Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A New Blog and Book About Hulett’s Landing

Hulett’s Landing on the east side of Lake George is the subject of a new Adirondack blog, The Huletts Current, and a new book by George Kapusinski whose family operates Huletts-On-Lake-George. It turns out I’m connected by marriage to the Hulett family that established Hulett’s Landing. So I thought I’d offer a little history – one that ties eastern timber rattlesnakes with an early noted librarian and explorer (now that’s a combination!) and at the same time adds a new steamship to the history of Lake George.

Originally, Hulett’s was known as “the bosom” apparently an old word for a bay. Sometime before 1825, David Hulett moved from Hebron in Washington County to the farm his son Harvey had founded on the bay. David was a rattlesnake hunter and it’s said he died in October, 1832 at the age of 70 while hunting them with his grandsons in their steep rocky dens across Lake George in the Tongue Mountain Range. A boulder came loose and rolled against David’s leg pinning him to the ground. His grandsons rowed as fast as they could back across the lake (about 2 miles) to get help, but in the end David’s leg had to be amputated and he died from the shock of the operation.

In 1848, the cluster of “some half dozen” houses (mostly those of David Hulett’s family) at Bosom Bay was visited by Charles Lanman. Lanman was an author, artist, librarian, and explorer. He was born in Michigan and his early life included newspaper work as editors of papers in Michigan, Ohio, and at the New York Express. Lanman also studied art under Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand (at the National Academy of Design) and had a lengthy career in public service. He served as librarian for the U.S. War Department, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Washington City library; he was also head of the returns office in the U.S. Interior Department; private secretary to Senator Daniel Webster; and American secretary to the Japanese legation. A prolific writer, he was also author of a biography of Daniel Webster and the first collection of biographies of former and sitting members of Congress. His Dictionary of Congress, published in 1859, eventually became today’s Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Lanman described Bosom Bay during his visit there:

On the north side of Black Mountain is a cluster of some half-dozen houses, in a vale called the bosom, but from what I don’t know. The presiding geniuses of the place are a band of girls, weighing two hundred pounds a piece, who farm it with their father for a living, but whose principal amusement is rattlesnake hunting. Their favorite playground is the notorious cliff on Tongue Mountain, where they go with naked feet (rowing their own boats across the lake) and pull out by their tails from the rocks the pretty playthings, and, snapping them to death, they lay them away in a basket as trophies of their skill. I was told that in one day last year they killed an incredible number of eleven hundred. What delicious wives would these Horicon ladies make.

During the Civil War, David Hulett’s son Arnold was put in charge of supplying the short-lived Horicon Iron Company (later Lake Champlain Ore and Transportation Company) with cordwood for the company’s forge at the base of Lead Mill Hill in Ticonderoga. After the war Arnold Hulett became Captain of the steamer Horicon on Lake George in 1866. This boat should not be confused with the later Horicon which was in service from 1877 until 1911, or the Horicon II which was constructed in the winter of 1910-11. References to the earlier Horicon are not found in the standard sources, and only Arnold Hulett’s log book records its history. About the same time Arnold settled at Gull Bay-on-Lake George, the next inhabited area on the lake just north of Hulett’s Landing where he established the Colony House.

In June 1872, Arnold was made Captain of the Champlain Transportation Company steamer Ganouski, on Lake George, which was built under his supervision. In the late 1870’s a writer for Scribner’s Monthly Illustrated Magazine, on a trip with friends while in college, encountered Captain Hulett “who sang to them camp-meeting songs and told them that if they wanted to camp, perhaps they’d better try Sheldon’s Point.” “Try it they did,” the writer reported, “and liked it well enough to stay.” Sheldon’s Point is today called Rockhurst, and separates Warner’s Bay from Sandy Bay.

Around 1870 David Hulett’s grandson Philander Hulett established a hotel at Bosom Bay. In 1874, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s guidebook reported:

Although in a retired location, farmer Hulett accommodates thirty, who come early and stay late. A sandy beach fronts the house, the lake water is but a few degrees from the freezing point, and bubbles up to the door. It if one of the oldest settlements on the lake and still remains the wildest. The view northward is fine; that towards the Narrows grand in the extreme. A trout brook finds its way down the mountainside forming in its descent a series of cascades. One is very beautiful and is often painted by artists, among them Asher Durand who, crowned with silver hair, is still an enthusiastic student of nature.

In 1877 Philander sold the family farm, “which was attaining considerable note as a pleasant summer resort” to John W. Hall an attorney in Whitehall and retired to St. Augustine, Florida. Hall had arrived in what had probably already become known as Hulett’s Landing in 1873 and purchased one acre from Philander. Once Hall made the hotel purchase he then “fitted up the place for the entertainment of guests.” By 1878 it was a thriving tourist community:

Three commodious buildings and a handsome cottage, with a bath-house and a boat-house, furnish accommodations for fifty or sixty guests. A store and post-office are located here, and the principle steamers stop regularly on each trip. A stage line furnishes communication with the New York and Central railroad at Chubb’s Dock [on Lake Champlain]. A wide and shelving sandy beach affords unequaled bathing facilities, and the numerous islands render the scene one of unsurpassed beauty. The summit of Black Mountain is easily reached by a well-broken path and all the points of special interest are easily accessible from this point.

Around 1900, a larger hotel was built known as “Picturesque Hulett’s,” but in 1915, a fire destroyed much of the resort including the two main buildings and the three closest cottages. In short time a new Hotel, also called Hulett’s, was built including a number of outbuildings and dormitory housing for employees. During the 1940s, Hulett’s Hotel was purchased by a collective known as Hulett’s Landing Corporation which failed after a number of disagreements among the leaders of the company. One investor, George H. Eichler (a publisher of oil industry trade magazines), purchased the entire property in 1953. After a property tax disagreement with the town they “took the hotel down” in 1959.

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