Get To Know The Greats! The Story of Adirondack Great Camps

A wooded watefront home with direct lake and mountain views in autumn

What is an Adirondack Great Camp?

Great Camps are family compounds of cabins mostly built during the late 19th century as summer homes for the wealthy during what’s known as the Gilded Age, an era of rapid economic, technological and industrial growth. Not your typical “camp,” Great Camps are grandiose and sprawling complexes along the shorelines of the Adirondacks often with a main house, guest houses, boat houses and other structures. The properties were built by local craftsmen using materials native to the region in a distinctive rustic style that blends into the natural surroundings – what’s become known as Adirondack Rustic Style.

Well-Known Adirondack Great Camps

There were around three dozen original Great Camps. Over the years, Merrill L. Thomas, Inc. has sold some of the most recognized in the region such as:

Camp Topridge

Originally built in 1897, the property was bought in 1920 by Marjorie Merriweather Post, founder of General Foods and daughter of C.W. Post. She expanded the camp to 207 acres and renovated it extensively.

Camp Joyland

The land was bought by legendary musical theatre composer Victor Herbert in 1904 from the proceeds of “Babes in Toyland,”. He commissioned the renowned Adirondack architect, William L. Coulter to design and oversee the construction of his camp on the south shore of Lake Placid.

Camp Sunshine

Kate Smith, known as the first lady of radio and beloved for her classic rendition of God Bless America, owned this Great Camp for 40 years. She even broadcast her popular “Kate Smith Hour” from there during the summer.

Camp Togus

Located on Forked Lake in Whitney Park, the property was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Marylou Whitney and had been in the Whitney family since 1897.

Others we’ve had the privilege to sell include:

  • Cheery Lodge – Lake Placid
  • Camp Carolina – Lake Placid
  • Dexter Lake – St. Regis Falls
  • Wenonah Lodge – Upper Saranac Lake
  • Green Bay Camp – Upper Saranac Lake
  • Camp Katia – Upper St. Regis
  • Camp Gordon – Lake Placid
  • Camp Hilgarth – Lake Placid
  • The Hedges – Blue Mountain Lake
  • Bottle Bay Camp – Upper Saranac Lake
  • Camp Solitude – Lake Placid

Great Camps Today

Although the Great Camp building boom ended in the 1920s their architectural style still remains popular today, even beyond the Adirondack region. In addition, many Great Camps have now been deemed as National Historic Landmarks some of which you can stay and/or visit today per the Adirondack Architectural Heritage Organization (AARCH).

Open to the Public:

Visit and Stay:

Special access tours have also been provided through AARCH to Eagle Island, Echo Camp, Flat Rock, Kildare Club, Moss Ledge and Pine Knot.

Great Camps certainly aren’t the only properties in the area! We also offer a variety of Adirondack camps and cottages, executive resort homes and turnkey condominiums to purchase or as vacation rentals. For more information on Adirondack real estate and Lake Placid vacation rentals, contact our expert team at Merrill L. Thomas, Inc today!

Related Topics:

ADK History, Rentals, Waterfront