Category Archives: Wicks – Rabbitwild

Re-Imagining Rabbitwild


Re-imagining Rabbitwild …



Rabbitwild was real.  Here it is in it’s rustic beautiful splendor on Honnedaga Lake, oh so long ago when Wicks designed and built this camp among the first within the Adirodack League Club.  Family and friends in Victorian whites on the porch … maybe that’s my grandmother or her sister living a life that looks quite wonderful in every way.

In the book, Wicks provides meticulous detail related to the construction of the camp from analysis of the site to blue prints to the number of hand hewed nails needed to build this camp utilizing timber on the land.

I have land in Barneveld, at least a little of it, with timber, timber grown from saplings planted by my grandmother Ruth, my mother Kitty and her two brothers Syd and Skip. My grandmother was a Smith graduate horticulturist and planted acres and acres of saplings provided by the State of New York in the 20’s and 30’s.

And I imagine, building this cottage again on the land my mother saved in Barneveld where she had planned to build a cottage someday. The small parcel she saved specifically for its aesthetic correctness. She was a painter after all, and she looked at the site  it as if it were a painting. The parcel overlooks Big Drumlin, the pond that Wicks had built as part of his tireless dedication and love of his land in Barneveld.

And I think, wouldn’t it be great to follow the book, step by step and create this cottage in  just the same way it had been built  in the 1800’s? Wouldn’t it be stunning to document the story of Wicks in this way, to see it go up, to write about it, to film it?

Wouldn’t it be lovely to re-imagine Rabbitwild where new generations will have a footing on sacred ground and remember how very beautiful life is in its rustic splendor, in the Wicks tradition?


And I wonder, how do others who have these ideas, find the right people to make it happen.

That’s what I want to know.

little ruth 2

Remembering Wicks …

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Black Bears Were Unusually Numerous – ADK 1886



Mountain Lodge – Green & Wicks

Sketch from the Syracuse Sunday Herald, “Adirondack League Club,” January 8, 1893, p. 2.


Adirondack League Club Early History Transcribed in 2009

by Town of Webb Historian Peg Masters

News Notes

1886 – Utica Weekly Herald, “Rod and Gun,” November 9, 1886, p. 12. “Black bears are unusually numerous in the Adirondack region this fall. Charles A. Nicholson of Utica, W. S. Wicks of Trenton and Howard Brown of Brookline, Mass. are about to erect a handsome and commodious log camp at Big Rock Bay, Jock’s Lake. A. D. Barber, Jr., of this city has erected the frame for his new hotel on Jock’s Lake in the North Woods.

1890 – Watertown Times, “To Save The Great Forests,” September 4, 1890, p. 2. “The history of the project of saving the Adirondack forests is exceedingly interesting. With that object in view, the Adirondack Park Association was quietly formed in New York City in April last. . . . This association came into being because of the sealed conviction that the forestry commission has proved a failure, says the New York Press; that it has suffered inroads to be made into the heart of the Adirondacks, which has effected serious injury and threatened still greater; that it has promoted no serious measures to promote the planting of trees; that it has not property resisted the encroachments of shingle men and charcoal burners; that it had allowed the encroachment of railroads; that in fact the commission was a useless body.

1892 – Utica Morning Herald, “Personal,” March 25, 1892, p. 6. “Architect W. S. Wicks of Buffalo has returned from Little Moose lake, where he has been locating a new club house for the Adirondack league club, to cost from $15,000 to $20,000.”

1893 – Syracuse Sunday Herald, “Adirondack League Club” – from the NY Mail and Express, January 8, 1893, p. 2. “The Adirondack League Club has just completed negotiation by which it accrues absolute title to the club house ‘Forest Lodge’ on Honnedaga or Jock’s Lake in Herkimer County together with all the buildings and, furniture, boats, camps, and other equipment formerly owned by A. D. Barber. . . . The club has two handsome and perfectly equipped club homes on its preserve, the new house on Little Moose Lake having been just completed at a cost of nearly $30,000.

