What follows is a guest essay by Sheila Myers, who is working on a historical novel based on the life of William West Durant.
In science there is an expression that theories can never be proved, only disproved. I teach science, and that may be why a comment I read while researching William West Durant for my novel about his life provoked me to find out where this famous builder of Great Camps in the Adirondacks drew his inspiration. This then led me to uncover some fallacies in his biography.
It started with the dissertation by Mary Ellen Domblewski (Cornell University, 1974). In it she conjectures that Durant, having no formal training in architecture, may have visited the Bernese Oberland during his time abroad. It would be there, she believed, he would have observed the Swiss cottage style that he emulated at great camps Pine Knot and Sagamore.