The Legend of Lake George
What gives Lake George it’s fame? What is the lure that draws so many people, for so many years, to the shores of this pristine lake?
Perhaps it is the magnificent mountains of the Adirondack State Park. Perhaps it is the rich history, or the remarkable legends that surround the area.
The history of Lake George follows one major theme, a theme that has remained throughout the settling of the area by the Original People, the warring of European armies, and the modern conquest by civilized conquistadors of tourism: everyone wants Lake George.
Long before America was America, Andi-ta-roc-te was Indian Territory. They wanted it for homes, for fishing, and for hunting. The rich mountain slopes and broad, deep waters of the lake provided an ideal place to settle.
In the early 17th century, the region caught the eye of European explorers, most importantly those of France, setting the stage for the French & Indian War years later. The lake became known as Lac du Saint-Sacrement.
Lake George, as it came to be known by the British in the mid-18th century, was part of the American arena for battles between French and British and Indian forces during the Seven Year’s War. The British wanted it too. Forts were built, armies marched, and muskets erupted around the waters of Lake George.
Then there was the American War for Independence. Lake George was an important access point between Montreál and New York. The bloodless battle of Fort Ticonderoga under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold was America’s first victory in the war. Peace returned to the region after America gained it’s independence.
Since then, Lake George’s history has been more tranquil. President Ulysses Grant visited in 1872. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was hiking nearby Mt. Marcy when word reached him of President McKinley’s death. Members of the Hudson River School were inspired by panoramas of the area.
Fact isn’t the only source of Lake George’s mythos. James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans” solidified the legends of the Original People, and eternalized the French & Indian War. Lord Abercrombie’s treasure is reported to reside on Tea Island in the Southern end of the lake. In 1904, the Lake George Monster “roamed” the waters, until it was found to be an elaborate hoax by a local resident.
The region has enjoyed fame throughout the years, fueled by a mixture of fact and fiction, along with the desire to possess Lake George.
The Adirondack Camp Concept
Following along, and perhaps pushing forward, the fame of Lake George was tourism, another extension of the desire for the area. In 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw…” Many people agreed with him. The beauty of the area drew people in droves from around the world to visit, and became a popular destination for America’s wealthy families. The New York times reported in 1873, “From the North and from the South, from the East and West…they come by the hundreds, to feast their eyes on the natural beauties of this favored spot.”
Dozens of hotels began springing up. Stage coaches increased the flow of visitors, only to be supplanted by the floods brought by the railroad in the late 1800s. In 1883, the Sagamore Club House was built, which later became the Sagamore Hotel; it remains to this day.
Hotels were not the only lodgings around the area. Many wealthy families built summer “cottages,” really mansions that dotted Lake Shore Drive and created “Millionaire’s Row.” Others preferred to maintain rusticity and built camp-like structures, most notably John D. Rockefeller.
Throughout the early and mid-1900s, the children of these families attended local summer camps in the area, which began the tradition of summer camp on Lake George.
As the 20th century progressed, the summer residents began changing. Once dominated by the wealthy and members of the “Lake George Summer Colony,” the growth of the middle class began expanding and shifting the touring population. Eventually, the mansions were torn down or converted into hotels for the rising number of visitors.
More recently, Lake George has seen countless numbers of campers, hikers, adventurers, and vacationers who all want the waters, hills, and beauty of Lake George.
Summer Camp on Lake George
The tradition of camping caters to younger adventurers as well. In 1904, the founder of Adirondack Camp, and his band of intrepid boys braved the “monster” infested waters of Lake George. Dr. Brown founded the camp on the southern shore of the lake. For over a hundred years, Adirondack Camp has maintained the tradition of camping for kids in the midst of the larger ebb and flow of visitors who come to the area.
Adirondack Camp sits on a beautiful peninsula. It’s own history stands in the flow of the fame and mythos that encompass the area. The Adirondack Eagle, Awiskini, the Blue/White Trophy, and a host of other traditions add to the historicity of Adirondack Camp, which is already steeped in the tradition and history of Lake George.