone rowed or paddled everywhere.
"Whenever we went visiting anyone on the lake, we always rowed, so our arms were worked hard in those days."
As we listen from the front porch, motor boats cruise past punctuating her previous observation with the present reality of modern day Upper Saranac, where classic wood boats, jet skis and motorboats pulling skiers coexist with the rowers and paddlers.
Recalling back over her 70 years on the lake, Jean said, her face beaming with genuine delight, "I am a rustic person, although I am young in ideas.
"When you think of all the things we've talked about and seen over the years, and the many, many dinners at the dining room table, with sometimes as many as 15 or 20 guests in the dining room, it's amazing."
The dining room is located in the "kitchen house," which stands at the south end of the island. The kitchen house, boathouse and guest cottage at the top of the hill were here when the Hardys bought the island in 1924. The original owners stayed in what is now used as the kitchen house which has an upstairs room for sleeping, multiple brick fireplaces for heat and a bathroom with the old original claw foot bathtub.
The Hardy family built the main house in 1926, which is comprised of the living room, three bedrooms and Jeans' beloved expansive front porch. Everything on the island remains pretty much as it was at that time: rustic, simple and classic Adirondack.
A collection of guest books dating back to 1932 contain the names of hundreds of people and guests over the years, some famous around the lake and in their careers and many friends from all over.
Art Hardy's best friend, Harry Bartlett, was the first to sign the guest book in 1932.
Jean, a real estate broker in Pelham for more than 50 years, expects "this island will never be for sale as you couldn't ever replace the lifetime of memories, and how blessed we feel to have this special place with the good times we've shared and treasured," she said.
Later this summer, she will return to Pelham, where she will be presented with a 50-year commemorative plaque, celebrating her half-century real estate career.
Having been raised along the pristine shores of Lake Michigan, she said, "I was used to fresh water, and Upper Saranac is an exceptionally beautiful lake. We're at the southern end of one of the nicest lakes in the Adirondacks, and it's very private and peaceful here."
She recalls the many "characters unto themselves" as she puts it, from around the lake. She tells stories of Gracie Palanza, who purchased the Wenonah Lodge and ran it as a hotel, bar and dining room for a very "select clientele," and Maurice Evans, of Shakespearean acting fame, who owned two of the little islands up the lake before the narrows. She said he loved to have picnic suppers with the Hardys on Boulder Island, and she recalls "many martinis" at those parties. "Nobody around here had ever heard of Maurice Evans, the actor, and he was just a regular guy to us," she said.
In his later years, Evans played the grandfather on the '60s TV sitcom "Bewitched," among other various sitcom and movie roles.
Another fixture of the south end of Upper Saranac was Ed Solohub.
"He had a gorgeous Chris Craft, and he was a great mechanic and engineer of docks and boathouses," she said. "He would go out of here in a roaring blaze of spray when he left his boathouse across there."
Jean recalls the many moonlit rides in the Hardys' 1932 Dodge runabout following the delicious dinners and good times they shared with lake friends and family at the old Wawbeek Inn, which often had bands in the lounge.
She laughs deeply and her face lights up when she recalls the many funny and entertaining stories of raising three teenage daughters on the island over the years. "I now look forward to my children and grandchildren carrying on the family legacy with all the traditions we've enjoyed throughout the years," she said. "I know this family treasure is in good hands for the years to come.
"Life has been very good to me. How many people ever get to come to a place like this for over 70 years."