The “Great Camps” of the Adirondack Mountains of central New York State were built in the late 1800s, early 1900s by the fabulously wealthy from New York City. They were “rustic” lodges with all the amenities the wealthy required to get away from the city and relax in the wilderness.
Growing up, my family spent many summers on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks. Once, we stayed at Snow’s Inn, orginally the Albedor, one of the great camps which had, unfortunately, fallen on lean times. Lucky us, though, because we could never afford it otherwise.
The Albedor was built in the 1920s by Col. Edward A. Simmons, of the Simmons-Boardman Publishing Co. (which is now a global publishing corporation). It was named for his three daughters Aline, Betty, and Dorothy. Originally, the property consisted of 30 acres with 1100 feet of shoreline, the main lodge, and 11 other buildings, including a boathouse with a second story for gatherings and dancing and three “playhouses” for his daughters – actual houses complete with plumbing and kitchen facilities!
My family’s interest in the Albedor started with my grandfather. He did a great deal of business traveling in the 50s and 60s and stayed at the Albedor during a more affluent time. The photos below are from 1961.
There are a few things I remember in particular about our stay in the 1970s. The banks of windows that let in the glorious sun sparkling off the lake. The huge stone patios that wrapped around the house where my mother soaked up the sun in the afternoons. The trails my sister and I explored that wound through the woods to the “playhouses” (which were locked, unfortunately), the boathouse, the overgrown tennis court, and down to the water.
I remember a stuffed bobcat sitting on the mantle of one of the many massive stone fireplaces in the lodge. I would sit at the bar, drink Coke with a marachino cherry in it and look at that bobcat. Funny the things that kids fixate on.
As with any family vacation there were a couple mishaps as well. In our bedroom suite, the bathroom lock stuck and my father had to climb out the window, cross the precariously steep slate roof, and back in a window in the next room. I believe we were on the third floor and it was a sheer drop! Later, playing on the lake’s edge, I remember cutting my toe on a sharp rock and had to be taken to the emergency room.
The Albedor has changed hands many times over the years, but is now privately owned. From the photos on a real estate listing ,it’s been refinished and a great deal of care taken in decorating it with period style furnishings. It’s rented out for just a few weeks of the year — at $16,000 a week. I suppose that’s reasonable for such a property. Not that I could ever afford it.
At one time, many of these great camps were in danger of being lost forever, but were saved through preservation efforts. As a child, I didn’t care about the history, it was just a fabulous old place to explore, but now I’m glad they were. You can’t build something like this anymore. It was part of an era that’s long gone. But we can get a glimpse, a hint, at what life might have been like because of the wonderful great camps that remain.