Open Houses Offer Rare Access into Historic Camp Buildings during Winter Months
Three Winter Weekend events will be held for the seventh consecutive year at Camp Santanoni in the Adirondacks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. The events will take place during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, January 18-20; Presidents' Day holiday weekend, February 15-17; and the weekend of March 14 and 15.
"During these special Winter Weekends, visitors to Camp Santanoni will be able to enjoy winter outdoor recreation with family and friends, while immersed in the beautiful wilderness setting and rich cultural heritage of the Adirondacks," Commissioner Seggos said. "These annual weekend open houses support New York's ongoing efforts to work with local communities to increase sustainable tourism and economic activity by showcasing this wondrous part of the state."
The three Winter Weekend events are hosted by the Friends of Camp Santanoni and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's (ESF) Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC). The Friends of Camp Santanoni is a partnership between DEC, Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), the town of Newcomb, and volunteers who support preserving this Great Camp for public education, recreation, and inspiration.
During the weekends, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have access to the historic camp properties located in the town of Newcomb in Essex County to rest, tour the buildings, and view interpretative displays.
"We are happy to work with our partners, DEC, AARCH, and SUNY ESF to build on the history and natural beauty of our town to provide tourism destinations that people want to visit," said Newcomb Town Supervisor Robin DeLoria. "This year the town of Newcomb proudly announces that the Newcomb Café and Lake Harris Lodge Restaurant will be open to provide dining options for our visitors."
A 9.8-mile round trip cross-country ski or snowshoe excursion begins at Camp Santanoni's Gate Lodge complex and extends to the remote lakeside main lodge complex. The trip requires moderate physical activity and provides a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. The Adirondack Interpretive Center will provide snowshoes at the Gate Lodge for any visitors without their own.
During the three Winter Weekend events, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will be able to visit both the Gate Lodge and Main Lodge of Camp Santanoni, view displays about the Great Camp, and take interpretive tours with AARCH staff. While the grounds of Camp Santanoni are open to visitors 365 days a year, the buildings are not typically open to the public during winter months. The Artist's Studio, a log and stone building next to the Main Lodge on the shores of Newcomb Lake, will be open as a warming hut. Bring your own reusable cup to enjoy free coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
"Adirondack Architectural Heritage is thrilled to once again offer these extraordinary winter experiences at Camp Santanoni," said Steven Engelhart, Executive Director of AARCH. "Camp Santanoni is a marvelous destination in any season. In winter, the reliably excellent snow conditions on the five-mile carriage road and seeing the Great Camp at the other end make for a great outdoor experience. To make it even better, over three weekends in 2020, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will be able to get out of the cold and enjoy a hot beverage at the heated Artist's Studio and get a short interpretive tour of Santanoni's 15,000 square foot rustic lodge before the return journey."
"Great Camp Santanoni is a remarkable cultural, educational, and recreational resource - one that provides new and exciting experiences and vistas in every season," said Paul Hai of SUNY ESF's Northern Forest Institute, which manages AIC. "ESF is excited to continue our partnership with NYS DEC, AARCH and the Town of Newcomb in hosting three special winter weekends that enrich visitor access to and understanding of this historic camp. It has been fabulous to see how popular these weekends have become, with visitors choosing to book a room in one of Newcomb's inns, and we now have two new restaurants to enjoy before or after exploring the Camp. We're very happy to see these winter weekends continue and grow."
In addition to the popular 9.8-mile round trip trail from the Gate Lodge to the Main Lodge, cross-country skiers and snowshoers are encouraged to take the half-mile trail that connects Camp Santanoni to AIC's 3.6-mile trail system. SUNY ESF's AIC buildings will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during all three Winter Weekends. Saturday, January 18, and Saturday, February 15, coincide with SUNY ESF's Natural Movies series at AIC. January's film will be "H is for Hawk" and "Sex, Lies, and Butterflies" will be shown in February. Both films are free of charge and showings start at 1:30 p.m.
The February Winter Weekend also lines up with the Great Backyard Bird-count, a nation-wide citizen science initiative in which ESF participates. Binoculars will be available at the AIC and ESF staff will be on hand to introduce birders of all ages and experience levels to the diversity of winter birds in the Adirondacks.
Through the collaborative efforts of the Friends of Camp Santanoni, restorations and updates are underway to the camp's historic buildings and grounds. The Gate Lodge electrical system has been replaced, the Gate Lodge entryway roof was repaired this past fall, and DEC recently installed a new, larger woodstove and a cook top in the Artist's Studio in preparation for the Winter Weekends. In addition to routine road maintenance, several projects are planned for key buildings. Work on the Main Lodge roof and foundation will begin this spring.
Robert and Anna Pruyn, the original owners of Camp Santanoni, commissioned construction of the Great Camp in 1892. Spanning 12,900 acres, the camp consisted of three groupings of buildings: the Gatehouse Complex; the Farm Complex; and the Main Camp. Pruyn heirs sold the camp to the Melvin family of Syracuse in 1953, and the camp remained in private ownership until 1972, when the property was sold to the State of New York and incorporated into the State Forest Preserve. Over the last several decades of state ownership, the camp has gradually been restored through a partnership between DEC, AARCH, and the town of Newcomb. Santanoni is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
Camp Santanoni Winter Weekends are open to all visitors at no cost. Reservations are not required. Contact AARCH at 518-834-9328 for more information on upcoming Winter Weekends. Additional information about Camp Santanoni, the AIC, and the Newcomb area may be found at: DEC's Camp Santanoni website; Adirondack Architectural Heritage (leaves DEC website); Adirondack Interpretive Center (leaves DEC website); and town of Newcomb (leaves DEC website).