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Archive for the ‘Where’s Rosslyn?’ Category

Totally Incompatible

In Champlain Valley, Memoir, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story? on October 3, 2011 at 10:30 am
Carriage house and ice house

Image by virtualDavis via Flickr

My fixer-upper forays with Bruce and other local realtors evolved when Susan joined the search.

She shared my dream of an old farmhouse surrounded by open meadows with views and sunlight. She liked barns and was even receptive to my occasional flights of fancy about converting an old barn into a home.

But our notions of size and simplicity were less aligned. And Susan was particularly keen on finding a Lake Champlain waterfront property. “What’s the point of having a place that’s not on the lake?” she asked repeatedly as if the answer were self evident.

The odds of finding an old farm on Lake Champlain were slim enough, but the prospect of finding a simple, inexpensive property on the lake was totally implausible unless we shifted our thinking toward seasonal camps. South of Westport and north of Essex there were many small properties tucked along the lakeshore that Bruce insisted on showing us despite repeatedly explaining that they were not what we had in mind.

We also looked at inland farms and interesting old homes in small towns and hamlets, “Just so you can see what’s out there…”

We enjoyed looking and brainstorming, but we were growing frustrated with the increasingly diffuse range of properties we were seeing. We had lost our focus.

Bruce was trying to show us all of the options available which in equal turns dilated and frustrated our search. But there was an even more fundamental problem: Susan and my interests were not perfectly in sync.

Although a farm on the lake was proving an impossible ambition, our imaginations were piqued on several occasions by totally dissimilar and totally unlikely properties.

An old “Great Camps” style summer house in Westport overlooking Lake Champlain’s Northwest Bay intrigued me until I realized that this pedigreed manse adjoined the town’s sewage treatment plant.

A slate roofed barn, still square after a century or more standing at the crest of an immense field just south of Westport, also kidnapped my daydreams for a few days. I imagined a lofty open plan; exposed, rough hewn beams; magnificent views in all directions. But the seller was unable or unwilling to subdivide the field and barn from a much larger farm which included additional fields, an immense dairy barn, various other building for hay and equipment storage, a “pond” for storing cow manure and a large square farmhouse with cupola.

And then there was Rosslyn, a Merchant-Ivory film set for The Great Gatsby’s Adirondack prequel. A century earlier. Located on the lake in Essex, it included a boathouse I’d loved since I was a child, a carriage barn, an ice house, and plenty of stone walls. But there were no fields and too many buildings. And the house was too big. And too run down. Way too run down. And the price tag was beyond unrealistic.

During our first visit Susan and I had both known immediately, instinctively, conclusively that it was not for us. Purchasing this once stately but now desperately dilapidated property was a bad idea. A really, really bad idea.

The expense alone. There was no conceivable short term return on investment. None.

And the amount of time it’d take to understand all of the property’s problems, let alone begin to fix them, to build her back to her former glory? It was incomprehensible.

But money, scope, logistics, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Long deferred maintenance, decades overdue; a gutted rear wing with failing floors suspended from cables that stretched through the middle of rooms; crumbling foundations; faulty electric, plumbing and heating; a boathouse that was one ice flow away from a watery grave; an ice house with corn cribbing walls and a collapsed roof. The current owner had dedicated the better part of four decades of his life, four decades — full time — to renovating Rosslyn and yet it was disintegrating around him.

Buying Rosslyn was totally incompatible with our means, our lives and our plans. And yet Rosslyn seduced us. Susan and I visited and then, months later, revisited the property, each time musing about its potential despite knowing that we shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t ever own it.

Our increasingly unfocused search — Susan and my notions of the perfect fixer-upper diverging and converging unpredictably — must have vexed Bruce despite his perennial good humor and patience. Though we did periodically visit properties when Bruce called with new listings that he thought might appeal to us, our enthusiasm gradually waned.

Related articles

Serene, Patinaed Fantasy

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Memoir, Renovation & Rehabilitation, What's the story? on September 29, 2011 at 11:41 am
Apartment buildings lining the south side of E...

