Chateaugay Lake: The Adirondack Resort Era 1830-1917
By Henry Cassell Ruschmeyer
Between 1830 and 1917, the Adirondacks enjoyed a summer civilization unique in the annals of American resort life. The vast wilderness went through three phases of development in evolving from a favorite spot for sportsmen, artists, and intellectuals to a preferred destination among the rich. In the process, it produced two distinct institutions of summer living: the family hotel and the private camp. They both became an integral part of the Adirondack resort era.
The emergence of a summer colony at Chateaugay Lake closely paralleled the various phases seen in the region generally. Between 1830 and 1865 sportsmen and artists predominated, among whom were Chester Harding, portrait painter, and A.F. Tait, outdoors sporting artist. They were followed by solid people - business and professional men with their families - in the second phase from 1866 to 1889, namely George Cheyne Shattuck and Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, physicians, Boston Brahmins, and the Seth E. Thomas family, Connecticut clockmakers. The wealthier leisure classes, including individuals in the performing arts, became the most numerous group during the last phase from 1890 to 1917, notably Edmund Gros, first director of the American Hospital of Paris, Franklin Haven Sargent, founder of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Sherwood Anderson, author, the celebrated Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, and Geraldine Farrar, star of the Metropolitan Opera.
These distinctive periods seen at Chateaugay Lake, and in the Adirondacks as a whole, stemmed from national developments. The resort era embraced the years between two significant wars. Both the Civil War and the First World War revolutionized the lives and habits of the American People. In the first instance, the changes brought by the new prosperity and industrial growth after 1865 enabled the flowering of the resort civilization. While in the aftermath of 1917-1918, the changes ushered in by the automobile, particularly, caused its decline and decay.