While the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York still attract their share of high-end visitors seeking relaxation, The Point provides a flashback to the days when Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and other elites fled the city in the summer for the peace, quiet and civilized luxury of the north woods.
It might seem like a small victory, but at The Point, the former Adirondack summer home of the Rockefeller clan, now a Relais & Châteaux lakeside resort, I learn how to make a fire.
That’s a big deal for a city girl who faked her way through the fire badge in Girl Scouts. Ensconced in Trappers (rates from $2,250 per night), one of only 11 rustic yet elegant and spacious log cabin accommodations that comprise this sylvan rural escape in upstate New York, I shovel through the ashes in my fireplace, wrap a fire starter (OK, I had a little modern help) in old pages from The New York Times, crisscross some logs on top and flick an actual match until the stack erupts in brilliant flames. All around me are antiques—artifacts and fine art that recall a bygone era when America’s wealthiest families gathered here to escape the crowded cities of the Northeast and to embrace the crystalline air of these bucolic frontiers. This rarefied vibe is just as appreciated by the modern-day visitor. Feeling every bit the glam-camper gal, I sit back on a fur-covered couch, grab a book and take a sip of Champagne. Krug, of course. That’s what a Rockefeller would do, right?
In the early 20th century, when the term Gilded Age was used to describe the era of conspicuous consumption, America’s first truly super-rich families—among them the Vanderbilts, the Guggenheims, the Posts, the Morgans, the Carnegies and the Astors—summered in these deep woods. Even the most urbane sophisticates fled the city for pastoral landscapes, countrified living and fresh air, which they considered a panacea for everything from tuberculosis to lagging creativity. Here in upstate New York, the rich and the privileged built rough-hewn homes beside glassy lakes. Their log structures, furnished with craftsman-made twig tables and chairs, animal heads mounted on walls and eclectic trappings transported from city residences—including glittery chandeliers, zebra rugs and silver teapots—offered relaxation and rejuvenation.
The affluent families came to their lakeside camps in the warmer months, with chefs, butlers and maids in tow. For artistic diversion, they painted canvases and dabbled in photography along the lakes’ shores. Loosening their corsets and foregoing their bow ties during the day, they hiked, canoed, swam and fished. At night, following protocol, they celebrated the end of long, active days by dressing up in formal attire—black tie and tiara—to feast with friends and adversaries alike. Business deals were made; competitors became colleagues; and members of the same bloodline sometimes fell in love.
A stay at The Point, located on a peninsula jutting into Upper Saranac Lake (a five-hour drive from New York City), hearkens back to those times. While the bathrooms have been assiduously upgraded, much of the architecture remains the same—as does the unspoiled forests of pine and hemlock, and the 75 verdant acres that encircle this stunning outpost. Part of New York’s immense Adirondack Park (which boasts more land than Glacier, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks combined), The Point is an enclave of luxury log mansions in the woods—secluded but fully appointed. Each accommodation at this all-inclusive resort is equally luxurious, but some have their own special features and appeal. Request the Boathouse (rates from $3,500 per night), which hovers over the lake and boasts a wraparound porch. Or opt for Trappers, the swanky pine cabin where I stayed that seems hewed into a hill. In the main lodge, the extravagant Mohawk (rates from $2,250 per night) was the master bedroom of the Rockefeller family. Weatherwatch (rates from $2,700 per night), in the former living room of the Guest House, has a cathedral ceiling, stunning lake views (as do all of the rooms) and a canopied king-size bed. Larger groups and wedding parties may want to consider a buyout of the property (from $25,650 per night), which has a capacity of around 25 people.
In the summer, activities range from hiking to romantic boating outings, including a gourmet picnic—both crowd-pleasers. But a major highlight of staying at The Point is the three extravagant sit-down meals served daily in the Great Hall; though guests can choose to eat in their suites, beside the lake or anywhere that suits their fancy. For a special treat in spring, summer and fall, Executive Chef Loic Leperlier guides foraging expeditions in the woods.
In the early evening, guests can board a vintage mahogany boat for a sunset cruise, gather in the boozy pub or mingle in the foyer of the big house nibbling appetizers and tippling cocktails. Visitors tend to bond while reviewing the day and, inevitably, discover they have friends and associates in common. “That happens every night at The Point,” says General Manager Cameron Karger, who joins most group dinners, looking dapper in a crisp tuxedo. Extravagant snacks are always popping up—bowls of truffled popcorn, just-baked cookies and bacon-wrapped dates seem to magically appear just as conversations are getting started. And then there’s the Champagne. It flows relentlessly. When it’s time to leave, my clothes feel a bit snug, and I’m just happy I don’t have to squeeze into a corset. All-inclusive rates from $1,600 per night for two adults
OTHER LAVISH CAMPGROUNDS
Lake Placid Lodge
Once the domain of fur trappers and lumberjacks, the woods of the Adirondacks around mirror-like Lake Placid also played host to both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Rusticate amid the soulful terrain and sports heritage at this 30-room resort. Originally built in the Arts and Crafts style in the late 19th century by a wealthy family from Germany, the resort was destroyed by fire in 2005, then lovingly reconstructed to its former glory in 2008. A contrast of coddling delights, the decor fuses birch bark furniture with delicate Tiffany lamps and Oriental rugs. Rocking chairs tempt relaxation, while polished canoes are available for expeditions on the lake. Book Owl’s Head, a cabin that evokes life in a luxurious treehouse. Near the hotel, explore wine tastings in the region or cast a fishing line into a variety of nearby lakes. Visit the fascinating Lake Placid Olympic Museum, and in the winter, whoosh down the mountain on a bobsled at the facilities where Olympians still train. Room rates from $399 per night, Owl’s Head rates from $700 per night
Mohonk Mountain House
Further south, just 90 miles from Manhattan, Mohonk Mountain House, a romantic turreted castle, has been family owned and operated since 1869. With 259 rooms, it nevertheless maintains the ambience of an intimate country home, due to personalized service, elegant nooks and crannies, and a plethora of activities that tend to spread guests out across the vast property. Cross-country skiing and ice skating mark winter days, but horseback riding, boating and hiking the surrounding Shawangunk Ridge, especially to the summit of Sky Top Tower with its riveting five-state vista, define the warmer months. Serenity is found in the spa, where special treatments are tinged with history and sense of place, such as the Indigo Herbal Poultice massage, inspired by local plant ingredients. Walk the Hallway of Photographs to check out influential guests from the past, such as industrialist Andrew Carnegie and former presidents, including William Howard Taft. Room rates from $611 per night
The Sagamore Resort
Historic The Sagamore Resort occupies much of Green Island, a ritzy islet on Lake George, Adirondack Park’s largest and most majestic lake. Built to welcome highbrow Victorians in 1883, the hotel has historically also attracted local tycoons who own homes along Millionaires’ Row, a mansion-lined section of the lake. With a beautifully restored main house, as well as various stand-alone suites—including Wapanak Castle, a six-bedroom, fully equipped home on the lip of the lake—The Sagamore encompasses 385 rooms in total. Drawing jet-setters for its see-and-be-seen regattas in the summer, as well as its proximity to Saratoga, N.Y., for the annual races, The Sagamore offers a 72-foot replica of a 19th century lake vessel for private parties and sunset cruises. Work up an appetite for the resort’s six stellar restaurants when you tee off at the Donald Ross-designed golf course, rally on one of five tennis courts, splash in the lake or trek the myriad miles of forest trails. Room rates from $200 per night, Wapanak Castle rates from $2,500 per night