When we want to create a rustic style in our homes, we often think of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks for inspiration. The Adirondack wilderness area is in the northeastern corner of New York. It covers approximately six million acres!!
Did you know that the word Adirondack is said to mean bark eaters? Another Indian tribe called the local Algonquin Indians this as an insult. I can hear them now yelling out bark eater! They probably laughed getting just the reaction they were looking for! I imagine that a bark eater might be someone without proper wealth to get some decent food and settling for some nice dry old bark to eat, so it was like calling someone trailer trash or hill billy. Remember this next time you lounge out back in your Adirondack chair.
Unlike several of our parks, there are many homes in the park area. There are more than a hundred communities within the park. We have all heard of Lake Placid; which is famous, but there are smaller settlements that are off the beaten path. Over 100,000 people live in the Adirondack Park and then that amount swells each summer when the tourist visit up to several more million people!
William Murray wrote Adventures in the Wilderness in 1867 . By 1869, the book was being read by all those harried city dwellers who dreamed of hunting and fishing in the wilds. Murray's book was a how-to book describing places to go in the Adirondacks, what to take along and how to hire a guide. He also said that the air was good for a body, scented with sweet balsam and packed with salubrious ozone. ...just where did he get that word, salubrious?
We had been a nation that thought the good life was having the comforts of city living. Now, everyone wanted to rough it a bit returning to the adventures of the wild thanks to our western novels and the hype from the railroad advertisers. We also had a new religion being introduced. It touted exercise and the outdoor life as part of God's plan for us. So, outdoor lovers and religious folk alike flocked to the great wild area of the Adirondacks. Suddenly the wilderness became fashionable and maybe spiritual. Hotels were built and farmers became professional guides and log home builders.
The railroad money came into action with William Durant becoming one of the first land developers in the newly discovered area. He built Camp Pine Knot. It consisted of several buildings with a main lodge. He filled this lodge with locally made rustic furniture. The experience for the traveler was to be set in the mist of the wilderness, but without lacking the comforts of home. The furniture might be made of twigs and planks, but it was made to be comfortable. The beds were often stuffed with balsam. Can you imagine how pleasant that must have been? The camps that came after, took Durant's lead in creating self-sufficient villages at the edge of civilization. There were laundresses, servants, blacksmiths, and carpenters. The guest or owners of these homes could relax fishing, hiking, boating and celebrated a lifestyle where they could experiment in new ways to dress and new ways of decorating and even new ways of thinking! They were free to play!
About this same time, Japan opened it's doors after 400 years of being closed off to the rest of the world. Japanese became the hot place to visit and the place to mimic in design. Many of the camps incorporated Japanese style to their buildings. I read that the Vanderbilt's had their servants all wear Japanese Kimonos! I wonder if they also wore those Gisha style shoes? I can see them tripping around trying to look good as they balanced themselves on their platform shoes! Dinner parties had to be fun!
The camps, as they became known, had English cottage details with eyebrow windows and roofs that looked like thatch, maybe with a Japanese inspired roof line and a pioneer log construction. Experimenting with building techniques and style were just a part of this new adventure! The word, camp, did not mean living in a tent or a cabin. A camp was a group of rustic buildings on the edge of a lake, with untouched forest just out back. It also a place of comfort and even luxury. The wealthy did not want you to think they were truly going without!
Next comes the evolution of what happens with the camps of the Adirondacks......
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