East 57th Street between First and Sutton (via Wikipedia)

Accustomed to living out of a suitcase, I pendulumed back and forth between Manhattan where Susan was wrapping up a degree in interior design following a decade-long career in video production, and Westport, New York, where both of our parents owned homes and where we’d met a couple of years prior.

Susan had recently refinished a one bedroom apartment in The Galleria, and she was itching to sell it and start a new project. I was intrigued by the prospect of collaborating on a project and plugging my recent Paris experience into a tired but dignified New York apartment, but the Adirondacks were pulling me. After almost half a lifetime living in cities, I yearned to return to the rhythms and pleasures of rural life.

My idealized notion of a country house had its roots in a small farm that my parents had bought in Washington County while still living in New York City in the 1970s. Initially a getaway for my recently married parents trying to balance life and careers in New York City and later, albeit briefly, a full time residence, The Farm underpins my love for countryside and provides my earliest childhood memories.

The perfect place, I explained to Bruce, the friend and realtor who shuttled me from property to property, would be a small, simple farmhouse in the middle of fields with a sturdy barn and some acreage, maybe a stream or a pond or access to a river. Barns, in particular, pulled me. Secluded places with good light and views, forgotten places with stories still vaguely audible if you slowed down long enough to hear the voices. No loud traffic. An old overgrown orchard, perhaps. Asparagus and rhubarb gone feral near the barn. Stone walls, lots of stone walls and maybe an old stone foundation from a building long ago abandoned, the cellar hole full to bursting with day lilies. A couple of old chimneys in the farmhouse with fireplaces. A simple but spacious kitchen. A bedroom with plenty of windows. A room to read and write and collage the walls with notes, lists, photos, drawings and scraps. Someplace I could tinker at myself, gradually restoring the walls and plaster and roof. Timeworn wide plank floorboards of varying widths that I would sand by hand to avoid erasing the footpaths and dings and cupping from a burst pipe years before.

Although I’d painted the picture often enough, my budget and unwillingness to abandon the serene, patinaed fantasy resulted in a few false starts but mostly a very clear idea of what I was not interested in buying. On the upside, I came around and helped Susan select and renovate a coop in a 1926 McKim, Mead and White prewar located on 57th Street just off Sutton Place. An elegant apartment in a handsome building. Great bones, view and sunlight enhanced with a top-to-bottom environmentally responsible, non-toxic renovation. A success!

Though there were occasional fireworks when our aesthetics and convictions clashed, we enjoyed working together and decided to look for a North Country property that would suit both of our interests…

Paris Renovation Bug

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Memoir, Renovation & Rehabilitation on September 27, 2011 at 10:50 pm
Paris Exposition: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France,...

Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr

Starting in about 2003 I initiated an unfocused real estate hunt for a “fixer-upper” in the AdirondacksChamplain Valley. I’d returned from four years in Europe with enough savings to justify some idle time, a reprieve I hoped to plough into a long languishing novel while tinkering with the vestiges of a web-based business I’d launched in Paris a few years before.

But I couldn’t shake the renovation bug that had bitten me quite unexpectedly while bringing a luxury vacation rental to market in Paris’ Faubourg St. Germaine.

I’d made it into my early thirties without owning a home due to my intentionally peripatetic lifestyle, and despite an aesthete’s appetite for buildings and furnishing and gardens, I hadn’t the least interest in settling down. No biological clock ticking. No nesting instinct. No yen for taxes and maintenance and burst pipes and snow shoveling. No desire whatsoever for the trappings of a settled, domestic life. I understood why it appealed to others, but for me the commitments and encumbrances far outweighed the pride and financial wisdom of home ownership.

Until recently.

Something had changed, and I couldn’t quite figure out how or why.

I’d spent the better part of a year and a half immersed in the acquisition, renovation and marketing of a grand Haussmannian property that promised tourists an opportunity to enjoy Paris à la Parisienne. My business partner and I joked that it was “Versailles in the heart of Paris”, which was a gross exaggeration, but fifteen foot ceilings, 3,200+ square feet of living space including three master suites, a grande salon, a petite salon and a formal dining room invited exaggeration. Magnificent marble fireplaces, intricate plaster moldings, hardwood floors and meticulous finish details exuded Parisian elegance by the time we started booking the accommodation, but it hadn’t always looked so inviting.

