Lands above Northwest Bay acquired by Stephen and Mary Loines between 1898 and 1908 – in part to protect them from the same destructive forces that threatened the Adirondacks – and which were sold to private landowners over the ensuing decades, are now largely protected again, this time permanently, thanks to land conservancies and New York State.
That’s something Tim Barnett recognized last spring, when the Lake George Land Conservancy announced that it had purchased a 159 acre parcel that includes Wing Pond “This would appear to complete a four decade- long project to protect the Loines holdings,” remarked Barnett, the first director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and a founder of the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“Wing Pond is a pristine watershed,” said Clarence Linder, the Bolton resident who sold the land to the Conservancy.
Although farmed and logged over the past century, the property has never been developed. Which is not to say that it was never under threat. A house might have been built on a bluff above Wing Pond had Professor Bill Brown not identified the site as timber rattlesnake habitat. A decade ago, during a real estate boom, developers circled again.
That was enough to persuade Linder to buy it himself, who said that the Conservancy’s stewardship would ensure the permanent protection of “dozens of snow melt streams rushing down surrounding hills in April, a little rock island where a leafless grey cedar lies after standing tall for 60 years as well as habitat for turtles and the great blue heron.”
“The conservation of this land has been a priority for the Lake George Land Conservancy for many years,” said Jamie Brown, the Conservancy’s executive director. Brown said that he was impressed by Linder’s “obvious love for this land.”
It could hardly be otherwise. When owned by the Loines family, the property included a house called Fo’c’s’le that Linder’s family rented in the 1950s and where he himself worked as a teenageer, assisting the Loineses’ caretaker.
If we include 8,000 acres on Tongue Mountain sold to New York State in 1916, properties once owned by the Loines family comprise one continuous preserve from the mouth of Northwest Bay Brook to the headwaters of Indian Brook.
It includes 1,500 acres of woods, wetlands and former farmlands on the west side of Route 9N, everything the Loineses owned on the hillsides above the lake with the exception of fifty acres retained by three separate families.
In 2001, the Lake George Conservancy purchased 43 acres of beech, maple and pine forest south of Clarence Linder’s property. With the acquisition of Wing Pond, those woods are now connected to the 1,307 acre parcel purchased in 2000, now known as the Pole Hill Preserve.
When the Conservancy acquired those lands in 2000, it was its largest acquisition to date.
As the Pole Hill lands were being transferred to New York State to become part of the Forest Preserve in 2005, it became clear that New York was slowly and, of course, to a limited degree, reacquiring lands that it had itself once owned on the west shore of Lake George.
After the War of Independence, New York State assumed ownership of vast tracts of lands once claimed by the Crown which it soon sold to revolutionary war veterans and speculators in order to promote settlement. Simeon DeWitt, Governor DeWitt Clinton’s nephew, was appointed the state’s Surveyor General and was charged with the task of surveying and subdividing the lands into tracts and lots. In 1810, surveyors working under his direction came to Lake George and laid out the Northwest Bay Tract, of which the lands on Tongue Mountain and Northwest Bay were a part.
The surveyors noted that it had already been stripped of white pine, some of which, no doubt, had been marked with the King’s broad arrow and reserved for the crown’s use as masts for his navy’s ships.
Sold to speculators in the 1840s, the land, or at least 12,000 acres of it, was acquired by Stephen and Mary Loines. It is believed they purchased the land for 75 cents per acre.
Stephen Loines was a wealthy marine insurance broker living with his wife Mary and their three daughters in Brooklyn Heights when the Lake George lands were acquired.
(Their only son, Russell Hillard Loines, had already graduated from Harvard Law School and would marry a Lake George neighbor, Katherine Conger, in 1902.) However prominent Stephen Loines may have been in New York shipping circles, it was Mary who was the more famous.
She was a leader in New York State’s Suffrage movement from 1869, when she attended the the first convention of the American Woman Suffrage Association as a delegate from Brooklyn, until 1917, when New York granted women the right to vote.
The family built at least three cottages on the lake shore for their own use and maintained farm houses that now lie on the west side of the road.
Russell Loines died in 1922, leaving his mother and his three sisters – Hilda, Elma and Sylvia – to contend with local opposition to their plans to donate and sell more land on Tongue Mountain to New York State York.
Some in state government, Robert Moses foremost among them, hoped to build a highway along the shore of Lake George at Tongue Mountain. To protect the shoreline, the Loineses agreed to donate land of their own to make an alternate route possible.
