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America's Treasures: Three Adirondack Great Camps of the Gilded Age

Program Number: 20944RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/16/2013 - 6/21/2013; 7/5/2016 - 7/10/2016; 8/14/2016 - 8/19/2016; 9/18/2016 - 9/23/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Raquette Lake, New York
Price starting at: $643.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture; Political Science; Science & Nature
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Few have ever experienced “roughing it” like the wealthy businessmen of the Gilded Age, who turned the quiet wilderness of the Adirondacks into a haven for the rich and famous. Today, the Great Camps of the Gilded Age remain icons of the early Adirondack lifestyle, and Great Camp Sagamore is the perfect location to study this opulent era. Join historians for a look into the lives of these famous camp owners, their well-known guests and the workers who maintained their lavish properties. Then, gain an appreciation for the region’s natural treasures as naturalists share their insight on the ecology of the Adirondack Park, the largest park in the contiguous United States.


• Learn about the Vanderbilts' Sagamore and its neighbors, such as J.P. Morgan’s Camp Uncas and Collis Huntington's Camp Pine Knot — each designed William West Durant, and each today a National Historic Landmark.
• Get a fresh perspective of the great camp properties during a study luncheon cruise along Raquette Lake.
• Canoe or hike around Sagamore Lake and discover the biodiversity of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Activity Particulars

Walking over uneven terrain, some stairs. Visit to Camp Uncas includes participant option to hike the two miles to camp, on unpaved road over hilly terrain. Trip to Camp Pine Knot includes a mandatory 1/2-mile walk through a wooded area to reach another part of the facility. Program also includes short hike around or canoe paddle.

Included are special visits to two additional camps: Pine Knot, the first "great camp" built by William West Durant, and in many ways the very prototype of what has come to be referred to as "Adirondack rustic" architecture; and Uncas sold by Durant in 1895 to J.P. Morgan. Both of these camps are privately-owned today, and generally off-limits to the public, but have been available to Road Scholar participants though this special program.

Date Specific Information


Please note that June is black fly season in the Adirondacks. Although Sagamore will provide bug jackets and insect repellent, please prepare accordingly.

Coordinated by Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks.

Raquette Lake

Raquette Lake’s pristine water and wooded lakeshores are located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Great Camp Sagamore, founded by the Vanderbilt family in 1897 and now a National Historic Landmark, shares this wilderness area.

National Historic Landmark-designated buildings at Great Camp Sagamore.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Jeffrey Flagg

Dr. Jeff Flagg is the assistant director of the Sagamore Institute, and has been at Sagamore since completing a doctoral internship in 1997. A scholar of the Adirondack region, he received his Ph.D. in American culture studies from Bowling Green University in 1999, and also has degrees in business and literature. He is deeply invested in the history of the camp, the region and the park, and has taught at several colleges in the area, as well as innumerable Road Scholar programs.
Michael Wilson

Dr. Michael Wilson created the Adirondack Studies Program at the State University of New York, Potsdam. As the associate director of Sagamore, he trains the historic interpreters annually and has received kudos from the Michelin Guide, the Upstate History Alliance, and the New York State Arts and Business Partnership Association. A scholar and teacher, his love of his subject is immediately evident.
Dan Berggren

Rooted firmly in the Adirondacks, Dan Berggren is an award-winning musician and educator who grew up on land farmed by his mother's family for generations. Having worked as a forest ranger and on survey crews, Dan’s style captures the spirit of the mountains. He has entertained audiences from New York State to Vermont, Kentucky and Texas, and overseas in the British Isles, Eastern Europe and Central Africa. His original music has been featured nationally on public radio and television.
Jack Berkley