The property underwent a top-to-bottom transformation between the day we received the key and the day we shot the photographs for our brochures and website. Half of the property had been gutted and rebuilt from scratch. One bathroom was remodeled and two new bathrooms were created from scratch. Walls were moved, electrical systems were rewired. Carpets were ripped out and herringbone hardwood floors were hand sanded and resealed. Magnificent crown moldings were painstakingly restored, and sconces, chandeliers, and period hardware were refinished.

No architect. No designer. No engineer. Just outsized self confidence and a hepped up learning curve. I scribbled construction drawings on walls and fumbled through French and Portuguese until contractors seemed to understand what I wanted. With the Lebanese contractors I gesticulated, made funny sound effects and scribbled some more. That we completed the project at all was a miracle. That the results were exquisite, a mystery that still awes me. Though I’d grown up assisting my parents with a couple of renovation projects, I’d never before undertaken anything so ambitious or complex. Or so rewarding.

Although our business plan involved duplicating the process in Italy and in Spain, the woman I’d been dating for two years lived in New York City, and after two years of cycling through Paris, Rome and Manhattan on a roughly two week cycle, I opted to trade the business for the woman I loved. I dissolved my interest in the business, packed up my apartments in Paris and Rome, and moved back to the United States.

[To be continued…]

Recovering from Irene

In Boathouse, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain on September 25, 2011 at 10:32 am
Rosslyn boathouse after Hurricane Irene

Rosslyn boathouse after Hurricane Irene

Much of the North Country is still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. Four weeks on, I return to the notes I jotted during and shortly after Irene passed through Essex, New York.

A sheet of water cascades in front of the parlor windows. I’ve sunk into an armchair to watch the white caps rolling into our stone seawall. Into the dock beneath Rosslyn boathouse. Wind surges, thrashing and straining the leafy limbs of the gnarled old maple tree on the front lawn, violently snapping the boathouse flag.

Hurricane Irene has been delivering a less devastating blow to the Northeast than originally anticipated, and yet our lawn is littered with branches, entire tree limbs and even the top half of an Aspen which snapped off next to the carriage barn. Lake Champlain‘s water level has risen dramatically, gobbling up the sand beach and lapping at the stone seawalls currently being rebuilt north of our boat dock.

I initiated this post during the worst of Irene’s wind and water, however I quickly abbreviated my commentary. My mind flashed back to Lake Champlain’s destructive spring flood. I grew superstitious, my premature relief that Irene had taken it easy on us replaced by dread that I was underestimating her impact.

The next day I continued my observations after a demoralizing round trip to Plattsburgh. My suspicions had been confirmed. We were lucky; others unlucky…

The day started well enough. Clearing skies. Sunshine. Only a light breeze, virtually imperceptible after yesterday’s 65mph gusts.

I checked the waterfront, noted the dramatic rise in water level then celebrated the absence of damage to the boat house. I walked the lawn and counted about a dozen broken limbs strewn over the grass. The top third of an aspen tree had snapped off and lay crushed to the south of the carriage barn. But no serious, unrecoverable damage.

My sunny disposition clouded briefly upon finding 27 bags of ready-mix concrete that had been left uncovered by the fellow rebuilding the stone seawall. All had been soaked and were now petrified, unusable.

Nevertheless, I departed for Plattsburgh relieved that we’d escaped virtually unharmed.

This is where my notes end. The day would force me to recalculate my earlier conclusions. Yes, Susan and I had been fortunate. Rosslyn had been virtually unscathed by Irene. But many of our neighbors in Whallonsburg, Willsboro and Wadhams and throughout the Champlain Valley were underwater.

Normally I’d drive through Willsboro, up and over Willsboro Mountain and then pick up “The Northway” (NYS Route 87) north to Plattsburgh. But I’d already heard that roads were closed beyond Willsboro, so I turned south toward the ferry dock to try another route. Our Town Supervisor was directing traffic at a road block, so I stopped and rolled down my window.