For its efforts, according to research conducted by Ellen Apperson Brown, the biographer and great-neice of the Loineses’ friend, John Apperson, the family was attacked in the columns of the Lake George Mirror.
Brown has come across a letter to the editor of the Lake George Mirror from John Apperson stating, “Among several very unselfish acts of theirs was the gift to the state of two very important pieces of land for public park purposes, and sometime ago they agreed to give all the necessary land for the Tongue Mountain Road through their estate, although the damage would be extensive; destroying as it does, farm land, vegetable garden, tennis courts and several structures belonging to them. We have many generous people at Lake George, but no one could have been more generous than they.”
Nancy Rogal, a step-daughter of Sylvia Loines Dalton, once described Stephen and Mary Loines’ three daughters as “educated, refined women; free spirits.”
Hilda was a renowned horticulturist and chairwoman of the Brooklyn Botantical Garden; Elma was the author of a book about her mother’s family’s adventures in the China trade and a musician; Sylvia was the family’s most ardent conservationist.
In 1964, the three daughters donated roughly thirty acres near the mouth of Northwest Bay Brook to the Eastern New York Nature Conservancy “to perpetuate the wild beauty of this area and maintain the natural forest and marsh conditions…. And to establish a sanctuary for all forms of native plant, animal and bird life.” More land was added to the preserve by Elma, the last surviving sister, before her death in 1983. In 2008, Eastern New York Nature Conservancy transferred the lands to the Lake George Land Conservancy.
With the death of Elma Loines in 1983, the last surviving members of the family were the daughters of Russell and Katherine Loines, Barbara Dreier and Margot Morrow Wilkie, and their respective families.
According to Chuck Houghton, a lifelong summer resident of Bolton Landing who became friends with Margot Wilkie when both were living in New York, “Barbara inherited homes and land at Lake George and Margot got the house on Martha’s Vineyard, which was just recently purchased by Teresa Heinz and John Kerry.”
Houghton said “Barbara’s husband, Ted Dreier, one of the founders of the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina, took on the task of attempting to sub-divide and sell the family’s property on Lake George.”
Lonnie Lawrence, now a principal in the Sherwood Group realtors, was retained to sell the properties.
“One group of lots along the lake at the head of Northwest Bay was purchased by one buyer, who in turn sold lots to others. The family was very interested in who bought the properties and what their intentions might be. They wanted what was best, not only for the family, but for the environment,” said Lawrence.
Walter Rehm, the Lake George attorney, was asked to complete the sub-division.
“The family’s original attorneys were unfamiliar with the requirements of the Adirondack Park Agency and local zoning laws. There were several problems, including the siting of septic systems. I hired new engineers, revised the plans, went to the APA and got them approved,” said Rehm. “The family was concerned about the impact of development on the land. As a consequence, the subdivision had to have as little impact upon the natural environment as possible. There are deed restrictions, prohibitions against additional subdivisions and setback requirements, among other things.”
Rehm added, “The family could have made a lot more money had they chosen to create and sell smaller lots, but they had been very good stewards of that land for almost one hundred years and they wanted to ensure that their tradition of stewardship would continue.”
Stewart Reid, the son of Herald Tribune publisher and Westchester Congressman Ogden Reid, with his wife at the time, bought the Loinses’ main house, known as Quarterdeck, and most of the property on the western side of Route 9N.
It was they (or companies or trusts controlled by them) who sold the 1,307 acres that are now part of the Pole Hill Preserve to the Lake George Land Conservancy and offered the Conservancy rights of first refusal on any remaining lands.
No land conservation effort on Lake George’s west shore has contributed more to the preservation of the lake’s water quality than the acquisition of Loines properties by New York and the land conservancies over the past one hundred years.
The woods and wetlands act as natural filters, clarifying runoff before it reaches the lake.
Vegetated streambanks prevent nutrients and eroded soils from washing into the lake.
Northwest Bay Brook is alive with herons, mergansers and beavers thanks, in part to the Loines sisters’ donations of land in the 1960s.
In fact, with the conservation of Wing Pond and the adjacent 40 acre parcel, a continuous wildlife corridor extends along Northwest Bay and westward into Adirondacks.
Those same lands are providing opportunities for recreation that are making Bolton Landing a hub for one of the most extensive network of hiking trails in the Adirondacks outside the high peaks.
The woodlands that Stephen and Mary Loines purchased for 75 cents an acre are now worth hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars per acre. We are all beneficiaries of that wise investment.
This story first appeared on the Lake George Mirror.
Photos from above: Loines Preserve sign, Wing Pond, Stephen and Mary Loines, and Northwest Bay from Loines Holdings.