Tag Archives: rabbitwild

Re-Imagining Rabbitwild

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Re-imagining Rabbitwild …

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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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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

little ruth

 

 

 

 

 

Rabbitwild for Sale 1900 & Barneveld for Sale 70 years later …

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Rabbitwild – For Sale – July 1900

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And so, I have found that Wicks was looking for a buyer for Rabbitwild in the July, 1900  issue of “Recreation”.  A nice little article written by Russel Roberts of Barneveld in the “Adirondack Architectural Heritage” Newsletter, Volume 6, Number 2, of December 1997 provides a nice rendering of Rabbitwild as well as great information on the Wicks Adirondack story … but according to the advertisement in “Recreation” Rabbitwild was built in 1897.

I won’t lie – I am stunned by the ad, check it out:

new rw4After 3 years the cottage was for sale at 3/4 of the value? At this time the Green & Wicks Architectural firm was in full throttle with the Buffalo Pan Am Expo developing the Electricity & Machinery Buildings, the Albright Art Gallery, development of the Buffalo Parkside residential community  along with another half-dozen important commissions. Ruth was sixteen years old attending the Elmwood School, also known as the Buffalo Seminary – a private non sectarian girls prep school, I assume with her  little sister Grace, right behind her.

But 3/4 of cost? It all looks rather desperate – it had to be a cash flow problem. It would be interesting to know the outcome of the ad, if the property sold, who purchased it and when the fire occurred.

Years ago when I asked about the loss of the Adirondack property and Rubble Manor in Barneveld, my mother told me that the family was traditionally land rich, but cash poor. But my Grandmother held on to 30 acres, a farm, fish hatchery, lodge and cottage in Barneveld to pass on to her 3 children. She was a conscientious custodian of a property that was left to her to pass on to the family. Ultimately in my lineage, just one member of the family inherited property, my brother and first-born male. My mother could have learned from her mother, but that is history.

Plus, by the evidence of expenditures, Wicks seemed very comfortable spending money (another inherited trait, without the deep resources of the good Wicks name). He must have over extended himself, maintaining three households, private education, social clubs, sports activities, fish hatcheries and European travel take its toll over time … even without the tax structure we endure now.

In truth, my oldest brother did not inherit the property – my mother sold it to him in the 70’s. Maybe she was taking the Wicks cue, I don’t know. She sold my brother 10 acres, including the remnants of the fish hatchery, and a cottage designed by Wicks for $25,000. My brother is 11 years older than me and wanted the property established in his name before the day of his wedding, which he accomplished. He married rather late in life and even though I was young, at the time I did not think I had anything to worry about – a (mistakenly) common theme in my life. I have never seen a more interesting dynamic between my brother and mother before or since. If I were to go into detail, it would be quite embarrassing for him, and that accomplishes nothing.

I was a very young single mother struggling, managing somehow to get my first degree, with designs on a California dreamin’ life and my other brother who is a year younger than brother one, was busy studying for his PhD at Duke University. We didn’t have a chance in all honesty, Brother One never finished college, but how brilliant!

Later in life, the decision by my mother was one she regretted, with a sad ending.  When she died, my mother was returned to Barneveld with a service at the Unitarian Church, which was hauntingly beautiful. Her mother and Grandfather had services at the same historic Unitarian church in Barneveld. She is buried in the Evergreen cemetery in Barneveld with one of her brothers, Singerly, mother Ruth, and Grandfather William S Wicks.

But, the property is beautiful. It takes unwavering dedication to preserve, protect and improve a natural environment that will have its way without the unconditional love and commitment of its custodian which without doubt my brother has accomplished.

I still own a little sliver of the land, but know I will never see it.

We are all getting older, in time the property will be held by the next generation – in whose hands, I wonder? Will more family members become estranged because of it? Yes, I’m pretty sure. We’re good at that.

Remembering Wicks, his good sense and intentions, his mind on the drawing board but his soul in the woods,

papa

This photo of my Grandmother little Ruth Wicks with her father Architect William S Wicks is courtesy of Elizabeth Hopkins Wittemann, Granddaughter of Grace Wicks, Ruth’s little sister.

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Small Camps . Elegant Simplicity . Wicks & the Rabbit Wild Story

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Illustrations from Wicks book – Rabbitwild – the Wicks Cottage at the Adirondack League Club on Honnedaga Lake

Here is an excerpt I especially like …

” … What distinguishes his work from the more popular style of architecture, is simplicity and adaptability. For what purpose is the building to be used? The reply to this question determined, largely, the plan of the structure. For a home, he did not sketch a palace. the term “palatial” he did not admit into his vocabulary, when describing the family residence…..

…. it is quite necessary that I should add, for the furtherance of my story, that Mr. Langdon had inherited a tract of wilderness in the Adirondacks, marked off by notching of trees. The recent construction of a railroad into that region turned his attention anew to a dream of his youth, of owning a log cabin in the woods. The new road run within a few miles of his property, which could be reached by a moderate carry, or by boating to the foot of Jock’s Lake, the southern boundary line of his possession.

The question of constructing such a summer house had been up for discussion in the family circle on several occasions; but no definite conclusion had been reached. Mr. Langdon had made up his mind to build, but, busy over a hundred other things, he had not stolen time to perfect a plan…”

This is part of the storyline of Wicks in his own hand … understated style blended into the terrain of majesty.

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“Rabbitwild” reveals words and illustrations by Wicks which are virtually unknown. With that insight, I find an excerpt from “Adirondack Camps – Homes Away from Home 1850 -1950″, by Craig A Gilborn especially interesting:

” … Augustus D Shepard designed about 20 camps at the Adirondack League Club and altered or made editions to perhaps forty other camps or buildings, several times the number of projects credited to William S. Wicks by Comstock and Haynes early members of the club, the two architects certainly knew each other although they did not colaborate.

Their camps were on separate lakes not in easy communication with one another. Wick’s Rabbit Wild, a camp on Honnedaga Lake and built in 1892, was the nearest of the clubs three inhabited lakes to his Barneveld home.

Wicks belonged to an earlier generation of sportsmen whose experiences in the woods affected their notion of what a decorous cottage in the woods should look like – rustic and partially log and not too large…”

How I miss the sensibilities of the “earlier generation” ….

About

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My background is in Public Relations with a B.S. Degree from Syracuse University. I am a long long way away from my Adirondack New York roots and am about to undertake the task of documenting the accomplishments of my Great Grandfather, William S. Wicks. I hope to chronicle some of the lost stories, unattributed work and to publish “Rabbitwild”, a story he wrote for my Grandmother when she was just 12 years old.

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