“What a mess. Roads are closed everywhere.”

“Can I get to Plattsburgh?”

“Route 12 is the only access to The Northway.”

“Toward Lewis? That’s fine.”

“Would you show those folks how to get to Meadowmount?” she asked, pointing at a car with out-of-state tags that was parked across from the Masonic Hall.

“Sure.”

“Good luck!”

I pulled in front of the car and parked. I introduced myself to the driver and explained that they could follow me to Meadowmount. They were grateful.

With 20/20 hindsight I should have realized that I would need to take Route 12 to the Lewis exit on the Northway and then cross over and lead them into Meadowmount from Betty Beavers Truck Stop. But there are a half dozen local routes between Essex and Lewis that would be quicker. It never occurred to me that all of them could be flooded.

They were. And over the next thirty minutes I tried every one only to be stopped at road blocks or unmarked, submerged roads. Staggering. But most heart breaking of all was Whallonsburg, a hamlet of Essex a couple of miles inland from Lake Champlain. The Boquet River flows directly through the middle of Whallonsburg and it had flooded so high that five or six houses along the river were totally inundated. A couple of homes had water up the the second story windows! Emergency services had been set up at The Whallonsburg Grange, and volunteers were directing traffic and assisting displaced residents.

I would revisit this heartbreaking scene the following day during a bicycle ride assessing the damage all along the Boquet River corridor. By then the water had retreated and residents were dragging furniture and carpets and clothing and books and appliances out onto their yards. Over the next couple of days enormous dumpsters were filled with the destroyed possessions. During my most recent conversation with a friend who lives in Whallonsburg I learned that at least one and maybe more of the homes were condemned. Despite the devastation, it’s been heartening to experience the community spirit and volunteerism that have resulted. The community has pulled together to help the residents effected by Irene with a fundraiser (Good Night, Irene) and countless hours of volunteerism.

Still trying to absorb the depressing situation in Whallonsburg I proceeded to attempt one road after another. And it seemed that with each “dead end” our entourage collected another vehicle. In due course our entire caravan made it out to The Northway, hopefully in time for one of the cars to make it to the airport without missing their flight. At Betty Beavers I got out and explained to the first car how to get to Meadowmount and offered them my card in case they got stuck. Only a few days later I received a gracious email from them explaining that they made it safely to the music school where their son had studied some years prior.

I mention this detail for the same reason I explained the community recovery efforts in Whallonsburg. Irene’s proverbial silver lining may be the humanizing influence. People connecting and helping one another. This was also the case last spring when Lake Champlain flooded its banks for weeks on end. In both natural disasters the disruption and destruction were catastrophic, but in both cases effected communities rallied and supported one another. This civic responsibility, this community spirit underpins the attractive North Country lifestyle that has embraced us since moving from New York City to Essex in 2006.

In closing, the photograph at the top of this post was taken after Lake Champlain’s water level rapidly rose due to the runoff from Irene. Although it pales in comparison to the water levels last spring, it was surreal to watch our beach disappear as water levels returned to typical spring levels.

North Country Farm Stands

In Daily Munge, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on July 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm


Farm Stand In Vermont

The good folks at Cooking Up a Story featured this slice of North Country summer living, and I couldn’t resist contacting them to find out where the farm stand is located. They responded quickly:

They are in Alburgh, VT – which is in the northwest corner of the state – nestled against NY and Canada, along Route 2. Drive up and check them out sometime. Really nice people!

Close enough for a visit, but not swing-by-and-grab-some-sweet-corn close. Too bad! Nevertheless, it’s an inspirational story. We used to have a similar farm stand near us in Essex, New York that was run by the Sayward family for many, many years, but it closed up a few summers ago. Still miss it!

We’ve belonged to two CSAs since moving full-time to Essex, Essex Farm and Full and By Farm, and we grow a large vegetable garden and quite a few types of fruit. So I’m not complaining, but I do love the experience of visiting a neighborhood farm stand. It’s nice to meet the growers, hear their stories, learn new ways to prepare the fresh produce.

