Behind the Front Door of Lake Placid’s Great Camps
In the late 1870s, the son of a railroad tycoon headed off into the dense woods of the Adirondacks – to what is today just a 30-minute drive west of the Lake Placid Lodge – to start an architectural revolution. His name was William West Durant, and his vision was to tuck rustic European Swiss chalet-inspired, multi-building camps into the New York wilderness. His homes – and the homes designed by his successors – let American royalty hide away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Nestled away on windy, unpaved roads, you’ll still find these historic summer homes that were created to coexist in harmony with the natural landscape. We invite you to take a look inside three Lake Placid camps that are recently on the market – Watch Rock, Camp Uncas, and Moss Ledge – for a quick history lesson. Many Great Camps are also available for self-guided tours throughout the year.
While Watch Rock does not have the historical background of other area camps, it is still classified as an Adirondack Great Camp due to its enormous size: 90 acres and 2,800 feet of waterfront complete with a main lodge, guide house, icehouse, workshop, three lean-tos, and guest cabin. Judge George E. Terry built this compound in 1898 on the western shore of Long Lake as a family retreat, secluded from area roads and neighboring homes. With no roads and far from power lines, the camp functioned well into the 1940s with the help of iceboxes and plenty of fresh-cut wood for cooking and heating.
Completed in 1895 on Mohegan Lake by Adirondack Great Camps designer William West Durant and owned by American tycoon J.P. Morgan, Camp Uncas is considered one of the finest examples of these homes. It was Durant’s most ambitious project that put him in financial distress. He employed 200 men to build miles of roads, cut local spruce for the buildings, and quarry nearby granite for fireplaces, foundations, and other structural elements. In 2010, the 20-building complex was designated a National Landmark by the US Department of Interior and still houses some of the original furnishings today.
One of William L. Coulter’s – Durant’s successor – first designs, this three-building Great Camp on Upper Saranac Lake was designed in 1898 for Isabel Ballantine, daughter of Newark beer baron John Holmes Ballantine. The structure’s large porches and 1,600 feet of private shorefront offer a vast view of the lake. Its unpeeled-log structural detailing, shingles over plank walls, and notched-corner-style log cabin make it a standout example of the traditional Great Camp design. Durant named the Moss Ledge property after the nearby rocky, moss-covered ledge, still a prominent feature along the camp’s shoreline. Nearby, you can also find two other Coulter Great Camps: Prospect Point Camp and Eagle Island Camp.
Where to Stay Lake Placid Lodge