Rewind: September 1, 2021
Beautiful Horican: Thoughts from a visit to Bolton Landing
by Dave Waite
This account of a visit to Lake George began with lines by poet Richard Hovey:
Again among the hills!
The shaggy hills!
The clear arousing air comes like a call
Of bugle notes across the pines, and thrills
My heart as if a hero had just spoken.
It was in autumn sometime around the year 1900 that Helen Bartlett Bridgman first visited Bolton Landing on Lake George as part of an extended trip through the Adirondacks accompanied by her mother. During their time at the lake, they stayed at what she called “the old Lake-View House,” owned by R. J. Brown. Her noting the hotel as “old” is likely a reference to her staying at the first of the two hotels that Brown built in Bolton Landing, the second being completed in 1893. Seneca Ray Stoddard in his 1896 travel guide “Lake George Illustrated and Lake Champlain,” noted that much effort had been made to keep the Lake View grounds “nature’s perfect work untouched while relieving it of unsightly objects.”
Before her visit, Helen Bridgman had traveled extensively, both across America and in Europe, yet her time in the Adirondacks brought out the poetry in her words:
The hills, clothed in their autumn robes, were alive with color, every shade of red, yellow and brown, from coca to vermillion, against the dark green of tamarack, balsam, and pine. The colors were those of Indian shawls woven in the Vale of Cashmere for queens, and right royally worn by these majesties in this kingdom of the hills.
Helen Bartlett Bridgman was the wife of Herbert Lawrence Bridgman, an American explorer, and journalist. As a part of the Peary Arctic Club, he had helped to raise funds for Robert Peary’s Arctic expeditions. Helen Bridgman published seven books, one of the last being Conquering the World, an account of her travels in America and Europe that is being quoted in this article.
When Helen first arrived at the Sagamore, she was met by the owner, who feared she would find the quiet setting and the small number of other guests not to her liking. Her response revealed the true nature of her visit:
Lonesome! If he only knew! We were pining for lonesomeness. It was mid-afternoon and a shower had come up. The hills were veiled in mist, and the water was cool gray. Those emerald isles in the foreground only served to bring out into sharper relief the hazy hills beyond. Now and then a sail-boat or motor-launch in search of shelter darted across the bay. The clouds broke in places and through them rushed in bright light. Yet it rained on and on, a soft silvery rain, as soothing to the nerves as to the dry earth.
During her stay, Helen often walked the forest paths, and in the early hours of the day rowed on the lake:
In the youth of the day, you take a row on the lake, skirting the gem-like islands, the grand panorama of the hills. Even the fans of the Adirondacks bow to the singular beauty of “Horican,” as it was once and ought to be called, in its combination of water and mountains. The breeze plays with your loosened hair, while your damp forehead, responding to the glow of the exercise, turns all the flying strands into soft curls.
She also spent time observing nature and experiencing the beautiful Adirondack surroundings:
In these woods, one evening long after sunset I walked alone. In fact, it was quite dark enough to inspire fear—but with kind Nature for a friend, how can her children tremble? Nothing is more eloquent than a forest at night: the perfume of the pines, of the moist earth and dewy flowers, of moss and log and leaf—the velvety darkness, the profound stillness, the benediction of the hour. Coming out of the woods, what a night greeted my eyes! The mountains stood out, after the rain, in all the majesty of what was and ever shall be, while the waves of a gentle water washed their feet, and over all the lake and the encircling hills such a costly canopy! Its splendor was so great that it affected the scene like moonlight, though there was no moon—only one great planet, Jupiter, trembling just above the highest peak and casting a long bright path upon the waters.
Far too soon this respite on Lake George was over, and mother and daughter headed north by steamboat to Ticonderoga and was soon again on the water, traveling on Lake Champlain to Westport. From there, her trip continued to Elizabethtown and then into the High Peak region visiting St. Huberts and Lake Placid before her visit came to an end.