Friday, September 25, 2009

Can Ralph Lauren Save the Adirondacks?

New York State’s Secretary of State had never been north of Albany until she visited Lake George, a village official told me recently.

State Senator Betty Little likes to tell a story about another state official, who grew alarmed when told that people were living in the park—the Adirondack Park, that is.

“People being forced to sleep in the park? How awful!” the official reportedly said.

No wonder the Association of Adirondack Towns and Villages decided to sponsor the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Report.

At the very least, it reminds Albany that the Adirondack Park contains 130,000 people living in more than one hundred communities, which need viable economies (and perhaps some additional state aid or at least broad band) if they are to survive. Statistics about the park’s aging population and declining school enrollments are not, however, the only way to tell the story of the Adirondacks.

Walk into a Ralph Lauren Home store in New York or Milan this fall and you’ll see, displayed on a library table or console, portfolios of Lake George paintings and guidebooks by Seneca Ray Stoddard.

You’ll also see rustic Adirondack furniture and plaid fabrics given Adirondack names.
The rooms have been installed in stores throughout the United States and Europe to showcase Ralph Lauren’s new collection of furniture and home furnishings, which the company calls “Indian Cove Lodge,” after a mythical Adirondack camp.

It is, to be sure, an idealized version of the Adirondacks. It’s a backdrop for a story playing in Ralph Lauren’s mind, about what, one can only imagine – how Marjorie Merriweather Post spent August, perhaps.

Nevertheless, whoever created these backdrops wanted them to be as authentic as possible. They even contain copies of the Lake George Mirror to link the collection to the Adirondacks. (Last winter, I was told, Black Bass Antiques owner Henry Caldwell and rustic furniture impresario Ralph Kylloe were visited by a team from Ralph Lauren, who spent hours selecting items that would complement the new collection.)

“Snowshoes, antique skis, fishing creels, canoe paddles: they bought a truckload of things,” said Kylloe, who’s furnished Ralph Lauren’s private homes as well as his showrooms for years.

Attention from retailers like Ralph Lauren helps the Adirondack brand remain vital, said Kylloe.

Lisa Foderaro, who frequently covers the Adirondacks for the New York Times, made a similar contribution to that effort last week with a story about Jay Haws’ and Steve Pounian’s Dartbrook Lodge in Keene.

They’ve converted a roadside cottage colony into a retreat that is, Foderaro said, “at once rustic and hip.”

There may be, as Ralph Kylloe suggests, some economic benefits from this kind of exposure in the form of increased tourism.

Other effects may be more problematic, such as a renewed demand for second homes and hence the rising costs of housing for year-round residents.

Another potential effect – and whether it’s a negative or positive one will depend upon your perspective – is a new constituency for the protection of he Adirondacks.
But at the very least, campaigns like these broaden awareness of the Adirondacks, and if those anecdotes about Albany’s lack of awareness of the region are true, that’s as necessary now as it ever was.

Photo: Indian Cove Lodge bedside table.

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Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.



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