Yesterday afternoon I took a lunch cruise on the W.W. Durant with Raquette Lake Navigation, located in Raquette Lake, NY. In addition to a fabulous lunch (and delicious strawberry shortcake), the two-hour tour of the beautiful Raquette Lake was packed with historical tidbits and views of some of the Great Camps, who’s architecture is so integral to the cultural and aesthetic history of the region. The boat is of course named after William West Durant, the proponent of the Adirondack Great Camps, many of which can be viewed from the water during the cruise.
Many interesting bits of history were shared by the captain of the boat, one particularly fascinating fact being the origin behind the name “Raquette Lake.”
“In May of 1776, Sir John Johnson, son of Sir William Johnson, fled from Johnson Castle with a number of retainers and Indian followers to escape the Revolution. The group took the old Indian trail from Fish House to the then unnamed Raquette Lake. There was still snow on the ground when they left, but the spring thaw overtook them and they had to abandon their ‘racquettes’ (French for snowshoes). They piled them in a great heap on a knoll where South Inlet joins the lake. The pile remained visible until just a few years ago. While there are other theories as to how Raquette Lake was named, the pile of racquettes was a land mark and became a reference for the lake.” (source)
Now to mention just a few of the many historic sites featured on the cruise. Of course there was a great view of Camp Pine Knot, the Adirondack camp that is often referred to as the ‘original’ of it’s kind, and built under the auspices of Durant. It is also known as Huntington Memorial Camp, as the sign on its waterfront currently indicates. The construction of this camp began in 1877, and resulted in a veritable complex of structures – cabins, cottages, barns and outbuildings. The camp was abandoned between the early 1900s and 1947, and amazingly, was sold to SUNY Cortland that year for $1, to be used as their Outdoor Education center.
Another interesting site we passed was St. Williams Church on Long Point, constructed there in 1889 and completed in 1890.
“In 1889, William West Durant established one such town on Long Point of Raquette Lake . He built a post office there and a general store, naming the town Durant , NY . A year later, he responded to the needs of the Catholics in the area by donating the land, the materials and the money to build a Catholic Church just down the shore from the general store. Designed by the J.C. Cady Company of New York City , the church was completed in 1890 by Hammond and Mosher, a contracting company in Saratoga Springs. William West Durant entitled the church St. William’s. The following year, the Franciscan Friars, Order of Friars Conventual, began administering to the needs of the parishioners of St. William’s. As transportation technology advanced and the railroad arrived within the blue line, the water-locked town of Durant , NY (having changed its name to Raquette lake soon after its creation) relocated to its present location, where the railroad spur from New York City ended. Still, the cedar shakes and shingled church, St. William’s on Long Point, continued to serve the parish until the end of the 1930s. It was when the rectory in the town of Raquette Lake burned in 1938 that the new St. William’s, in town, was built, despite the financial strains of the Great Depression. The parish, now with two official churches, saw more frequent use sway towards the St. William’s in town, the St. William’s on Long Point offering masses mostly during the summers. Finally, in 1979, with the death of Father Henry Gibeau, the parish fell under the jurisdiction of St. Anthony’s in Inlet, NY and St. William’s, the first Catholic church in the area, became a mission church to a parish it had help to establish.” (source)
Of course there were many other interesting historical locations to see during the course of the cruise, but you will just have to take a ride on the W.W. Durant to find out what the rest of them are! It made for a fun and interesting afternoon, and a great lunch too! You can like Raquette Lake Navigation on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here.
– Raquette Lake Navigation website
– William West Durant wiki page
– Raquette Lake official website
– ADK Museum page: Great Camps
– Camp Pine Knot wiki page
– SUNY Cortland Outdoor Education Center
– St. Williams website
– Raquette Lake Navigation on Facebook
– Raquette Lake Navigation on Twitter