Once a playground of the Vanderbilts, the Great Camp Sagamore in upstate New York lets visitors experience the wilderness in Gilded Age grandeur.
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Part log cabin, part Swiss chalet, the main lodge at Sagamore, built by William West Durant in the 1890s, helped define the Adirondack style.
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The perfectly preserved two-lane bowling alley was built in 1914; play requires someone to manually reset the pins and place the bowling ball on the calibrated wooden track for its return.
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Spares and strikes in the bowling alley are recorded on a reproduction of the original scoreboard.
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Vanderbilt employed a full-time taxidermist to preserve the game he bagged during his beloved hunting trips; one of these trophies is tucked in a fireplace niche.
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A butler's pantry in the playhouse displays dishes in a china pattern designed just for Sagamore.
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The original owner, William West Durant, used limbs and roots of native trees not only for porch railings and trim on the exterior of the buildings, but also to create whimsical woodland furniture, such as the table in the vestibule to the main dining room.
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Margaret Vanderbilt relished bringing artists, writers, actors, musicians, and politicians together in the dining hall, where today up to 84 guests can share three meals a day, family-style.
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The Family Compound
Connected to one another and to the land around them, the buildings in Sagamore's workers' complex are made with board-and-batten siding. The covered walkways were designed to protect servants from the rain and snow as they moved from the laundry room to other buildings, and the singled roofs and broad overhangs were made to prevent snow and ice buildup.
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The workers' cottages were crafted with the elements in mind: Rock foundations prevent dampness and rot.
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The Great Room
In the impressive great room in the main lodge, oversize andirons and a massive wrought-iron chandelier, which hangs from the ceiling's beams.
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The Vanderbilts frequently entertained guests after dinner in the playhouse, which included a billiards table and a bar.
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Sagamore's 1897 boathouse is outfitted for paddling on the 12-square-mile Sagamore Lake. Because of its isolation, the Sagamore was built as a self-sufficient compound and included, among other things, on-site blacksmiths and a root cellar for storing vegetables.
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A visitor relaxes on the balcony overlooking Sagamore Lake at the Wigwam building. Great Camp Sagamore, which is about a five-hour drive from New York City, is open to the public from Memorial Day to mid-October for extended stays, group retreats, and day tours. Visit greatcampsagamore.org for more information.
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Activities and What's Nearby
Spend your time at Sagamore hiking, bowling, playing lawn games, and enjoying quality Adirondack-chair time.
Make sure to take a dinner cruise on Raquette Lake aboard a reproduction of a turn-of-the-century vessel (raquettelakenavigation.com), and visit the Adirondack Museum (adkmuseum.org), which has an impressive collection of local artifacts and a 1900s railroad car.