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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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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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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 …

rabbitwild 2 rabbitwild

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.

little ruth

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



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


Interior Rubble Manor


Sitting Room . Rubble Manor


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.

Rubble Manor . Barneveld . The Wicks Years . End 1919


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These photos of Rubble Manor are from the family archived collection of Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann, Great Granddaughter of Architect, William S. Wicks of the Turn of the Century, Green & Wicks Architectural Firm in Buffalo, New York. Curiously, the photos are predominantly taken from angles other than the front of the house. The landscaping does not look like there is mature growth, so these photos may have been taken when the home was newly purchased, even though it is reported that the home was built between 1801 and 1809, so there would have been ample time for planned landscaping.

Wicks married Emma Egert Griffith in 1882 and she may have been from this area. If Wicks purchased the home in 1884 he would have been 30 years old. It would be the same year that his father died and daughter Ruth was born. Since Ruth was born in Trenton, now known as Barneveld, my guess is that the purchase took place around this time, if not sooner.

The history of Rubble Manor, Wicks summer home is available in bits and pieces, here, there and everywhere. Here is a brief and succinct synopsis of Barneveld, found on the “Oneida County Historical Society” website, and a little background on the beginning life of Rubble Manor, otherwise known as Mappa Hall outside of the time that Wicks owned the property:

Barneveld – The Village of Barneveld had  its beginnings in 1793 when Gerrit Boon, an agent of the Holland Land Company,  marked a trail through the forest north from Fort Schuyler. Arriving at the  junction of the Steuben and Cincinnati Creeks, he pitched his tent, and soon  began the settlement. He named it Olden Barneveldt in honor of Dutch Patriot,  John of Olden Barneveldt in Holland. Boon was later succeeded by Col. Adam  Gerard Mappa who constructed a beautiful stone mansion, of Trenton limestone  drawn from the nearby quarries, on the same site. It was known then and today  as Mappa Hall. The village of Olden Barneveldt was incorporated in 1819. In  1975, by a village vote of 88 to 49 the village name was changed to Barneveld.


Contemporary Photo of Mappa Hall Courtesy of the Wikipedia website

I have dozens of postcards to and from Ruth, Wicks and her mother using the Rubble Manor address, with most being mailed around 1909. The home would have been a hundred years old at this point  and the subsequent photos reflect mature landscaping. The large urn shown in the photo provided by Elizabeth was kept at my childhood home in Whitesboro, New York for many years. It had a soft polished pottery finish of moss-green. It was an item chosen by my mother, from her mother’s (Ruth) estate. Eventually she sold it, and it graces someone elses garden now.

I believe a tennis court had been added to the grounds of Mappa Hall, I remember seeing it when I was young …. the gardens looked so inviting, yet forbidden.

Wicks died here, in this home on May 30, 1919 after being ill for several months according to a Buffalo newspaper, at only 63 years old. His wife Emma had died four years ealier, I believe she was only 56 years old.

Ruth was 35 years old and married, my mother was born just 5 months later. I wonder, did he have anyone with him when he was ill and dying? Was he alone?

little ruth

Remembering Wicks & wondering.

(Above photo of Wicks and little Ruth is courtesy of his Great Granddaughter Elizabeth Hopkins wittemann. All rights of original material reserved, no duplication of content is allowed without consent of author.)

The Beginning of the Barneveld Library & Jacob Wicks . 1877



Barneveld Free Library . 118 Boon Street . Barneveld . New York

Illustration is courtesy of the http://midyorklib.org/barneveld/ website

History of the Barneveld Free Library – from the Mid York Library Website:

“Barneveld Free Library Association was formed in 1874 when Jacob Wick offered a room, rent free, for the use of a library. A subscription paper was circulated for the purpose of raising funds and the sum of $99 was secured. On November 21, 1874, the subscribers met in the home of Dr. Luther Guiteu and organized as the Trenton Library Association. The association started with 240 books.”

There is a slight error, as the name above should be Jacob Wicks, not Wick. Jacob was the father of William S. Wicks, who grew up in Barneveld, in the Octagon House, if my deduction as to his childhood home is correct. William S. Wicks studied architecture at Cornell and  graduated from M.I.T. in 1877, with a degree in architecture and among the first to be professionally trained in this discipline in the United States.

While successfully running an architectural firm in Buffalo with partner E.B. Green he returned to Barneveld to purchase Rubble Manor (aka Mappa Hall) as his summer home. I am not sure of the timeframe of this purchase or how the name change came about.

According to the library’s website, the cornerstone of the building, which is still in use, was laid July 27, 1877. The total cost of the building was about $1,700. The building was erected by the great- grandfather of Alexander Pirnie of Utica.