Dr. John Berkley is a geology professor emeritus from the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is an expert on Martian meteorites on earth, but has also done extensive research on Adirondack geology. As a petrologist and planetary scientist, John centered his research on a certain class of meteorites called achondrites, and accepted a NASA fellowship in 1998 to study a Martian meteorite at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. His current research focuses on black sandstone in the Canadaway Creek in Fredonia, which may have implications for life processes on other planets. John has taught courses in volcanoes, planetary astronomy, petrology, mineralogy and environmental geology.
Meals and Lodgings
   Great Camp Sagamore
  Raquette Lake, NY 5 nights
 Great Camp Sagamore
Type: Lodge
  Description: Sagamore’s authentic buildings dating from 1897 are situated on a peninsula jutting into pristine and picturesque Sagamore Lake. The Adirondack Forest Preserve surrounds the entire 27-building Sagamore estate owned by the Alfred Vanderbilt family from 1901-1954. A National Historic Landmark, its wood and stone buildings are the vernacular rustic architecture on which many National Park lodges were modeled. Sagamore’s remote location removed from the normal hubbub will allow your full concentration on learning, the camaraderie of the people at hand, the extraordinary beauty of the land, and the history that envelops you.
  Contact info: Sagamore Road
Po Box 40
Raquette Lake, NY 13436 USA
phone: 315-354-5311
  Room amenities: All rooms are historic, and steps away from views of beautiful Sagamore lake or its bucolic outlet stream. We do not have telephones or televisions in any rooms. Internet access is available in our common Reading Room for those with laptop computers.
  Facility amenities: As a guest at Sagamore, you will be accommodated in our historic buildings in (mostly) double occupancy rooms with twin beds and bathrooms, many with footed tubs, in the hallways. Most of our guests are housed in one of our three lodges each sleeping 20. There are no telephones in rooms, no cell service, and no TV so your relaxation is assured. Our chef will carefully prepare buffet meals from which you will make your selections. The buffet is served in our paneled dining room with splendid views of Sagamore Lake. Everyone is called to meals by the bell. One of the highlights of our dining experience is our excellent water. Please do not bring bottled water with you. You may purchase beer and wine to accompany your meal. The dining hall seats 84. During free time many of our guests enjoy our 20 miles of hiking trails, playing giant lawn games, and canoeing. Sagamore also recommends its history-based DVDs. Porch-sitting is also highly recommended. We also recommend a trip to the Adirondack Museum, sometimes referred to as the “Smithsonian of the Adirondacks,” or a visit to the Wild Center, the natural history museum of the Adirondack region. Those interested in the arts might also visit the Adirondack Lake Center for the Arts in Blue Mountain Lake, or the new Old Forge Arts Center, named View. Great Camp Sagamore is located on Sagamore Lake, with an established swim area in season. Two of the lodges have a lounge area with working fireplaces. There is also an outdoor campfire area at our lean-to.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Bathrooms are shared and in the hall. Some have claw foot tubs instead of showers. Sagamore has a limited number of private baths available for an additional charge.
  Additional nights prior: $99 per person per night Pre- or post-program overnights are possible for $99/person/night, based on availability, and include dinner and breakfast. Must call in advance to arrange.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: $99 per person per night Pre- or post-program overnights are possible for $99/person/night, based on availability, and include dinner and breakfast. Must call in advance to arrange.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00pm Check in at Sagamore You will be staying at Great Camp Sagamore that night.
  End of Program:
12:00pm Check out of Sagamore You will be staying at Great Camp Sagamore the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Health Form
  Parking availability:
On-site parking available at no charge
To Start of Program
  Location:  Raquette Lake, NY
  Nearest city or town:  Raquette Lake, NY
  Nearest highway: Rte.90 to the south, Rte.87 to the east
  Nearest airport:  Albany, NY
  From End of Program
  Location: Raquette Lake, NY
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details





None - Car Required


Unfortunately there isn’t any public transportation to Sagamore. Amtrak serves Albany (Rensselaer), Utica, Westport and Saratoga Springs. A private tourist train travels to North Creek from Saratoga Springs. The nearest airports are located in Syracuse and Albany. Bus service reaches only to Warrensburg. Limo service is expensive, but available from the airports in Syracuse and Albany. For more information on limo services, please contact your local AAA agent, visit

