Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lucy Carnegie’s Great Camp On Raquette Lake

Lucy CarnegieMy family began vacationing at Raquette Lake sometime in the mid-1970s, attracted by what is arguably the most beautiful lake in the Adirondacks. As the family grew, I began to look for a larger home and contacted a realtor who sent me a write up on North Point, considered one of the Great Camps and the former summer home of Lucy Carnegie.

I had seen the home while boating and, my curiosity piqued, looked it up in Harvey Kaiser’s book Great Camps of the Adirondacks (2003). I was interested to see who had designed this Swiss chalet style home, so unusual in design compared to the other camps in the area. Kaiser stated that, “The building plans and execution of interior details suggest influences beyond the techniques of local craftsmen, although no record of the architect exists.”

In the years to come, I researched the history of the camp in my spare time during the weeks my family stayed there. The project involved sifting through boxes of files at the Georgia State Archives, gathering information from the Washington State Historical Archives and interviewing members of the Carnegie and Rockefeller families. In the end, I found what I was searching for and a lot more.

Lucy Coleman Carnegie, the five-foot tall daughter of William and Nancy Coleman (William was a business associate of Andrew Carnegie) had married Andrew Carnegie’s younger brother Tom. Tom is described as a quiet, reserved, gentleman, especially when compared to Andrew whose gregarious, head strong personality was said to mirror Lucy’s more than his own.

In 1881 Tom and Lucy bought twenty-thousand acres on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia and began building a fifteen-thousand square foot home that was to become the summer residence for them and their nine children. But before its completion Tom died from pneumonia and Lucy became a very wealthy widow.

Lucy doted on her children and centered her life on family. To encourage their interest in out door activities, she built a complex of recreational facilities that included a stable with stalls for forty horses, bought two yachts (Lucy was the first female member of the New York Yacht Club). In addition, there was a golf course, several tennis courts, a skeet shooting area and woodlands where she loved to hunt with her son Andrew.

No one knows for certain why Lucy decided to build a camp in the Adirondacks, but we do know that her cousin, Mary Clark Stott had a camp on Raquette Lake and that she and her family rented the camp for the summer of 1898. Andrew II was particularly attracted to the area and returned to spend the summer of 1900 with his new bride, Bertha.

Ten Eyck Camp on North PointJust a few hundred yards across the lake was an area known as North Point, one of the most well situated areas on the lake, jutting out onto Raquette in a “v” shape, on a slightly elevated plateau, it commanded spectacular southern views. An Albany resident, James Ten Eyck had a modest hunting camp near the shore and on at least one of his canoe trips, Andrew II would certainly have noticed it.

In December of 1901, Andrew II wrote a letter to the aging James Ten Eyck and enclosed a letter from his mother Lucy. In that letter was a proposal to purchase North Point. Negotiations went quickly and a counter offer for $25,000 was accepted.

With the land now secured, Lucy turned her attention to designing and constructing the camp. She decided to spend the summer at the lake and wrote to Mrs. Stott informing her of the purchase and inquiring if their camp would be available for rent.

“Pray do not let any one but yourself or son decide on situation of house,” Stott advised and suggested Joseph Bryere “to go over all the land and to make a diagram of where he would suggest the best place for (the) house, ice house, boat house etc.”

She then recommended hiring Bryere as the architect, “He did a great deal of work on our house and everywhere around, is a most ingenious mad. Excels in rustic work. You may not like my ideas about Joe, really he is the only man on the lake whose opinion I would care for.”

She then recommended William L. Coulter as an architect because she had heard that “he excels in log cabins”.  No mention was made of William W. Durant, which may seem odd considering that her daughter had married the designer.

In closing, she gave Lucy her opinion of the existing one-and-a-half story log camp that Ten Eyck was using, “I doubt the old buildings are good for anything – might make a good bond fire [sic].”

Lucy hired Bryere and Ten Eyck’s caretaker, Jerome Wood, to survey the land and locate the building sites.

Idaho State BuildingAs soon as word of the purchase went out, Lucy was barraged with solicitations from builders and architects, William Coulter among them. But she began pursuing Kirtland Kelsey Cutter, an architect who had a distinguished reputation in the Washington State and California areas but gained renown when he designed the Idaho building for the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. The building was a modified Swiss chalet of heavy log construction with large rocks securing the roof’s shingles.

Lucy wrote to him in January informing him of her interest in commissioning him to design a home for her and asking him when he would be coming east so that they could discuss the matter. He was excited about the prospect of designing a “rustic” camp promised to send along a copy of The London Studio magazine that contained an article about “a large Camp in the New Forest near Southampton (that) has attracted much attention”. Neither mentioned the Idaho building he had designed for the Worlds Fair.

They met at the Waldorf in New York on June 15th  and agreed that, after visiting the site, he would start to draw plans that he hoped to finish by late July so that building could start before winter.

On August 11th the plans were sent to Lucy. Stylistically the building bore some resemblance to the Idaho State Building but even more so to Cutter’s own house in Spokane. Cutter had studied the construction of chalets in Switzerland but whether Lucy had specifically requested this style or Cutter suggested it, is not mentioned.