There is no reference as to the person who may have designed the library. Between the style which looks like a classic Wicks Adirondack simple design, his history in Barneveld and his father Jacob’s connection to both architecture & the library, I would take a wild guess and assume that either one or both had something to do with the design of the library.

Besides, why would the family keep an early photograph of the library seen here tucked away with all of the other treasured photos and postcards for over a hundred years? It would be interesting to find out if someone in the Library system might be able to find out more about this.

barneveld library   b lib

Above photos are of the Barneveld Library. Left: This photo is from the Wicks family archives,  and right, a current photo courtesy of the Village of Barneveld website. Below are photos of my Great Great Grandfather Jacob Wicks & Great Grandfather William S. Wicks. If I were a betting type of gal, I would wager a dollar that Jacob & son William had something to do with the design and creation of this sweet little library.

jacob wicks 1903   wicks 1890

Left: Jacob Wicks, Born 1823 . Died 1884, Father of William S. Wicks. Right: William S. Wicks, Architect, Born 1854 . Died 1919. Photos are from the Wicks Family Archives and Courtesy of Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann, Great Great granddaughter of Jacob Wicks & Great granddaughter of William S. Wicks.

Remembering the Wicks men and work that may have been forgotten, unattributed or overlooked.

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Friend . Miss Marguerite Grove & the Thomas Indian School . 1906

Friend . Miss Marguerite Grove & the Thomas Indian School . 1906

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A Simple Postcard from the Wicks Albright . Parkside . Delaware Park Collection circa 1905-1908 with just a name in delicate script:

Miss Marguerite Grove

Miss Grove was probably a friend of Ruth’s, William S. Wicks, daughter  and I wondered who she might be. Somehow their paths crossed, or they traveled in the same social circles. Ruth was a Unitarian, so I do not expect they met in church as Miss Grove was a Presbyterian.

Recently I found a reference for the Grove family in the “Buffalo Address Book and Family Directory 1901”, Dr. & Mrs. B.H. Grove were neighbors to the Wicks family who also lived on Jewett Avenue. By 1905 the book now lists the girls of both families: Miss Ruth & Miss Grace Wicks, and Miss Marie Grove, which must be Marguerite. That is all I could find, the girls came to know each other as friends and neighbors, and eventually went their own way, as we all do.

Miss Marguerite Grove is mentioned in:

“The Fiftieth Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Thomas Indian School

Located on the Cattaragus Indian Reservation at Iroquois, New York

For the fiscal year ending September 30, 1905

Here is one entry ” … the following organizations sent many Christmas presents for our pupils, Miss Marguerite Grove, Director of Young People’s work of the Buffalo Presbyterian Church was also instrumental in securing presents from ….. which helped to make the Christmas Season joyous ….”

thomas indian

Photo courtesy of the whitebison.org website

Depending on various perspectives found on internet sources, the Thomas Indian School may be interpreted as a historical agency dedicated to the well-being, stability and happiness of little children, or something darker. I believe that Miss Marguerite Grove had nothing but good intention and an altruistic spirit in her interaction with the children of the Thomas Indian Thomas school which is still in operation today.


Nineteen years later, Miss Marguerite Grove is still involved with the school …. “Buffalo Courier”, February 1, 1924 … Social Record:

“…Following the dinner, a play ‘One Hundred Years’ will be presented under the direction of Miss Marguerite Grove, by about thirty Seneca reservation Indians.”

Interconnectedness, friendship and the human condition when we were new unravels because of a name on a family postcard. Here is information on the history of the school from the New York State Archives website:


The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was incorporated   in 1855 as a private institution receiving State aid. The asylum was located   within the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County and was charged to   receive destitute and orphaned children from all Indian reservations in the   State. It was named for Philip E. Thomas, a benefactor of New York’s Native Americans and early financial backer of the asylum.

In 1875 ownership of the asylum was transferred to the State and it was made subject to the supervision and control of the State Board of Charities. As a   State institution, its purpose was to furnish resident Native American children with “care, moral training and education, and instruction in husbandry   and the arts of civilization.” To reflect its emphasis on education the   asylum’s name was changed in 1905 to Thomas Indian School. The school first   offered Regents Examinations through grade 6 in 1898, and by 1905 eight grades   were available. In 1930, with the addition of one more grade, the school was   classified a junior high school. The school was placed under the supervision   of Department of Charities in 1927. The Department of Charities was renamed   Department of Social Welfare in 1929. Orphaned, destitute, or neglected Native   American children were usually referred to the school from one of these sources:   a parent or guardian unable to care for the child; a county welfare agency seeking   to place a child under foster care; or the Children’s Court. Final determinations   on admissions were made by the superintendent. In 1942, a social worker was   assigned to the school to counsel the residents and to advise the superintendent.   The State closed the Thomas Indian School in 1957. …”

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