 

Totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, House, Ice House, Lake Champlain, Renovation & Rehabilitation on July 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Today’s question from Al Katkowsky‘s Question of the Day book was the perfect invitation to reflect on Rosslyn Redux, the “big picture”!

What should you definitely not have done that turned out okay anyway?

In the summer of 2006 I definitely should not have purchased a dilapidated, almost two hundred year old house in Essex, New York. Definitely not. Not if I wanted to stay sane, solvent or married. Not if I wanted to do anything else in my life except for renovating, babysitting contractors, and nurturing this handsome old house back to life…

But I was totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced by Rosslyn, a sagging-but-still-stately, almost two century year old property on the Adirondack shores of Lake Champlain. My new bride and I swapped Manhattan for North Country bliss.

Our plan? Renovate a home. Grow a garden. Plant an orchard. Raise a dog. Swim, sail, ski, hike, bike and live happily ever after.

Or not…

Over a hundred carpenters, tradesmen and artisans later; over four times our budget and planned timeline later; and over countless marriage-testing misadventures later we finally finished our renovation. In time for the biggest flood in over two centuries to swamp our boathouse and waterfront for two months…

We should definitely not have undertaken this wildly ambitious project. But we did. And it turned out okay anyway. So far!

Check out RosslynRedux.com for a vicarious plunge into the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of our renovation, marriage and North Country life.

The Adirondack Chair Revisited

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage on June 29, 2011 at 7:30 am

Adirondack R&R in one of many versions of the Adirondack Chair

“To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Harry C. Bunnell, a citizen of the United States, residing at Westport, in the county of Essex and the State of New York, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Chairs. … ” So begins patent number 794,777, dated July 18, 1905, in reference to what we commonly refer to as the Adirondack Chair. With its signature slanted back and wide armrests, the recognizable profile of this outdoor recliner has become a trademark of summer in America. Despite the patent filed over a hundred years ago, though, Harry Bunnell, a carpenter and shop owner, was not actually the one who created the chair’s design. (via NYTimes.com.)

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

In Monday’s Rosslyn Roundup I included a link to a post about the Adirondack Chair, invented by Thomas Lee in 1903 but copied and adapted by countless carpenters since. A welcome surprise then to see the New York Times’ The 6th Floor blog tackling the same timely topic today. In “Who Made That Adirondack Chair?” Hilary Greenbaum highlights Harry C. Bunnel’s decision to patent the design actually invented by Thomas Lee allegedly without his permission. A case of vintage Adirondack snark? Perhaps. But even in Hilary’s telling, Lee seems to have been gracious and let the matter go, permitting his friend to produce the chairs for profit for a quarter century.

As luck would have it, I’m friendly with several of Thomas Lee’s descendants to still reside in (or visit) Westport — our Lake Champlain neighbor to the south —  where the original Westport chairs (aka Adirondack chairs) were invented and produced. I’ll have to ask if there’s any more to this story, perhaps passed down through the generations. In fact, Bruce Ware, the realtor who showed us property for several years and ultimately brokered the deal for us when we purchased Rosslyn is directly or indirectly related to Thomas Lee. I’ll see what I can find out…

If you know any more about the history of the Adirondack chair, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Hyde Gate For Sale or Rent

In Artifacts, History & Heritage, Lake Champlain, What's Rosslyn? on June 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm
For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn), in Essex, New York, April 1910.

Rosslyn artifacts pop up all over the place! And they’re not always Rosslyn artifacts; sometimes they’re Hyde Gate artifacts or Sherwood Inn artifacts… Honestly one of the most enjoyable aspects of owning and renovating our home is stumbling across interesting relics of its almost 200 year history.

I originally came across the advertisement above on eBay. The auction item was a full page ripped from the April 1910 edition of Country Life in America. How could I resist? One more quirky artifact for the digital library!

Turns out it wasn’t the only time that Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) was advertised for sale or rent in the early twentieth century. A March 1910 advertisement is available on Google Books. A handy tool for finding print book content, Google Books offers increased functionality for out-of-copyright content such as this old magazine. For free you can “clip” the image (at right) to use elsewhere, and you can even clip the text content from the page. The following is quoted from the ad:

For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York, March 1910

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) in Essex, New York, March 1910.

