The Story of Rabbitwild & Back to Basics

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It was a simple task, sending out the query letter,  a prospectus,  a synopsis of the “Rabbitwild” story to appropriate publishers or publishing houses.  But, no … the story of William S. Wicks took on a life of it’s own. I think as partner to E.B. Green, the body of design work produced by the turn of the century Green & Wicks Architectural firm was and is remarkable by any standard. Although Wicks designed the behemoth albeit well designed Adirondack League Club Mountain Lodge (lost to fire), at the end of the day,  Wicks was a trail blazing, professionally trained pioneer in creating the phenomena of the architecturally correct and beautifully designed “Small Camp” in harmony with nature.

Wicks camps and cottages were designed to enhance the pervasive wild landscape while providing a cozy retreat for nature lovers to commune with nature. Wicks camps were not designed as trophy “Great Camps” for the railroad barons, Rockefeller’s or Vanderbilt’s of the day.  Instead his tiny treasures were to be found hidden in the forest as a tribute to found art in wild places. At least, that’s the way I see it.

I have been reminded by a very nice group of writers that the story of Wicks will unfold in his own words, in his own way found on the pages of “Rabbitwild”.  The rest of the story can be saved for another day,  and I am thankful to them for bringing me back from my immersion among the archives of lost work, articles and stories of one remarkable life. How lucky by the simple fate of birth that I am connected to this timeless visionary,  naturalist and artist: William S.Wicks.

And now, it’s time to get to work!

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Remembering Wicks

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Over 100 Years Later … Ce est dommage & a Blessing

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as New York Publishers find the allure of republishing a book written by one of America’s gifted, early professionally Cornell,  M.I.T and European trained Architects worthy of ink & paper … with the original & sixth edition of  “Log Cabins How to Build and Furnish Them” published in 1908, it is telling that the book, 108 years later is still in print, by an array of publishers. (Also, I think with an unprotected copyright it is an invitation & open season, for a quick & easy buck … but the book is available and that’s a good thing!)

 

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I am looking forward to once again revisiting the archives of my great grand father, William S. Wicks  & grand mother, Ruth and their very intriguing lives now that some major personal  milestones are behind me.  I wonder if  Skyhorse Publishing might be interested in “Rabbitwild”, as my version of “Log Cabins” was published and copyrighted in 1929 by Forest and Stream, Inc., 80 Lafayette Street, in New York City and I believe just another forgotten publisher of the day.

Remembering Wicks,

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Cleaning House at the Albright

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Albright-Knox Art Gallery …. Published on Facebook today …So glad both Architects were named by the Albright … Hats off to timeless architecture & those who created it, and now to all who embrace timeless beauty and necessity of preserving it …  On August 14, 1961, the 1905 Albright building, designed by Buffalo architects, E. B. Green and William Sydney Wicks, was cleaned for the first time by Gallery staff. The process restored the building to its original appearance when its opened 56 years prior. ‪#‎throwbackthursday

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Remembering my Great Grandfather, William S Wicks

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The Blue Crystal Water of Jock’s Lake . Wicks & Rabbit Wild

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“The blue crystal water of Jock’s Lake stretched before them, changing far off where the sun fell sparkling on it, into a golden green; and again, to a deeper blue, as it touched the rocky rim of the farther shore…”

William S. Wicks, “Rabbitwild – a Shelter in the Wilderness”

Photo courtesy of CNYIS, Inc

Rabbit Wild . It Started with a Shanty . Back to Nature 1897

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Back to “Rabbitwild” the sweet little book written by Wicks for his little daughter Ruth, age 12 in 1896. There are a few pages above from Chapter 6 … The boys and their father are in the woods, they have met up with Uncle Jock who will be instrumental in getting the cottage built up from stone & timber on the land to the place called “Rabbit Wild” … a Shelter in the Wilderness built by Fred & Hartley Langdon from their Father’s Plans, Uncle Jock Helping.

The more I read and learn about Wicks, his life, family and work, the more I am able to pick up clues in the book as to people, places, and references throughout. The cottage “Rabbit Wild” had been designed and built by Wicks on Honnedaga Lake on a tract of land purchased in 1892 as part of the Adirondack League Club. The lake was formerly known as Jock’s Lake, so real or fictitious, I’ll bet there was a character of some Adirondack lineage that assisted with building the cottage and so we have – Uncle Jock.

