Kumiko in Saranac Lake

Kumiko inside the Stevenson Cottage (Photo provided)

Kumiko Koiwa is a world class Robert Louis Stevenson enthusiast who travelled from Yokohama, Japan, to Saranac Lake for the first time in June 1998 to visit Baker’s, where the famous author of “Treasure Island” had passed the winter of 1887/88 with his family. Since 1916, Baker’s has also been called the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage which houses the finest collection of Stevenson memorabilia in the world. Kumiko, an active member of the R.L.S. Club, Edinburgh, Scotland, shared her Adirondack experience with fellow members in their club news, June, 1998:

“Recently, I visited Saranac Lake, USA. It’s a small town in the midst of the wild Adirondack Mountains in N.Y. state. I had to take a small airplane from New York. I flew into the town in the evening and the view from the plane was wonderful–the endless sea of forests and countless lakes were shining in the setting sunshine; it was a beautiful, dreamlike scene, and when I landed I was impressed by the nice smell of trees filling the air… ‘By a curious irony of fate, the places to which we are sent when health deserts us are often singularly beautiful’–so the travelers after Stevenson can enjoy many beautiful places–I thank that irony.”

“The town itself seems somehow vague … every street has big trees behind, and there’s a kind of deserted feeling of an off-season resort. The houses are made of wood, painted, and are in very ‘American’ taste. Most of them are old and seem to be former ‘cure-cottages’ with wide verandas. Only the noise of heavy traffic disturbs the small-town atmosphere. The people are good–every passer-by answers my ‘hello’ as I walk through residential streets.”

“The Stevenson Memorial Cottage where the Stevenson family lived in 1887-88 is on ‘Stevenson Lane,’ a 10-minute walk from the town centre of Saranac Lake. Half of the house which the Stevensons rented is now a museum with marvelous collections, and the other half, where the Stevensons’ landlords, the Baker family lived, is now occupied by Mr. Delahant, the curator, and his wife, who, with two dogs and three cats, take care of the museum and welcome Stevenson fans and scholars from many countries. It seems an ideal life for Stevensonians, don’t you agree? Mike Delahant’s father and grandfather were also curators. Mike seems very proud that his family have kept this cottage. Mike’s mother told me that it was a private museum with no financial help from the state, so it had not been easy to keep it for decades.”

“As for their collection–it was great! True Stevenson fans would be able to spend a whole week or maybe even a month to see them. Besides the exhibits they have many other items, and Mike said that even today they could still find interesting stuff in an old closet. Maybe you have seen the photo of Stevenson on his death bed? In that photo we can see some Samoan tapa cloths with geometric patterns on the bed. I saw that Tapa cloth in the cottage and Mike’s wife Karla said she had found it herself. After it was donated to the cottage someone put it in a closet and it was there for many years until she found it!”

“Mike and Karla seem to really enjoy their life in the cottage and kindly shared it with me during my visit. On a rainy, cool day they let me stay in their living room with a nice stove and there I enjoyed reading old books from the museum for hours. Outside, the greens were beautiful in the rain; on my lap was one of Mike’s cats, Maggie (named after Stevenson’s mother). I read the old book containing Maggie Stevenson’s diary and letters in which she wrote about the life in the very cottage where I was at that very moment–these were happy hours for me. They showed me the upstairs room that was once Lloyd Osbourne’s room, and also the old toilet (!!) which had been used by the Baker family (and maybe the Stevenson family, too!) and told me many stories about the cottage. I showed him my ‘Stevenson-album’ (photos of my travels to places related to RLS) and he liked the one I took on the Pentland Hills–the view of the whole of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and Swanston village.”

“Mike took me to the hilltop nearby from where I could see the cottage and the great Adirondack Mountains. He said that was where he had taken the BBC to film the view for their TV programme in 1994.”

“In the public library in the town centre there is a good collection of Stevenson’s works. I understand that the best season to visit the Adirondack Mountains is the end of September when you can see the beautiful red and yellow autumn leaves.”

Stevenson’s Cottage

Today I stumbled on a little shrine

That hides itself within a nest of hills;

A temple to the god of Youth divine,

Whose presence still that tiny cottage fills;

The mantelpiece where lighted cigarette

Burned blithely on, when genius in him burned;

His velvet jacket stuck with heather yet,

His slender hand in faultless bronze is turned.

Oh, how I’d like to be a child again,

And roam your garden full of verses sweet;

Smell flowers again I loved in childhood’s reign,

And high up in the air swing frantic feet!

Or with my friend, Long John, the pirate bold,

I’d seek for treasure, and I’d find it, too

In song or story, loved by young and old,

I’d walk the Road of Loving Hearts with you!

— Virginia Pearson, 1934