Roughing it like a Rockefeller

More than a century ago, William Avery RockefellerII, nephew of John D., inherited a private preserve of land in the Adirondacks from his grandfather. Much of the woodland property was sold, but the Rockefeller family held onto an elevated rocky peninsula on Upper Saranac Lake and, with the help of architect William Distin, turned it into a 1930s’-style Grand Camp.

An informal complex of rustic natural log and stone buildings with arts and crafts detailing and an intimate sense of place, “CampWonudra” was where the Rockefellers and their friends went when they wanted to “vacate from the big city” (and hence, the word “vacation” was born). It was said to have been the last Grand Camp built before the Great Depression.

After the Rockefellers sold it in 1969, the camp went through a collection of owners, including the Lehman Brothers who held the property from 2007 to 2016. It was also used as an athletes’ residence during the 1980 Winter Olympics. Afterwards, it became the first Relais & Châteaux property in North America and was renamed “The Point.”

A return to glory

Current owners Laurie and Pierre Lapeyre bought the secluded 75-acre retreat in 2016 and began restorations. In love with The Point’s romantic history and pastoral authenticity, the Lapeyres committed themselves to returning the property to its former Gilded Age glory, when families such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Guggenheims, Roosevelts and Rockefellers held vibrant house parties in the forest. Laurie also made it her mission to professionally restore and add to the camp’s priceless antique and American art collections.

Rustically elegant, today’s intimate, adults-only getaway is charmingly “unplugged” and pet-friendly, with 11 distinctive guest accommodations in four cozy cottage-style buildings set across the property. Each offers a broad lake view, handmade bed, original wood fireplace, relaxed furnishings and nicely renovated, classic-style bathroom.

At 1,200 square feet, The Boathouse is the most spacious and most requested suite, and has recently been winterized with heated floors for year-round use. A free-standing structure set above the water, it has a panoramic view of the Upper Saranac, an airy open floor plan with a lofty beamed ceiling that vaults over a storybook canopied bed in the centre of the room, and a native stone fireplace that anchors the open space at one end. There’s also a spectacular wood-panelled bathroom with a dreamy soaker tub for two and rock-walled shower.

No check-in just champagne

There are no signs—just an original wooden gate that swings open as my driver pulls up. I’m greeted in the Reindeer Hall with a glass of champagne. No check-in, no paperwork, they know I’m coming. The entrance is beautifully decorated to celebrate the season and serves as the Main Lodge’s gateway to the Great Hall, an open bar, the summer terrace and the kitchen. There’s a private corridor off the Great Hall that leads to The Mohawk, where I’m staying. It’s the Rockefellers’ former master bedroom, where a king-size bed faces a wood- burning fieldstone fireplace, and there is a beamed wood ceiling overhead.

The Mohawk has a deep sofa by its wide windows, a writ- ing desk, two armchairs flanking the fireplace and a walk-in closet. A sitting area and table for two are pleasingly situated by the window. An outside door opens to a semi-private outdoor sitting and dining patio with a path to the lake. My bathroom is glamorous in vintage black, white and chrome, with a claw-foot tub and separate waterfall shower.

The other rooms—Morningside, Algonquin and Iroquois in the Main Lodge; Sentinel, Lookout and Trappers in the Eagle’s Nest; and Weatherwatch, Saranac and Evensong in the Guest House—have equally storied histories. There’s even many a tale of Mrs. R’s ghost wearing a flowing white gown and wandering the halls after dark.

House party life

As at any “house party,” guests at The Point dine together around a grand table in the Great Hall—although snow barbecues at the lean-to, luncheons on the terrace, island picnics and cocktails on the lake are stylish mainstays. Morning tea delivered to the room and breakfast in bed are also not-to- be-overlooked options. Suffice it say, each meal is an event.

Come cocktail hour, it’s off to the pub for pre-dinner drinks, and by the time we’re back to the Great Hall we’re as old friends. The room rings with laughter and lively conversation as course after course is complemented by paired wines from the cellar. Chef Loic Leperlier’s black-tie seven-course dinners are served on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, in deference to the Rockefeller’s Great Camp tradition.

The Point’s concierges can arrange an incredible array of year-round indoor and outdoor activities: In-room massages, yoga sessions, the use of in-house Mercedes SUVs and lake tours with Budsin wooden electric boats. There’s also a glass- enclosed boat for romantic lake cruising for breakfast, lunch or cocktails. Nearby golf, antiquing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and trout and bass fishing are also yours for the booking, as well as Lake Placid skiing, luge and bobsledding.

An ideal venue for family gatherings and celebrations, the entire estate can be reserved for $28,750 per night for 22 people.

Getting there

Cape Air flies directly to Adirondack Regional Airport (SLK) from Boston Logan International (BOS) three times a day. Charter service companies are available for guests who wish to fly privately. Of note: The airport has the longest runway in the park and can handle jets up to and including Boeing 757s. Guests will be met and driven to The Point, only 15 minutes away, and returned to the airport for departure.

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