Driving Directions
  Albany, NY Drive time: Albany to Sagamore 2 ¾ hours. Take the Warrensburg exit 23 off the Northway I-87 (not the Thruway I-90!) to Rte. 28 to Raquette Lake. If you have time on the way, stop in Saratoga Springs. Exit 14 will take you quickly to the famous racetrack. Exit 15 is for shopping. If you would like to see Glens Falls, take exit 18 or 19 (shopping mall.) Lake George Outlet Stores are at exit 20. Continue north past the Great Escape amusement park. Take exit 23 and turn LEFT to Warrensburg. Follow concurrently Rte 9 and 28 through the town until Rte. 28 peels off to the LEFT. You will follow Rte. 28 for about an hour ½ to Raquette Lake. The scenery is lovely forested mountains and lakes. You will often be following the Hudson River and will pass Gore Mountain ski resort on your way up Blue Mountain. When you reach the small town of Blue Mountain Lake you will cross a continental divide separating waters that flow south to the Hudson River or north to the St. Lawrence River. At the “T” turn left and continue on Rte. 28 the last 12 miles to Raquette Lake, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Look to your right to see Blue Mountain as you cross the second causeway. Sagamore Road is well marked just past the school. You will turn LEFT and follow the four-mile road to the “registered guest” gate. Do not look for other signs. You are driving through protected Forest Preserve lands and signage is not permitted. At Sagamore’s gate, let yourself in. You are welcome!
  GPS/Website Map Instructions • Garmon Handheld GPS: Search 'Great Camp Sagamore' as a point of interest OR type 1105 Sagamore Road; RAQUETTE LAKE (make sure you list Raquette Lake!) - either will give accurate directions to Great Camp Sagamore. • TomTom GPS: (currently the most popular GPS system): Search for SAGAMORE, NEW YORK - as a town, and it will give you accurate directions to Great Camp Sagamore. While Sagamore, NY does not actually exist, this seems to work while we wait for technology to catch up to the Adirondack region! • Google Maps or Mapquest users: Search for SAGAMORE, NEW YORK - as a town, and it will give you accurate directions to Great Camp Sagamore. While Sagamore, NY does not actually exist, this seems to work while we wait for technology to catch up to the Adirondack region!
  Plattsburgh, NY Drive time: Plattsburgh to Sagamore, 3 hours. I-87 to Rte 3 to Rte. 30 to Rte 28 to Raquette Lake. Take the Plattsburgh exit off I-87 and head southwest to Saranac Lake on Rte. 3. If you have extra time consider this alternative: continue south on I-87 to exit 30, the Lake Placid exit. Lake Placid was the site of both the 1932 and the 1980 winter Olympics and you can visit the venues and museums of the games. Continue from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake on Rte. 86. You are in the Adirondack Park, a six-million acre forest preserve with public and private lands. Saranac Lake was founded by Dr. Trudeau (the cartoonist Gary’s great grandfather) as a wilderness cure for tuberculosis. It is still a medical research center and charming 19th century town. Follow Rte. 3 from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake. Tupper is the home to the newly opened natural history museum, the Wild Center. Continue on Rte. 30 from Tupper to Long Lake on a straight road known for its scenery and speed traps. Be cautious. Continue on Rte. 30 to Blue Mountain Lake, home of the famous 27-building Adirondack Museum. At the bottom of the hill you will follow Rte.28 the last 12 miles to Raquette Lake, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Look to your right to see Blue Mountain as you cross the second causeway. Sagamore Road is well marked just past the school. You will turn LEFT and follow the four-mile road to the “registered guest” gate. Do not look for other signs. You are driving through protected Forest Preserve lands and signage is not permitted. At Sagamore’s gate, let yourself in. You are welcome!
  Utica, NY Drive time: Utica to Sagamore, 1 ½ hours. Rte.12 north to Rte. 28 to Raquette Lake. Follow Rte. 12 north to Rte. 28. Utica, an industrial town, is located in the Mohawk River valley. On Rte. 12 you will climb out of the valley through rolling hills. Rte. 28 peels off to the right. Along it you will see the deep forests and lovely lakes of the six-million acre Adirondack Park. The Adirondacks are a patchwork of public and private lands. Follow Rte.28 to the town of Old Forge with its famous landmark, Old Forge Hardware. Old Forge is also the home of New York’s largest water park, Water Safari. Old Forge is the beginning of the Fulton Chain of lakes (yes, Fulton as in steamship) and the starting point of the Adirondack Canoe Classic (also called the “90-miler”) the weekend after Labor Day every year. The Classic is a three-day race for no-octane boats from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. Continue on Rte. 28 another 25 miles to Raquette Lake, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Sagamore Road is well marked just before the school. You will turn RIGHT and follow the four-mile road to the “registered guest” gate. Do not look for other signs. You are driving through protected Forest Preserve lands and signage is not permitted. At Sagamore’s gate, let yourself in. You are welcome!
Elevation Note: Sagamore is at 1900 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation, Introduction to Sagamore
(Sunday, June 16)
 Afternoon: CHECK-IN: Available from 4:00pm.
 Dinner: The chef will carefully prepare buffet meals provided in our paneled dining room with splendid views of Sagamore Lake. Dinners typically include selections such as: a hot entry, like creamed chicken over biscuits, veggie lasagna, pot roast, spaghetti/meat balls, roasted turkey, stuffed pork loin, or ham; salads, along with several dressing choices; potatoes, rice or pasta; a vegetable choice; bread or rolls; milk or juice. Coffee & tea are always available Note: Sagamore's buffet line is bountiful and varied. If you do not think that you can choose the foods you need for your special diet from the buffet, please supplement with your own that may be stored for your convenience in our walk-in cooler and/or cooked in an available microwave. Beer and wine are available for purchase. Sagamore's water is pure and delicious. Please do not bring bottled water.
 Evening: ORIENTATION: After dinner, you'll have an informative overview of the program plus an opportunity to meet the program staff and your fellow participants during an introductory get-acquainted session. We’ll review the updated schedule, cover responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

PRESENTATION: Great Camp Sagamore's history, programs, and preservation.

Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks is the steward of Great Camp Sagamore and is dedicated to its use for education and interpretation. Our mission is to foster understanding, care, and respect for nature, people, and their critical interdependence. Great Camp Sagamore strives to be a place where broad and diverse audiences gather to use these unique buildings and natural setting to explore and understand Adirondack culture, the region's natural environment, and our relationship to both.

Accommodations: Great Camp Sagamore
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Raquette Lake Natural and Human History, The Great Camp Phenomenon, Adirondack Geology
(Monday, June 17)
 Breakfast: All breakfasts are served in the Vanderbilt dining hall, with lovely views of the sun rising over the mountains of the Blue Ridge Wilderness. Breakfast choices typically include selections such as: one hot entry, like blueberry pancakes, egg strata, french toast, or scrambled eggs; hot & cold cereal & milk; a variety of donuts, bagels & pastries; and several juices. Coffee, tea, and very pure Sagamore water are always available to guests.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Raquette Lake History and the Great Camp Phenomenon. Enjoy an illustrated slideshow presentation providing an overview of local natural and human history.

The source of the Raquette River, Raquette Lake has 99 miles of wooded shoreline, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Dotted here and there with small towns, 80% of the shoreline is owned by the State of New York and “Forever Wild” by law. It was here in 1877 that designer, developer, and entrepreneur William West Durant began work on what would become the first of the so-called “great camps” with a distinctive architectural style, Camp Pine Knot. Elements of the style include log and native stonework construction, decorative rustic items, and a compound of separated structures. Raquette Lake then began to develop into one of the most prestigious summer getaways for the elite. The two other extraordinary estates showcasing Durant’s vision are the Vanderbilt's Sagamore and J.P. Morgan's Uncas. Today, all three are designated National Historic Landmarks.

FIELD TRIP: Following the presentation, we'll have a walking field trip through the self-sufficient workers’ complex at Sagamore, where generations of local families lived and worked to support the lavish lifestyle of the owners and guests, and where they created crafts that became synonymous with Adirondack regional culture. The functional architecture for the worker’s complex is red board-and-batten structures, very different from the Vanderbilt guest buildings.

 Lunch: Lunch in the Sagamore dining hall. Lunches typically include selections such as: sandwich meats, cheeses, breads and condiments: a hot entree like macaroni & cheese or soup; various salads, like cole slaw or potato salad; cookies or granola bars; a variety of fresh fruits; milk and a variety of juices or lemonade. Coffee, tea, Sagamore water are always available.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: The Adirondack “great camps” are to camps as Newport mansions are to cottages. Newport in the Gilded Age was the way the ultra-rich went to the beach. Great Camps were the way they went to the woods. with all the luxuries of luxurious homes in buildings that used rustic, native materials to provide the illusion of “roughing it.”

You'll get an in-depth look at the camp of the gentry -- the owners' and guest buildings of the main complex, ranging from the stately-but-rustic Main Lodge and private “boys' club” Wigwam to the whimsical Casino/Playhouse, complete with its own bowling alley -- all of which are situated on a peninsula overlooking Sagamore Lake.

 Dinner: Dinner in Sagamore dining hall.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Introduction to the Geology of the Adirondacks and its influence on Great Camp Sagamore.

Historically, the Adirondacks were sought after by Gilded Age businessmen for their minerals, such as as iron and garnet, and for their alpine lakes, both products of the region's unique geology. Today, the Adirondack Mountains are well-known among professional geologists, “rock hounds”, and many recreational visitors as a major showcase for a large variety of rocks, minerals, and rock structures. It has been described as a “window” to the once magnificent Grenville Mountain Range, a Himalayan-magnitude edifice that over a billion years ago stretched from present-day Scandinavia to Antarctica. Sagamore is located in a particularly hot and high-pressure (deeply buried) part of the range as can be determined by close study of the local granite gneiss bedrock. This camp, like all parts of the Adirondacks, also shows evidence for the glaciation event that climaxed about twelve to eight thousand years ago, producing many of the pebbles, cobbles and boulders strewn about the grounds. Some of these rocks were later incorporated into building structures, particularly the roadways and paths, foundations and fireplaces. We will explore how the geology of this area has influenced local culture and history, as well as specific aspects of Sagamore.