1893 – New York Tribune, “Adirondack League Clubhouse,” February 19, 1893, p. 22. “The new clubhouse of the Adirondack League Club on Little Moose Lake, Herkimer County, N. Y., has been finished at a cost of over $25,000. . . The clubhouse will accommodate over 100 people and is tastefully as well as substantially constructed. The pride of the architect is the great hall in the centre of the building, 50×35 feet, at one end of which is a huge fireplace capable of burning logs six feet in length. At the other end, or southern extremity of the preserve, twenty-five miles away from Mountain Lodge, is Forest Lodge, the club’s other house on Honnedaga Lake . . . and accommodates about seventy-five people. Honnedaga, or ‘Jock’s’ Lake, is six miles long. . . . Honnedaga is the Indian name of the lake signifying ‘clear water.” On many old maps it is simply designated ‘Transparent Lake.’


rabbit wild cabin

This is Rabbitwild –

A Wicks camp designed and built for daughter Ruth & family on Jocks Lake at the Adirondack League Club.

The original story of Rabbitwild written by Wicks, in his spare time, as a story for Ruth in 1896,

and now waiting to be published. 

little ruth

Remembering Wicks

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and so the hope & process of publication begins …


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I am very happy to be in communication with Syracuse University Press and the offer to submit the story of “Rabbitwild” & personal introduction for consideration. 

Remembering Wicks,

wicks 1890

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A Beautiful Mystery



I am so happy to have found one more photo of “Rabbitwild” shared with me today by Rick Franklin, a descendant of Grace, Ruth’s sister. I love this photo! The cabin porch and layout kissing the shore of Honnedaga Lake is an element I couldn’t have imagined.

We don’t know if the girls in the photo might be Grace, Ruth, Emma or a guest. I love the flag, setting, everything that was not captured in the two other photos I posted of Rabbitwild. It appears that the photo was taken on the lake, and I can only wonder by whom, and what kind of boat they might be in. A beautiful mystery, with no one left to ask!

Remembering Wicks

little ruth

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Class is in Session – Kind of


What does one write when trying to encapsulate the intricacies and  complexities of a story of a man like Wicks without becoming verbose or draconian or even predictable?

This is what I want to know.

So, on the most glorious day in southwest Florida, I left my post as a Sierra Club volunteer at the Indian Rocks Beach Greenfest to find out.  Apologizing to my sister activists, I rushed away with my newly purchased gorgeous orchids to make the trek through the  most agonizing tourist traffic in the entire world. An hour later and still 5 minutes late, I grabbed twelve copies of “my work” to share with the workshop writing group and as quietly as possible found a spot as class was already  in session.

A woman with a slight southern drawl was reading.  She was easily offended and annoyingly mean to others throughout this writing encounter, scolding someone for whispering as she read the details of her terrible southern childhood.  A sad cliché of the middle child syndrome as she read from her manuscript with shaking hands.

For three and a half hours, I listened, we talked, critiqued and squared away fees for the class. But some people, I don’t know, just can’t seem to articulate their thoughts, or hear, or understand, or for that matter write. I was late to class and dead last to read. Class was dismissed. I could read first next time, I was told.

Um, I don’t think so.

What do you write as an introduction? Especially for a man like Wicks? The answer was not here, and this was my writing class lesson.

Last night, I started contacting publishers. The story will stand on its own.


Remembering Wicks and the story of Rabbitwild.

new rw2

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Introduction – First Draft – “Rabbitwild”


First Draft: Introduction to “Rabbitwild – a Shelter in the Wilderness”

by William S. Wicks

In 1896, “Rabbitwild – A Shelter in the Wilderness” was written by William S. Wicks for my Grandmother when she was just 12 years old. My father gave me the book rather offhandedly when my childhood home was being prepared for sale. Years later I realized that “Rabbitwild” was something special and rare. I’ve imagined my Great Grandfather burning the midnight oil as he penned the drawings and wrote this story.  A father and his two boys venture into the wilderness where they design and build a cottage over summer break,  leaving the sounds, smell and grit of the city behind them. Was “Rabbitwild” real? It was never discussed, we were all very busy, you see, and the book was hidden or lost on an old dusty book shelf.