FOR SALE “HYDE GATE,” Essex, N.Y. FOR RENT

The country residence of Caleb James Coatsworth Esq. is just at the outskirts of Essex Village on Lake Champlain, New York. The house faces the lake, and the grounds run right down to the lake with bath houses and a large private dock. The house is between eighty five and a hundred years old. Is built of brick. It is very beautifully furnished with the real antique Colonial furniture and although lighted throughout with electricity there is not on modem electrical fixture on the first floor.

In the hall there is an old lantern, and in all the rooms old candelabra hanging from the ceilings; there are also lamps on the centre table lighted by electricity. The house is a beautiful example of the Colonial period. It contains ten bed rooms and two bath rooms on the second floor, and three bed rooms on the third floor, also two lavatories on first floor. One can leave “Hyde Gate” in an automobile after breakfast and lunch at Lake Placid, or leave “Hyde Gate” in the morning and dine at Bretton Woods in the White Mountains, or dine at Montreal, Canada. Lake Placid is fifty miles from “Hyde Gate” by road; Bretton Woods one hundred and eighteen miles; and the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, Canada is just one hundred miles; all the roads are very good. It Is a great central starting point for automobiling. The owner of “Hyde Gate” has made all of these trips. You can leave the dock at “Hyde Gate” in a launch and go to Westport, NY, or Vergennes, Vermont (the oldest city in Vermont) through the beautiful Otter Creek or Burlington, Vermont in less than an hour, or “Bluff Point” in two hours where the Lake Champlain Hotel is located, which is considered the best hotel In the Adirondacks.

The grounds contain between five and six acres, beautifully laid out, and there is a great abundance of flowers, a large kitchen garden, and quite a number of fruit trees and currant bushes, etc.

A stable with room for five horses, carriage room for five or six carriages, large harness room with glass case for harness, and good comfortable quarters for coachman. There is a large carriage shed outside of table where extra carriages can be stored, also suitable for two automobiles, several chicken houses, and a pigeon house. There is a large new ice house with a cold storage house built in connection with it.

“Hyde Gate” is just half way on Lake Champlain, and one can make the trip to New York in a motor boat in two days running spending the night at Albany, or you can run to Montreal with a motor boat in two days.

Enquire CALEB JAMES COATSWORTH 110 South Penn Ave Atlantic City NJ (via Country Life in America, March 1910, P. 495)

A couple of years later a similar advertisement ran in the April 1912 issue of Country Life in America. And it would seem that Caleb James Coatsworth was learning a thing or two about advertising with each return to ink. The text length and detail is generally the same throughout, but a bit of brevity slips into the equation, and the photographs improve significantly. Perhaps there are later advertisements that I’ve missed?

Let’s take a look at the copy for Coatsworth’s 1912 Hyde Gate advertisement:

For Sale: Hyde Gate, aka Rosslyn, in Essex, New York, March 1912.

For Sale: Hyde Gate (aka Rosslyn) in Essex, New York, March 1912.

For Sale HYDE GATE ESSEX NY For Rent

“Hyde Gate” is just at the outskirts of Essex Village on Lake Champlain, N.Y. It is the country residence of Caleb James Coatsworth. The house faces the lake, and the ground runs down to the lake. There are bath houses and a large private dock. The house is between 85 and 100 years old. It is a beautiful example of the Colonial period; made of brick. It is very beautifully furnished with antique colonial furniture. It contains ten bed rooms and two bath rooms on the second floor and three bed rooms on the third floor. Also two laboratories on the first floor.