During this time, John Albright of The Albright Gallery fame had his camp designed and built by E.B. Green on Wilmurt Lake, a site that was quite far from this area in the Adirondacks. However, I have not found any remnant of information on the Albright camp on Wilmurt Lake. But John Albright’s son was named Langdon – and so here is a reference to that name, and pictured as the architect in this story. The firm of Green & Wicks had designed the residence of Langdon Albright on the estate grounds of John Albright in Buffalo.

At some point, I wonder if I’ll find the “Fred” and “Hartley” in this story – for sure they are the fictional counterparts of the Wicks’ girls Ruth and Grace, but who, I wonder?

In Chapter 6, the boys, their father and Uncle Jock set out to build a shanty to provide shelter as they begin the process of building Rabbit Wild:

“Well”, cried Hartley, “we’ve got to build a shanty, haven’t we?’

“Where shall we build it?” asked Mr. Langdon, turning to Jock.

“Right here, back of this ‘ere fire; see the two trees? That’s why we fixed our fire where we did, so we’d have it right at the entrance, to keep away the skeeters, and warm us a leetle at night. I’ll help ye make a start.”

“One of you boys kin cut down that spruce”, pointing to a tree about five inches in diameter, “trim all the leetle branches off, an’ cut it into two stcks eleven feet long, or about four paces. You, Mr. Hartley, kin clear the space, cut down the witch-hoople, an’ burn all the brush.” …

This camp was to built over the summer as the boys started out on their fourth of July weekend to begin this adventure in the woods. Uncle Jock is on site most of the time as father returns to his work in the city. All of the precise elements of building this camp are included in the book. If someone wanted to retrace the methods and practices of building this camp, it could be accomplished. I love that …

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Photographs of Rabbit Wild and Wicks with little Ruth are courtesy of Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann,

Great Granddaughter of William S. Wicks

Remembering Wicks and bringing dreams of a wild retreat to life.

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Wicks . Architect’s Perspective of the Mappa House . 1913

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Rubble Manor displayed as home of William S. Wicks: “The American Architect & Building News”,The Mappa House, Trenton, New York,  August 13, 1913, Vol. CIV., No.1963

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Interior Rubble Manor

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Sitting Room . Rubble Manor

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Interior . Rubble Manor

I have a few books from the Rubble Manor library, or sitting room with the Rubble Manor book-plate & Ruth’s name, including “Rabbitwild”. I remember seeing the Sheraton couch at my Grandmother’s (Ruth) when she was living at the farmhouse with my Uncle Skip. I remember seeing the Sheraton chairs, demilune and round shaker style table as well. I have two early Chippendale chairs, I think one is shown here. I don’t think any of the pictures hanging up  survived – they might have gone to auction. I wish I could see them a little better …

and that’s it for the Rubble Manor chapter.

A Victorian Summer Portrait . Wicks’ & Nicholsons’ . Barneveld . 1880’s

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We are family . on the steps . on a summer’s day . Rubble Manor . Barneveld . New York

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The Nicholson’s are cousins of Ruth and Emma through the marriage of their Aunt Ione M. Wicks to Charles Nicholson. I can’t make out Grandma and she may have been on the Nicholson side. Cousin Harriet was born in 1874 and died in 1915, she is buried in the Barneveld Evergreen cemetery with many, many of the Nicholson, Wicks & McCartney (Ruth’s husband) families. I also found Frances Nicholson, born in 1869 who died in 1953 also buried at the Evergreen cemetery. So far, I have not found Cousin Nat, baby Henrietta or cousin Mable. The photo is undated, I would guess that it would date to the mid to late 1880’s.

Mother Emma died the same year as Harriet. Harriet was 41 years old. Emma was 54 years old. The privileged country life must have been more difficult than what can be seen in photos and biographies. Still, I love this photo & the picture of who we once were.

Photos are courtesy of Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann, Great Granddaughter of William S. Wicks.

Remembering Wicks, my Great Grandfather, Author & Architect and the man behind the scene. In Buffalo a partner of the Green & Wicks architectural firm or somewhere beyond creating a new architectural vision, busy providing his family with a beautiful life, and too involved in that process, I am sure to be in this picture, on a fine summer’s day.

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