Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dating The Cabin on Raquette Lake’s Indian Point

red cabin_croppedAfter my father’s sister Ellen married Michael FitzPatrick, both our families enjoyed summers together sharing the cabin on Raquette Lake’s Indian Point and two nearby lean-tos. That was until 1981, when our family built a new place on the north shore of the peninsula.  Each summer, a growing brood of FitzPatrick cousins continues to inhabit the little, red one-room cabin at the point’s tip.

As a child I would fall asleep in the lean-to that sits just to the right of this cabin, being driven to sleep by the flames dancing in the stone fireplace and the hypnotic pulsing of the green and red lights which adorned the channel buoys in the Needles. 

1945 Ken in Indian Pt cropped By the fire, my father and aunt would tell stories of their times on here and on Blue Mountain Lake.  Originally, the main family summer home was on Thacher Island on Blue Mountain Lake.  The island lodge was the first and only privately owned summer home on the lake for a decade beginning in 1867.  The island was purchased by John Boyd Thacher, who built a lodge for the use of his father, George Hornell Thacher.

The island lodge remained in the family until the 1950s and the lands on Indian Point, purchased in 1876, were always referred to as the “hunting and fishing” grounds.  We have always considered ourselves lucky to own these wonderful acres on Indian Point.

Our family’s oral history assumes John Boyd Thacher and his brother George Hornell Thacher Jr. used Indian Point for guided camping adventures, with their father remaining at the island in Blue Mountain Lake. Family lore holds that the red cabin was the first thing to be built on the point.  We have vague memories of our parents claiming that the cabin dates to 1910.

An initial review of several historic maps of Raquette Lake show no indication of a cabin at the point between 1886 and 1903.  The 1886 Tillinghast Survey Map of Raquette Lake shows the Thacher property in gray but no structure on the point.  An 1890 map of the area by Seneca Ray Stoddard makes no mention of Thacher at Raquette but identifies Thacher Island on Blue Mt. Lake.  The Map of Township 40 in 1900 shows the Thacher property line traversing Indian Point, but no cabin.  The 1903 USGS Raquette Lake Quadrangle shows numerous lakeshore structures but nothing on the point.  A 1905 photo from the family of Donna Phinney Geisdorf (owners of Sunny Cliff Camp deep in Sucker Brook Bay) shows the point with no cabin and no dock.

Birch Point 1905 photoThe only map that I have found to date which does indicate a structure in the location of the little red cabin is the 1954 USGS Raquette Lake Quadrangle.   Unfortunately, there appear to be no USGS surveys done between 1903 and 1954.

So the cabin was built sometime after 1905 and before 1954.   Couldn’t we narrow it down a little better than that?  I went to talk with some older Raquette Lake residents to see what they knew of the cabin’s history.

Raquette Lake historian Jim Kammer produced a photo from the collection of the Carlin Boat Livery, one of the first marinas on the lake, located near the present day dock of the Raquette Lake Navigation Co.’s W. W.  Durant.  The Carlin Boat Livery was in operation from 1900 to 1935 and narrows the date the cabin was built to those years.

late 1910-20's Birch Point_2I know from the previous photo that this second photo has to be after 1905, but when?  Fortunately, there is one person with personal knowledge of the cabin’s earlier life. Warren Reynolds was born and raised at Raquette Lake. His family rented the little red cabin for the summer of 1938 and then lived there for a whole year beginning in the summer of 1939.  He shared stories with me of his family living through the winter of ’39-’40 in the small one room cabin.  Warren traveled to school by boat when the water was open and by dogsled over the ice in winter.

When I showed Warren the second photo, he remarked that the boat appears to be a rowboat without motor moored off shore with no dock visible.  In 1938, there was a dock and the Thacher’s gave Warren’s family use of a boat with a small outboard engine.  The photo is also missing a tool shed that Warren remembered being between the little red cabin and the lean-to.  Lastly, Warren commented that the cabin was far from brand new when his family lived there.  He thought it was about twenty years old at the time, which would date it to 1918.

Given all that I know – the local lore, photographs and maps – I can say that the little red cabin was built sometime between 1905 and 1918.   I hope to narrow the window in time by reviewing the historical newspapers and contemporary literature.  Maybe the proof is still out there to confirm the family history that the cabin was in fact built in 1910.


Related Stories

Tom is the great great grandson of the very first “summer folk” on Blue Mountain Lake. The Thacher family built the first private summer home on Thacher Island in 1867.

Tom has spent every summer of his life on Indian Point of Raquette Lake on lands purchased by his family in 1876. In researching the origins of his family’s century old, one-room cabin, Tom is discovering over 200 years of Adirondack History seen through the lens of one plot of land.

Extended versions of this article and other stories and photos can be found at Fifty Acres of Beach and Wood which chronicles tales of iconic characters of Adirondack history whose footprints have graced the shores of Indian Point.

Tom is currently fundraising to publish a book of his research. The proceeds from the book will support the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts. You can make a contribution to the book fund here:

5 Responses

  1. Deb says:

    Tom-have you visited the long lake-tax records or lake pleasant-deeds.
    Be interesting to find out when the building got recorded.
    i learned the lake before the coast guard buoys and still run the needles the “old” way- hug the red can rock!

  2. Tom Thacher says:

    Hi Deb,

    I have all of the deeds to the property and unfortunately they never mention details of buildings. However, I will need to follow-up on your suggestion of looking at the tax records in Long Lake.


  3. Tom Thacher says:

    The photo of the young boy in the lean-to is not me, but rather it is my father Ken Thacher as a young boy in the early 1940s.

  4. Paul says:

    Can’t build them that close to the water any more! Looks like great place.

  5. Wsquared says:

    Tom, you might try to contact Eleanor Bostwick Crownfield of 1100 Grove St., Apt.17, Cedar Falls, Iowa (last I knew her address). Her parents sold that place of yours (?) soon after losing a bundle during the ’29 crash. She had amazing old photos – like some of Indians selling baskets off the end of the point.

Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!