The grounds contain between 5 and 6 acres beautifully laid out. There is a great abundance of flowers. A large kitchen garden and a number of fruit trees and currant bushes, etc. A stable with room for five horses, accommodations for 5 or 6 carriages, large harness room and good comfortable quarters for coachman. Another carriage shed affords accommodations for extra carriages and two automobiles. There are other outhouses. Further particulars from

CALEB JAMES COATSWORTH

Hyde Gate Eases NY (via Country Life in America, April 1912, P. 3)

Two laboratories on the first floor? Fantastic! It’s handy having multiple versions of this ad to sort out the unlikely presence of a pair of labs in a summer residence… Two lavatories, now that makes a little bit more sense. Imagine the ten year old son who’s spent all spring looking forward to summer vacation on Lake Champlain. His father has promised that their summer rental includes two laboratories. Oh, the experiments that have occupied the boy’s daydreams in the final stretch of the school year. A homemade volcano, frog dissection,… the options are endless. And then to arrive after an exhausting journey along bumpy roads in the days long before air conditioning. And the lad races inside to search for the laboratories, to find the answer to his fantasies only to discover that it was an error. Two lavatories? What sort of evil joke is that?

Rosslyn Roundup, June 27

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, History & Heritage on June 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm
Adirondack chairs

Adirondack chairs (photo courtesy of albanykid.com)

It’s time for another Rosslyn Roundup to share everything Rosslyn-related that I didn’t get a chance to post this past week. Summer in the Champlain Valley has a way of inching along slowly, slowly, slowly and then suddenly galloping off! This summer was not exception, but the transition was even more apparent because of protracted Lake Champlain flooding. With almost two months a record breaking high water, the flood delayed the normal spring/summer transition. And once the water did finally drop, everyone hustled double-time to catch up!

This has been especially evident in our fair hamlet by the lake. Essex is undergoing a veritable renaissance! Despite early concerns that The Old Dock Restaurant and the Essex Shipyard and Rudder Club might be unable to open for the season due to severe flood damage, both are racing a July 1 opening date. And that’s only part of the Essex renaissance. Nary a storefront in the village is empty, and the offerings are exceptional. In fact, there’s so much activity that a new website has been born to tell the Essex story called Essex on Lake Champlain; it will serve as a digital bulletin board and community blog for Essex, New York. I’ve included a parade of blog posts from the website in my roundup below, so I hope you’ll take a moment to discover why Essex is such a grand place to live and visit.

In addition to the Essex stories, I’m starting with a post about the now ubiquitous Adirondack chair courtesy of Wanda Shapiro (@WandaShapiro), the author of Sometimes That Happens With Chicken. Although this chair proudly announces its Adirondack heritage wherever it is enjoyed, not many know that it was actually invented in Westport, the next town south of Essex. You may be surprised about its history!

Without further ado, I offer you the June 27 Rosslyn Roundup:

