12 days of Saranac Lake-mas … day 11

From left, Robert Louis Stevenson’s stepson Lloyd Osbourne, his wife Fannie Osbourne and Stevenson pose on the porch of Baker Cottage in Saranac Lake. (Photo provided by Historic Saranac Lake)

On the 11th day of Saranac Lake-mas, Historic Saranac Lake gave to you … the “penny piper of Saranac,” Robert Louis Stevenson (at right)! Stevenson spent the winter of 1887-8 in the Baker Cottage overlooking the Saranac River under Dr. E.L. Trudeau’s care. He began work on “The Master of Ballantrae” and wrote a number of essays while here.

Steven Chalmers, a writer who also came to Saranac Lake for his health, wrote an account of Stevenson’s stay entitled “The Penny Piper of Saranac.” According to Chalmers, Stevenson’s principal activity, aside from writing, was playing a pennywhistle, which displeased the Baker family. Mrs. Baker was supposed to have said, “He tootles the whistle better’n he plays the piano,” to which her husband replied: “And a sight oftener!”

The Baker Cottage is preserved and is now home to a museum dedicated to Stevenson’s life and works. It contains the world’s first and largest collection of Stevenson memorabilia. Be sure to pay it a visit in the summer months.


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