Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our Family at Lake George

In the 1880s Americans began to be settled enough that the more affluent actually began to have second or vacation homes in what had been rather remote areas. Not all were referred to as such but might have been referred to as "hunting camps". My great-great-grandfather William Hathaway Van Cott Jr. (his father was Judge William H. Van Cott) was successful enough that he bought a small plot of rocky land on the shore of Lake George in New York and built a small "camp" there.

That original building, which had windows, was about the size of a good sized shed and was the building in which they lived while building the rest of the "facilities". In keeping with the times, the family named this building the "Windigo house". This was 1884 and access to the camp was by boat. The Windigo house was up the rather steep hill behind the building in the center.

Later, these buildings took over as the main living quarters with the Windigo house used as a bunk house for the children. I don't remember a name for the main cottage which housed a separate bedroom for the lord of the manor, kitchen, dining and "living room" with fireplace (the ONLY fireplace, this was not a winter cabin). The Dovecote (the building on the left of the photo) had two bedrooms, each with a separate door fronting the lake and was used for married couples. The camp was rebuilt about 1950.

This photo is from early in the 1960s, maybe 1961, and a new front porch is being constructed for the Dovecote. Likely it is family members doing the work and this was often the case as these folks found it interesting and fun to do.

The property passed from Eleanor Van Cott Brodie to four daughters (Janet, Agnes, Margaret and Eleanor) to whom the cabin passed at his death. Only Eleanor is still living (in Glens Falls near her daughter Agnes).

When the girls were children living in Staten Island, their mother, Eleanor, would pack trunks with canned food and clothing for the summer. After the school year had ended, they would take their trunks to Grand Central Station and board the train to the terminal at or nearest to Lake George Village. There they would board a steamer to Sabbath Day Point (the cottage is just south of the point). From Sabbath Day Point they would move their things in one of the two pulling (rowing) boats.

Here is my Grandmother Janet in Winona, one of the two Lake George pulling (rowing) boats built by Bartlett which they used, in 1962 or 1963 on Lake George. She's out in the bay in front of the cottage and you are looking south down the lake.

Water came directly from the lake with a hand pump in the kitchen and an intake about 50 feet out into the lake. Of course the pump had to be primed and sometimes it was just as easy to throw a bucket off the porch into the water and haul in 5 gallons that way! Great chore for a young boy, let me tell you!

These boats (Winona is shown above) were built about 1904 by George (?) Bartlett of Sabbath Day Point to replace earlier boats. Why those boats needed replacement I can't say. The other of the pair must have suffered some damage and I never saw that one but I have seen photos (for which I'm searching). My grandfather re-built this one, Winona, and the boat now resides in the Mystic Seaport Museum. Plans for the boat can be purchased from the museum.

These boats were rowed, sailed (with leeboards) and motored with an old Evinrude outboard. Winona has been all over Lake George, on Lake Champlain, and even on Barnegat Bay. I should know, that's me with Grandma Janet. I'm all of 5 years old.

Of course, every generation had their own stories about the place and these were sometimes great fun for us to hear as we sat around the fireplace roasting marshmallows or enjoying Grandpa's coffee-ice cream-and-root beer floats.

This place is my major connection to the Adirondacks. All my Adirondack experiences revolve about going to, leaving from or day trips around this cottage. As I gather more photographs I'll be continuing my stories of Pine Lodge, aka Brodie Cottage. This might be difficult as the family sold the cottage in 1994 and gave the accumulated photo history to the new owners! A wonderful thing but copies of those photos apparently weren't made.

This photo shows an aerial view of the cottage as it is now. The Windigo House is gone as is the outhouse (yes, we used an outhouse through 1978). The Dovecote and main cottage have been joined by a wooden walk way. We had to go down stairs from the main cabin and walk across to the Dovecote on a stone and dirt path, mostly in bare feet. It was wonderful in the dark when you had to make a late night run to the toilet which was up the hill behind the main cottage. I don't see the dock either but this is probably a fall-2006 photo and the dock is pulled up for winter and stored under the main cottage.

Sold in 1994 to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart M. Lazarus this inconsequential "camp" is no longer ours but well remembered.

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