  • The Adirondack, Burnell, Westport or Muskoka Chair: Westport Chair was the original name for the Adirondack Chair… There is in fact a small town populated by about 1500 people called Westport, New York, on the western shores of Lake Champlain. It is on the very eastern edge of the Adirondack Park, and is quite a picturesque vacation destination. In1903 one Mr Thomas Lee set about to build the perfect chair for such a spot, as all his relations had taken up those in his mountainside cabin.
  • Travel Writing Contest Hosted by Champlain Area Trails: Get your pencils sharpened, your laptops powered, and your cameras ready, Champlain Area Trails (CATS) will soon launch its first Travel Writing Contest. It’s your chance to write about your travels in New York’s central Champlain Valley—to share your favorite experiences on the Champlain Area Trails–whether it’s hiking, walking, skiing, snowshoeing, birding, tracking, picnicking, or a little bit of each…
  • Provisions and Paparazzi in Essex, NY: “Essex is alive with both new and well-established businesses, opening up, dusting off and getting ready for the season…” So opens Sue Cameron’s “Provisions and Papparazzi” post on LakePlacid.com on June 14. Essex is alive! It’s incredible how much is going on in Essex these last couple of weeks. Essex businesses have proven that even a record breaking flood can’t drown the Essex spirit. Residents, businesses and friends of both are pulling together for what is shaping up to be the best summer in decades.
  • Longtime Residents Recall Essex Inn Years Ago: Last Sunday Alvin Reiner at the Press-Republican ran a fascinating story about the Essex Inn and the fusion of past and future in this historic landmark recently renovated by the Daltons and now open to the public. “We are reaching out to bridge the gap, as there is often a lot of knowledge that gets lost,” she said. (via Press-Republican.) Essex has long represented an important bridge back into history, but the Dalton’s Essex Inn revitalization is one of many new bridges forward toward a bright and shiny future.
  • Summer Arrives in Essex on Lake Champlain: Kim Rielly posted an enthusiastic blog post about summer in Essex celebrating flood recovery, exciting new businesses and the timeless charm that has drawn visitors and residents for decades. She asks, “could it possibly be true that the recently-submerged businesses were planning to open THIS summer? It’s true. In fact, the community is not only ready to welcome visitors for the summer – it is veritably BUZZING with activity.”
  • The Neighborhood Nest: A Gathering of Art, Nature and Antiques: Now in its 16th season, The Neighborhood Nest is one of the oldest businesses in Essex, NY but remains forever surprising! Open daily between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm, The Nest features a treasure hunt experience that spills into a wildly beautiful garden.
  • Pantouf’s Celebrates Summer with Beautiful Glassware: Yesterday I visited Helen Goetz at Pantouf’s in Essex. If you’ve never seen her beautiful glass work, now’s the perfect time to swing by before she gets swarmed with visitors… In addition to showing me her colorful glass serving platters and pitchers, Helen graciously toured me through the home, explaining how it had been configured and functioned when occupied by the Essex town doctor.
  • Live Well in the Champlain Valley: Another new addition to the Essex wellness scene is blooming on Main Street with the opening of Live Well. The beautifully remodeled space offers a wide range of health and healing services, and represents the collaborative genius of three Champlain Valley holistic health and wellness practitioners…
  • Full and By Farm, June 23, 2011: We took advantage of the beautifully sunny weather spell to make hay. We cut about 22 acres starting last week, and successfully baled 19 of it. The rain caught us in the middle of raking the last small field and we had to abandon the project. Once the grass and clover is cut rain begins to leach away the nutrients. Four straight days of rain is enough to ruin the hay as winter feed. It’s always a sad defeat, but part of making hay with an ever changing weather forecast.
  • The Old Dock Restaurant: The Old Dock Restaurant is a seasonal restaurant and bar located in the Historic Hamlet of Essex, New York. Guests arrive by automobile, private boat or on the Charlotte-Essex… Slips are available for our guests who arrive by boat. Passengers on the Charlotte-Essex ferry have the option to leave their automobiles in the free parking lot at Charlotte and when they arrive in Essex stroll a few feet to the Old Dock.

Rosslyn Boathouse Free from Toppling Ash

In Boathouse, Daily Munge, Lake Champlain on June 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Ash tree undermined by Lake Champlain flood

Ash tree undermined by Lake Champlain flood

Remember the Lake Champlain flood? The good news is that flooding is abating. Rapidly. In fact the water’s “fallen” to normal spring flood stage… Which means that we’re finally catching up on the damaged waterfront, repairing the boathouse, installing docks and boat hoist, etc. You may remember that large ash tree was undermined by the flood and was beginning to topple down over top of the boathouse. Not good. You may also remember that local arborist Mark Sauslgiver decided to install a tension line from high in the tree to the guardrail north of the boathouse. The idea was that in the event the trees roots gave way and the tree toppled, the line would pull the falling tree northward, sparing the boat house.

I liked the idea. Sounded good. Looked good when I drew a little diagram on paper. But, I’d be lying if I claimed that I was 100% confident it would work. That’s a big tree, and I had a difficult time imagining a static line enduring a fall much less staying taught and pulling thousands of pounds of gravity-fueled ash anywhere other than straight down. On top of the boathouse, the pier, and the railings. But, turns out Mark knew his tension lines.

Today his crew removed the tree, piece by piece, sending massive chunks of wood down a “zip line” to the curb or New York State Route 22 where they could be cut up and/or chipped. The entire affair was a success!

I’m deeply saddened to lose a mature, healthy tree that offered much appreciated shade in the heat of summer and served as a charming frame for images of the boathouse. But I am overjoyed that the tree was removed before gravity won. And I’ve been assured that sooner or later it would.

I’ll add a short video soon!

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