Manifesting a woman’s dream of
renewal for the spirit of all women
Village of Lake George, on the southern fringe of New York’s Adirondack
Mountains, is a Mecca for tourists, poised at the south end of the
32-mile lake for which it is named. Motels and eateries line Canada
Street, along with shops promising everything from T-shirts to tattoos.
On hot summer days, Million Dollar Beach and its smaller counterpart at
Shephard’s Park are packed with swimmers and sun worshipers. The cannon
at Fort William Henry booms at predictable intervals and a calliope
pipes tunes as an old paddle-wheeler filled with passengers churns its
way along a sight-seeing route a few miles down the lake and back again.
There’s no shortage of daytime activities and shopping in Lake George
Village, and at dusk the rollicking nightlife begins.
those looking for quiet respite from life’s hustle, a very different
sort of experience lies on the opposite shore, where Wiawaka Holiday
House nestles beneath stately trees at the water’s edge a scant mile or
two from the village. This century-old idyllic retreat was established
when the shores and islands of the lake were bejeweled by lavish summer
estates of wealthy moguls and celebrities.
particular site once was graced by the United States Hotel, one of the
earliest resorts on Lake George, built in 1850. Francis Crosby bought
the site in 1858, and in 1873 built Crosbyside, his lovely Victorian
home. Three years later he added two lakeside cottages, “Rose” and
“Mayflower,” to accommodate his most important clients.
opened in 1903 as a retreat for women who
worked in Troy
the lakeside cottages built by Crosby
Near the end of the 19th
century, Mary Wiltsie Fuller, daughter of a Troy, NY, industrialist,
prevailed upon her wealthy friends Spencer and Katrina Trask, to help
her provide a retreat for women factory workers who needed a place to
get away from the drudgery of their jobs as collar workers and
laundresses in the Troy, NY, shirt factories. She knew they needed an
affordable place in which to restore their spirit and energies.
Fuller must have been most persuasive. In 1903 the Trasks bought this
lakeside property and did some remodeling of the cottages. The property
was named “Wiawaka,” a word meaning “spirit of women,” and they leased
it to Fuller.
Meanwhile, on an adjacent parcel of property, the Trasks, who had long
wanted to create a special place for artists, built a sixteen-room
“dormitory” for that purpose. In the early years this Adirondack lodge,
dubbed “Wakonda,” sheltered many painters and sculptors, their number
including the acclaimed modernist Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (b. 1887, d.
1986), said to have stayed for three weeks one summer early in her
career. Within a couple of years, the Trasks sold both properties to
Mary Fuller for the sum of one dollar and a bouquet of flowers. She was
free to fulfill her dream of operating a retreat for women, and the
Trasks turned their energies to developing the 400-acre estate they
owned in Saratoga Springs into Yaddo, an artist’s colony, a prestigious
retreat that still exists today, and which boasts an unparalleled
history of nurturing artists and writers to outstanding successes. (http://yaddo.org/yaddo/history.shtml)
her death in 1943, Mary Fuller worked tirelessly to enlist the help of
wealthy women of her acquaintance to raise funds for Wiawaka, to enable
her to offer “scholarships” to women unable to pay the fees to visit.
Some stayed for days, others for months. They rested and reflected
beside the glittering lake, and attended programs in the arts and in
In its first summer of operation, when room and board was $3.50 per
week, 176 guests came. Today women may reserve rooms to stay overnight,
with meals included, or visit just for a day or meal. Fees are
reasonable, and those with special financial circumstances may be
eligible for a lower rate. July is the only month that men are
accommodated, and then only men who are part of a group with women.
Enjoyable respite from
the workaday world.
Wiawaka is now operated as a
nonprofit organization dedicated to the goals that Fuller worked for and
working hard to maintain and restore the old structures. The current
project is restoration of Wakonda Lodge, the building that once housed
the artists. Much work has been done, but fundraising continues to reach
the goal of $300,000 for this good cause.
(http://www.wiawaka.org/wakonda-project.html) The lodge is expected to
reopen to guests July 1, 2013. Wiawaka’s director, Christine Dixon,
quoted an old newspaper article about Wakonda’s
founders, which said:
“The plan of Mr. & Mrs. Trask is to make an art centre which shall grow
through the years to greater proportions.” Dixon added, “My focus with the reopening of
Wakonda is art therapy and art programming. We are truly honoring the
original intention for this building at Wiawaka.”
Lodge, built by Spencer and
Katrina Trask as an artists’ roost.
These days approximately 1,000
women visit Wiawaka each summer, some just enjoying solitude or special
reunions with family or friends, and others attending as part of a group
to engage in workshops or classes in such varied activities as writing,
yoga, Pilates, quilting, or painting. All come for relaxation and
personal enrichment. They find peace walking woodland trails or
strolling across the expansive lawn among gardens to the maze, or
sitting on the dock beside the classic boathouse with a cup of hot
coffee as the sun rises, watching the village across the lake come to
life to begin the bustle of its day. The view from this side of the lake
keeps all that in perspective and suggests that another cup of coffee
might be in order as the waves lap against the shore and sun bathes the
If your idea of an affordable Adirondack vacation is
one of lakeside serenity, simple pleasures and time for quiet
reflection and introspection, Wiawaka should be on your short list.
Three wholesome and tasty meals are announced each day with the
ringing of an old-fashioned dinner bell, and coffee is available
around the clock in the parlor of Fuller House, all to restore the
“spirit of women”. See photos of the grounds and accommodations and
find registration details at
Participants in the 2012 Adirondack
for a group photo on the porch of
The dock beside Wiawaka’s boathouse affords magnificent lake and
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