Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Diane Chase: Introducing Adirondack Architecture

IMG_5418My family has spent the last month showing off the Adirondacks to a young friend visiting from Holland. In a week he’ll be off to study architecture in Prague. We’ve hiked, canoed and camped as well visited Olympic sites, outdoor concerts and museums.

He has been fascinated by the amount of green space we have, off-grid living and sustainable landscapes. The last segment of his whirlwind Adirondack tour will be White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths and Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake.

White Pine Camp and Great Camp Sagamore are two different styles of Adirondack architecture. That is why I always like to include a trip to both, if possible, for our summer visitors. Both estates showcase an extravagant Adirondack “Great Camp” lifestyle with massive stonework, bowling alleys, great rooms and boathouses. There are also lost elements at each property such as an overgrown toboggan run or demolished workers lodgings that didn’t escape the test of time. The vast history just adds to the meticulous architecture that blends so beautifully into the existing landscape.

Great Camp Sagamore is a beautiful model of a wilderness estate with its 27 original National Historic Landmark buildings on Sagamore Lake. Built by William West Durant in 1897, Sagamore was one of the first examples of the now popular rustic style using natural elements such as bark, branches and twigs. Used by the Vanderbilt family from 1901-1954, Sagamore became a haven for the social elite. The two-hour historical guided walking tour is offered every day through Labor Day, rain or shine. Tour times are 10 am and 1:30 pm.

White Pine Camp is just as lovely, but has other unique traits. Its architecture offers asymmetrical rooflines, living trees through the buildings and brainstorm siding. In a style that always reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright, the White Pines Camp structures were built to utilize natural light. Originally owned by the Kirkwood family, it served as the summer White House for President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge. Tours are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer. The two-hour walking tours are offered at 10 am and 1:30 pm, no reservations are required. Wednesday tours are offered until September 24 while Saturday tours end August 30.

If he had more time I would send my friend along to tour one of the many Adirondack Architectural Heritage tours (AARCH), but he will have to make a list of all that he needs to complete, come back and we can show him even more of the Adirondack landscape.

Photo of White Pine Camp used with the permission of Diane Chase,

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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.

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