The main residence, the Assembly Hall, was connected by a covered walkway to a smaller Dining Hall. A boat house, windmill as well as several guide’s houses and an ice house were also designed in the same style.

The Assembly Hall contained a large 45 x 27 foot Gathering room two stories in height with exposed trusses and a balcony running the width of the rear of the room and leading to the guest bedrooms. Below this is a massive fireplace with benches on each side recessed to form an inglenook, which was common to English and Scottish homes. There are a total of nine bedrooms; Lucy’s and three others were on the first floor, the rest on the second.

The Dining Hall contains eight bedrooms on the second floor but no bathroom. Access to the second floor was provided by an exterior flight of stairs; there was no internal stairway. On the first floor, facing the lake, was a 26 x 18 foot dining room that also contained an inglenook. The balance of the area consisted of a kitchen, pantry and storeroom. From the plans, it is apparent that the second floor was used as a servant’s quarters rather than guest rooms. The layout is unimaginative and utilitarian; a single long hallway with the bedrooms on both sides.

The main building had a generous sized slightly elevated wooden porch with detailed railing and was shaded by the overhang of the gables as well as an awning.

The exterior was stained hemlock shiplap with stucco on the first story of the Dining Area only and the roof was to have large stones placed at regular intervals atop the shingles; an oddity in the Adirondacks, but common for this style of architecture.

With the building plans now in hand, Lucy’s business manager wrote to Trombley & Carrier of Saranac Lake. They had also built the J. C. Peabody camp on Upper St. Regis Lake that was designed by Israel & Harter and had just completed a four story addition to the Whiteface Inn. Bench & Callanan and Joe Bryere also quoted, but Trombley was awarded the contract for $19,248 although the bid was later changed to $26,349 when additions and changes were made.

By mid-summer of the following year, the camp was still uncompleted so Lucy was staying at the Antlers but by the end of July, North Point was ready to move into.  The New York Times reported on August 1, 1903: “The new camp of Mrs. Lucy Carnegie…has been completed, and Mrs. Carnegie has taken possession of it. Andrew Carnegie is expected to visit at the camp during August.”

North point Raquette Lake from waterHe was not the only family visitor. Lucy had nine children, several of them married with children of their own (her youngest was now twenty one). They would stay for extended periods of time, some the entire summer. She enjoyed organizing hikes, putting on skits and taking the kids for rides on her new speedboat, the forty foot wooden craft named “Rambler”. The older kids could go for a sail on the twin sailboats, Jack and Jill. Adults could play a game of croquette, enjoy a set of tennis on the newly installed court on the front lawn or play a game of golf at W. W. Durant’s new country club on Eagle Lake.

Of all her children, Andrew II was most instrumental in persuading his mother to build the Camp at Raquette. Even before construction began, Lucy had given him land on North Point so that now he and his wife and two daughters, 10 year old Nancy and 6 year old Lucy, could build their camp.

Lucy loved the idea of having him close to her. According to his daughter, Nancy Carnegie Rockefeller, “his mother would not let him leave her. She needed someone to help her with many things she was responsible for,” He was, “the mainstay of the nine children, Mama Carnegie’s right hand. Daddy was very high strung, imaginative and extremely soft-hearted.”

He named his camp Petiebruff and hired William Payne, a local guide and builder to be the contractor. The main house is a one and a half story log structure with wood shingled roof and a large enclosed porch facing the lake. The dining hall was two stories with the kitchen and dining rooms on the first level and sleeping quarters above. The windows on this structure mimicked those on Lucy’s camp. In addition to these two main buildings, there were several other utility structures including a boat house and the requisite lean-to.

After his mother died on January 16, 1916, Andrew took over management of her affairs and found himself spending more time on Cumberland Island and less on Raquette. The couple decided that it was time to sell Petiebruff. His wife, Bertha, wrote that, “I can see that it is best for us to sell, if we can, since one summer place is enough for any one and the care of three places is too much..”

Lucy’s camp had been cleared of most of her personal effects and was being run as a small hotel called Chalet Lucerne.

In 1921, Andrew II sold the camp to Mrs. Herman Mason who used it as a summer camp for girls. Lucy’s camp was eventually sold to the Raquette Lake Supply Company in 1924 and was utilized for several decades as a resort inn. Old buildings were moved, new cabins added and much of the land was sold to private parties. But eventually the main house was rescued by private parties who treated it more as custodians than owners. The main house and most of the exterior remains much as it was when Lucy Carnegie was there.

Photos, from above: Lucy Carnegie; the earlier Ten Eyck Camp on North Point; the Idaho State Building at the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago; North Point from the water.


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Formerly the president of a mortgage bank, Larry Miller changed careers to become an historian for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. His interest in the Adirondacks began in the mid-70s while staying at Raquette Lake. Larry is working on a narrative nonfiction history which tells the story of Raquette Lake/Long Lake through the lives of a handfull of its earliest settlers.

One Response

  1. Tom Thacher says:

    Wonderful article!. I have always enjoyed the architecture of North Point. In doing your research, did Lucy’s family records include any photos taken from North Point looking south toward Indian Point? Possibly any from the time of the Ten Eyck’s camp prior to Lucy’s purchase?

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