More than a story-teller, Wicks was a gifted architect, visionary, writer and naturalist. Among the few professionally trained early American Architects, Wicks attended Cornell University,  studied in London and Paris and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Degree in Architecture.  In 1880, Wicks and E.B. Green became partners forming the Green & Wicks Architectural firm in Buffalo where they successfully collaborated for over 30 years. G&W commissions included the Albright-Knox Museum, Pan Am Expo Buildings, Delaware Park Casino, Recreational Buildings and Bridges, New York State Fairground buildings, Chautauqua Post Office and Philosophy Hall, hundreds of noteworthy private homes and estates and many more timeless architectural examples, too numerous to list.

In our “too busy” mantra of life, we accept that there is no time to dream of, imagine or investigate the stories behind our existence. This is an unthinkable prospect when everything we are comes from someone, somewhere, somehow. Before you know it, our time is up and answers to our questions are a part of the mystery when there is no one left to ask.

But we can still read. With no distraction of television, computers and social media, time keepers recorded everyday life. Astute visionaries who lived in the moment and documented life, in writing, on paper. How lucky we are to have the ability to see through their eyes, hear and listen to their words.  There is no better way to understand the vision and philosophy of Wicks than through his own assessment vicariously through Mr. Langdon found on the pages of this book:

“… It may be truthfully said that Mr. Robert Langdon is an architect with a national reputation. If he is without genius, he possesses talent of a very high order. He has not only planned beautiful residences in his native city, his services have been in demand in other cities. Some of the most charming villas on the Hudson were builded after his plans. What distinguishes his work from the more popular style of architecture, is simplicity and adaptability ….

elegant or beautiful, the home should be homelike and inviting; a joyous, happy place, reflecting the family’s cultivation and tempered taste …”

An original member of a group of preservationists, he campaigned to save the Adirondack forests when the Adirondack Park Association was quietly formed in New York City with the purchase of 100,000 pristine forested acres.  Later the Adirondack League Club was formed where Wicks became a Charter Member for over 30 years. The Club was composed of 500, 5 acre plots at $1200 each. Wicks designed the impressive Adirondack League Club Mountain Lodge as well as dozens of additional camp and cottage commissions within the Club.

mountain lodge 1894

Mountain Lodge – New Club House on Moose Lake – Green & Wicks Architects – Buffalo, New York

This is where “Rabbitwild” was conceived and lived (a short life). But “Rabbitwild”, the cottage was  real, after all. I discovered this when an unknown cousin, Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemen, Granddaughter of Grace, Ruth’s sister,  found me. Elizabeth had photographs of “Rabbitwild” but didn’t know anything about the cottage, the story of Wicks or our family history. I am thrilled to have found Elizabeth and most thankful for the lost photographs, and evidence that “Rabbitwild” in fact, existed.

 rabbitwild 2

Photograph Courtesy of Elizabeth Hopkins Witteman

I think about the harsh, rugged elegance and raw  beauty of the mountains and my instinct to go there. My mother Kitty didn’t care for it, we didn’t make the trek to “camp” every summer week-end as was common among the families in my neighborhood. We were very busy, we had very busy lives, you see.

In the 60’s, when I thought I was old enough, I hitch hiked to that wild wondrous place with my girlfriend Nancy where we camped out in sleeping bags in the abandoned remnants of camps near Inlet on 4th Lake or Old Forge. With black as ink skies pinpointed by brilliant points of  light we star gazed with no light pollution to alter the experience, started a damp sad camp fire, got soaking wet every time and predictably stung and bruised by black flies or deer flies. In the grey dusk of morning,  cold and wet, mechanically we found our way to the rustic local laundry to dry everything we carried in our back packs. One day my brother Cricket saw us and I was grounded for life, sequestered in my room where my mother gave me the leather bound book “Pilgrims Progress” to read, so very New England of her.

