Camp Santanoni Historic Area
During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, many of America's most successful businessmen built summer homes in the Adirondack Region of New York State. Intended as rustic but elegant retreats from city life, the largest of these Adirondack camps, became known as Great Camps.
Camp Santanoni is one of the most sophisticated and distinguished of all of the surviving great camps. It was one of a few to employ whole log construction and rustic styling in detail. It also contains some of the finest examples of local Adirondack craftsmanship in construction, architectural detail, finishes and decoration. In addition to being listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places; Camp Santanoni is a National Historic Landmark. Camp Santanoni is the only great camp entirely in public ownership and stewardship.
The area and the historic Great Camp are popular day hike destinations during summer months. The area has become widely known as a cross country skiing and cycling destination. The three Camp Santanoni Winter Weekend events held annually are very popular - more so each year. Equestrians, campers, hunters and anglers also make use of the area. Connecting trails to a variety of High Peaks Wilderness Area, Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest locations as well as the Adirondack Park Agency, Newcomb Visitor Center pass through the area as well.
Camp Santanoni was created by Robert C. and AnnaPruyn. A successful Albany banker and businessman, Mr. Pruyn used the camp for entertaining guests and as a refuge from city life. Mr. Pruyn entertained many guests, among whom were Theodore Roosevelt and the great grandson of the author James Fenimore Cooper along with many other prominent persons.
At its height, Camp Santanoni comprised over 12,900 acres. The Camp contained three distinct groups of buildings:
- The Gate Lodge Complex
- The Farm Complex
- The Great Camp Complex, as well as the 4.7 mile carriage road now referred to as the Newcomb Lake Road.
Camp Santanoni is one of the oldest and largest of the early great camps. It was the first to be comprehensively designed as a unit by a professional architect. The leading architect, Robert H. Robertson, who was a Yale classmate of Pruyn's, designed the Main Camp Complex. Mr. Robertson was responsible for the design of many early skyscrapers in New York City and elsewhere. Mr. Robertson also designed William S. Webb's Nehasane and buildings at Shelburne Farms in Vermont, also for Webb. The Artist's Studio, the Gate Lodge, the Creamery and renovations to the Farm Complex were designed by the prominent architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich. The operational layout and working systems of the Farm Complex were designed by Edward Burnett who was an expert on "scientific farming". Contemporary assessments of Camp Santanoni characterized Mr. Pruyn's wilderness camp as the "largest and finest" in the Adirondacks.
The property was acquired by the State of New York in 1972. In 1991 the State, after intensive efforts by the Town of Newcomb, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the Preservation League of New York State, legislators and other groups, agreed to preserve the remaining structures as an educational exhibit in a manner consistent with the camp's Forest Preserve setting. The area was formally classified as historic and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
A five-mile long access road through this historic area may be visited by an accessible horse and wagon through reservation only. No motor vehicles are allowed on this road. Accessible port-a-johns are available at each end of the road. 12-foot wide covered porches around the main building are accessible by ramp. Accessible horse mounting platforms are available at the gate lodge complex and at the main lodge.
Full Listing of DEC's Accessible Recreation Destinations
From the NYS Thruway (I-90), Exit 27 at Amsterdam; North on Route 30 through the villages of Speculator, Indian Lake, and Blue Mountain Lake. In Long Lake, turn onto 28N East to Newcomb.
From Tupper Lake: Route 30 South to Long Lake; East on 28N to Newcomb.
Northbound: From Adirondack Northway (I-87), Exit 26 at Pottersville; West on 29 (Olmstedville Road) through Olmsteadville to 28N; Northwest on 28N to Newcomb.
Southbound: From Adirondack Northway (I-87), Exit 29 at North Hudson/ Newcomb; (Blue Ridge Road) West on 28N to Newcomb.
Location and Access
The building complexes are connected by a five mile gravel carriage road. Beginning at state route 28N the resource is composed of a Gate Lodge Complex where a stone gate lodge, boat house and frame guide house remain. The Farm Complex is located approximately one mile from route 28N and currently consists of the ruins of large dairy and horse barn lost in a tragic fire in 2004, stone dairy building and several houses. The ruins of many other buildings are also present. The Main Camp is located on Newcomb Lake, five miles from route 28N. The 15,000 square foot main lodge, stone Artists Studio, boat house and several smaller structures survive. Other related remains scattered about the original estate include a bath house on Newcomb Lake, a maple sugaring complex, farm sheds, as well as the ruins of a hunting camp and boat house on Moose Pond.
Although less than half of the original structures remain, Camp Santanoni retains the core of its original form and layout and is therefore one of the few surviving great camps to retain the defining characteristics of the class. These include:
- A compound design consisting of multiple, designed specialized structures;
- Imaginative use of native building materials in construction and/or decoration;
- A setting on a secluded, wooded lakeshore; and,
- A high degree of self sufficiency through service, food production and staff housing.
In spite of the loss of many of its buildings, all of these features remain at Camp Santanoni to one degree or another. Santanoni in fact epitomizes many of these features of great camp design. The rambling main camp building was constructed entirely (with minor exceptions) of on-site materials at an ideal location, carefully chosen by Mr. Pruyn. Robertson sited the building to take maximum advantage of the prevailing westerly breezes and the vista of Newcomb Lake and the Santanoni Mountain Range while artfully blending the large building into its wilderness setting and preserving the natural shoreline. Even today the effect is one of understated grandeur and harmony with setting.
Land and Water
The terrain within Camp Santanoni is flat to gently sloping. The elevation ranges from a low of 1568 feet at the Gate Lodge to a high of 1968 feet along the carriage road to the great camp. The area surrounding Santanoni is very mountainous as the area borders the High Peaks Wilderness Area and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. Santanoni Peak, with an elevation of 4, 607 feet is visible from the Great Camp Complex.
The Newcomb Lake Road traverses a number of small streams, but there are no large water bodies contained within the Camp Santanoni Historic Area. The Great Camp Complex does rest on the shores of Newcomb Lake.
Fish and Wildlife
Camp Santanoni is suitable habitat for numerous mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians common to the Adirondacks.
Some of the more common mammals include white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern cottontail, red squirrel, black bear, coyote, beaver, and eastern chipmunk. There has even been occasional sightings of moose.
Birds that might be found in the area, include the common merganser, mallard, blue jay, ruffed grouse, American crow, tree swallow, loon, and American robin. Occasional sightings of golden eagles have been noted on Newcomb Lake.