Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Big Changes Sought For Camp Santanoni

Great Camp Gate House SantanoniThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released an updated draft unit management plan (UMP) for the Camp Santanoni Historic Area, located on the NYS Forest Preserve in Newcomb, NY, in the heart of the Adirondack Park.

Unlike other historic sites owned by New York State and manged by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation,  the management of Camp Santanoni is effected through a UMP created and carried out by DEC. The Adirondack Park Agency is tasked with ensuring the historic site’s management conforms to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and the state’s constitutional “Forever Wild” mandate.

A public meeting will be held on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at the Newcomb Volunteer Fire Department, Route 28N (next to Town Hall), in Newcomb, NY. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more on the proposed management actions in draft UMP and to provide comment on the proposals. The DEC will accept comments on the draft UMP until June 12, 2015.

“The proposals in the draft management plan will allow DEC and its partners to better restore, maintain and protect this amazing historic area so future generations can enjoy it,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in a statement announcing the draft UMP’s completion.

The 32-acre historic area consists of three main areas of the camp and the old carriage road (Newcomb Lake Road) that connects them:

  • The Gate Lodge Complex includes a stone gate lodge, boat house, and guide house.
  • The Farm Complex consists of the ruins of a large dairy and horse barn lost in a tragic fire, as well as the stone dairy building, several houses, and ruins of many other buildings.
  • The Main Complex sits on the shores of Newcomb Lake and contains the main lodge, stone Artists Studio, boat house, and several smaller structures. In addition to these features, there are several other related remains scattered about the original estate.

Key proposals in the Draft UMP include:

  • Constructing a new pole barn to accommodate maintenance equipment;
  • Installing a fire alarm system and fire retardant coatings on buildings;
  • Constructing a replica dairy barn on the surviving foundation of the historic barn; and
  • Adjusting the boundary of the Farm Complex to include remnants of an orchard and vegetable garden.

One of the surviving great camps in the Adirondacks, Camp Santanoni is a National Historic Landmark. The Camp was created by Robert C. and Anna Pruyn. An Albany banker and businessman, the camp was used for entertaining guests and as a refuge from city life, including Theodore Roosevelt. At its height, Camp Santanoni comprised over 12,900 acres.

Camp Santanoni is one of the oldest and largest of the early great camps. It was the first to be comprehensively designed as a unit by a professional architect. The leading architect, Robert H. Robertson, who was a Yale classmate of Pruyn’s, designed the Main Camp Complex. Robertson was responsible for the design of many early skyscrapers in New York City and elsewhere. He also designed William S. Webb’s Nehasane, another great camp in the Adirondacks, and buildings at Webb’s Shelburne Farms in Vermont.

The Artist’s Studio, the Gate Lodge, the Creamery and renovations to the Farm Complex were designed by the architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich. The operational layout and working systems of the Farm Complex were designed by Edward Burnett, an expert on “scientific farming”. Contemporary assessments of Camp Santanoni characterized Pruyn’s wilderness camp as the “largest and finest” in the Adirondacks.

The property was acquired by the State of New York in 1972. In 1991 the State, after efforts by the Town of Newcomb, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the Preservation League of New York State, legislators, and others, agreed to preserve the remaining structures as an educational exhibit in a manner consistent with the camp’s Forest Preserve setting. The area was formally classified as historic and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000. DEC, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, and the town of Newcomb are partners in the restoration, maintenance, and interpretation of the site.

Today, the area is a popular day hike destination during summer months, as well as a cross-country skiing destination during winter. Three Camp Santanoni Winter Weekend Events are held annually and attended by many cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

The Camp Santanoni Draft UMP is posted on the DEC website. Copies of the plan will are available on CD at the following locations: DEC’s headquarters in Albany, NY (5th floor); DEC’s Region 5 office in Ray Brook NY; DEC’s Region 5 sub-office in Warrensburg, NY; and the offices for the Town of Newcomb in Essex County.

Public comments will be accepted until June 12, 2015, and may be sent to Josh Clague, NYSDEC Lands & Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4254 or e-mailed to adirondackpark@dec.ny.gov.

Photo of Great Camp Santanoni Gate House courtesy John Warren.

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7 Responses

  1. I don’t know if they will pay any attention ot comments made here but I approve of this proposal.

  2. common sense says:

    The best way to protect the historic structures from fire is to have a year round presence. A 24/7 caretaker position may be the best deterrent for people using camping stoves in or on the porch of the main lodge or for calling in a nearby wildfire. No fire alarm will save the structure, unless someone is there to act quickly. Other steps that are more effective than a fire resistant coating are listed on the Firewise.org site under defensible space. A recent wildfire burnt down an unoccupied structure in the town of Newcomb, and it was more defensible than the current camp Santanoni. 24/7 Caretaker costs would seem cheap compared to complete re-construction after a tragic fire.

    • Paul says:

      Maybe we could get Jack Nicholson to caretake in the winter like he did in the Shining! Seriously though you could probably get someone to do it just for the fun.

  3. Mary C. Rohr says:

    The article does not state when Santanoni was originally started/ built. How old is it?

  4. Bill Quinlivan William Quinlivan says:

    Joann Quinlivan, my wife, is a wonderful pastel painter. Many years ago, she painted a landscape that showed a good view of the front of the old barn. We both love Santanoni ever since we discovered it hiking in the mid 80’s and we had a special affection for the old barn and it beautiful structure. We still have the painting. We actually offered it to the Architectural Trust for auction to begin to raise money for the barn’s rebuilding, but this was some years ago and nothing ever came of it. Perhaps we should offer again. In my personal opinion, there is not enough that can be done to preserve this very special place — it is magical in all seasons!

  5. John Sullivan says:

    I love Santanoni, and I am grateful to all responsible for the restoration work, but why a replica dairy barn? That puts it on the road to becoming a wilderness Disneyland. DEC has enough trouble keeping up with its current responsibilities.

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