In the 70’s, I took my daughter Sunshine to the Adirondacks –  we climbed just about every mountain, and took in breathless, never ending vistas and old Indian trails from the Fire Watch Towers on top of the mountains.  I didn’t realize my heritage was right there – under my feet and above my head. My family was very busy you see, we didn’t have time to meditate in the mountains.

Just down the way, in the exclusive enclave of the Adirondack League Club, my Grandmother, in a previous life had I believe, a charmed life. A modern, educated and engaging woman, Ruth lived a life of understated privilege with divine times among friends and family in  her very own cozy retreat “Rabbitwild”, situated upon the pristine shore of Honnedaga Lake (aka Moose Lake), a tennis match and tea on the agenda for any given summers day.

Three years after the cabin was completed, it was advertised for sale in the publication “Recreation” of  July 1900 which read: “For Sale, at 3/4 of cost, Cottage, 5 acres of land share in the Adirondack League Club, Honnedaga Lake. Cottage, built in 1897, contains 5 bedrooms, sitting-room, dining room, kitchen, tinned store-room and pantry. Brook at side gives unfailing supply of cold water. W.S. Wicks 110 Franklin Street, Buffalo, N.Y.”

After only 3 years Wicks it seems was desperate to sell Rabbitwild. At some point Rabbitwild was lost to fire.

Wicks died at home in Rubble Manor in 1919.  His obituary listed his accomplishments and reads in part: …”Mr. Wicks enjoyed out-of-door life, and had a wide variety of interests. He was at one time the amateur golf champion of Buffalo, always an enthusiastic fisherman and hunter, and a lover of the woods. Recently he had found much enjoyment in his farms and scientific propagation of brook trout, which he raised on his preserve in the foot hills of the Adirondacks…Among his fellow architects and business acquaintances he was held in great esteem, and his record of high professional integrity and achievement is one that will long endure to the credit to his profession.”

A Unitarian, his brother-in- law Howard Brown was a Harvard Divinity Minister at Kings Chapel in Boston who traveled with Wicks during  his Adirondack adventures. I do not know if he attended or held service for Wicks at the Barneveld Unitarian Church, but I like to think he did.  In 1962, I attended my Grandmother Guy’s service in this church and remember her casket so strange to me, covered in white roses.  In the late 60’s,  in a pink and white wool tattersol suit I listened to Stravinsky’s “Rites of Spring” in hommage to the meaning of Spring at Easter time when the Rev.Timothy Behrendt was Resident Pastor. He made quite a stir in this old Barneveld town when he rode his bike completely bare naked through the village, a true and pure naturalist!  Tim held my mother Kitty’s service in this church in 2002, and that just seemed right.

My daughter Jasmine was just 12 years old then and not know this place, her roots or anything about the Adirondack Mountains. We returned to Blue Mountain for one more climb.  We were not that busy, you see and thanks to a band of preservationists in 1890, the mountains were exactly the same.

100 years after Wicks died, isn’t it is a pretty idea to think that his integrity and achievement endures? That the dust that he, and we are made of lives in words, buildings and new people to take our place? Star dust, the stuff we are made of  fleeting and eternal. We don’t have time to rush through our stories in a state of inconsequential busyness. In the Adirondacks, time stands still, we are not that busy, after all.

This is the story of Rabbitwild.

little ruth 2

 Remembering Wicks – William and Ruth

“Rabbitwild – A Shelter in the Wilderness” is a mystery, “how-to” manual, vision, art form, story for a little girl and a dream fulfilled. William S. Wicks wrote another book: “Log Cabins – How to Build and Furnish Them” which is still on the market today.

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The Story of Rabbitwild & Back to Basics


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

little ruth