Accommodations: Great Camp Sagamore
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Sagamore Lake Hiking or Canoeing Field Trip, Origins of the Great Camps, Evening Entertainment
(Tuesday, June 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Sagamore dining hall
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Weather-permitting, choose one of two fields trips: 1) Take a field trip by canoe around 180-acre Sagamore Lake. Located on the edge of the 40,000-acre Blue Ridge Wilderness area, the remote lake is the top of the Raquette River watershed, eventually ending in the St. Lawrence River. A staff naturalist will introduce you to local geography, flora, fauna, and human impact on the lake; 2) Take a hike around Sagamore Lake on some of the old carriage roads that are now wilderness hiking trails. We'll hike out to the old farm meadow, milking barn, and sugar shack, all of which is now is slowly recovering its wild character as part of the "forever wild" Forest Preserve.
 Lunch: Lunch in Sagamore's dining hall.
 Afternoon: PRESENTATION: Origins of the Great Camps.

Examine the economic philosophy and cultural impulses that led to what we now refer to as Adirondack Great Camps. This will be followed by a Q & A session led by an expert on the history and architecture of the region.

 Dinner: Dinner in Sagamore dining hall.
 Evening: ENTERTAINMENT: Tonight, prepare to be entertained by an authentic Adirondack folklorist who will sing songs about life in the North Country and tell charming stories -- some of which may even be true!

After that, you might be beckoned by a jigsaw puzzle or board game -- carrying on the illusion of "roughing it" in the wilderness. Or go outside and experience the quiet sounds of the night and the beauty of glittering stars.

Accommodations: Great Camp Sagamore
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Notable Visitors to Sagamore, Free Afternoon, Worker Oral History, Ring Around the Campfire
(Wednesday, June 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Sagamore dining hall.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: Sagamore's Illustrious Visitors: Bright Lights, Broadway, Tinseltown and other weary world travelers came to the Adirondacks to relax at Mrs. Vanderbilt's woodland paradise. Thomas Edison brought the bright lights; Gene Tierney, Gary Cooper, Clifton Webb, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers and Hoagy Carmichael brought stardom and "Stardust Memories;" General George Marshall, architect of the Marshall Plan and Madam Chaing Kai-shek, powerful wife of the former Chinese military leader, came to discuss global politics over croquet and martinis. Imagine an evening in the playhouse around the piano with that crowd! You are there. We'll finish the session with a video look at the Sagamore scrapbooks narrated by Alfred G. Vanderbilt III, now a Sagamore trustee. This session will be continued tomorrow night, when we examine some cultural criticism of the Gilded Age, seen through the literature of the period.
 Lunch: At breakfast, we will pack lunches for all guests, in order to accommodate those who would like to spend their afternoon out of camp. Typical spreads consist of cold cuts, chips, fresh fruit, yogurt, cookies and drinks.
 Afternoon: FREE AFTERNOON: Spend the afternoon as you like. Visit the world-class Adirondack Museum in nearby Blue Mountain Lake, or the recently-constructed Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Take a dip in Sagamore Lake, paddle in a classic restored canoe, hike some of the 20 miles of trails, play croquet on Sagamore's lawn, or just relax with a good book in one of our Adirondack chairs. Porch-sitting is also highly recommended.
 Dinner: Dinner in Sagamore dining hall.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Wit, Wisdom and Work. This evening we'll enjoy a slide presentation that emerged from an oral history project conducted by a Sagamore staff member back in the 1980s when many of the camp's previous workers were still alive and happy to share their experiences of life at Sagamore.

The oral history project revealed the immense knowledge and close relationship to nature common to craftsmen who built the buildings and their furnishings at Great Camp Sagamore. For instance, the head caretaker's son helped nail bark to the exterior of a new building in 1914, but the bark was prone to cracking and the workers had to gradually learn by trial and error how to make it pliable. One of the carpenters was an expert in calculating log shrinkage when he built beds or tables using whole logs. In addition to utilizing local natural materials, workers also created things like drawings of local flora. The electrician's grandson sold drawings painted on shelf fungus to guests of the Vanderbilts. [Excerpted from “Doing History in the Adirondacks: Interpreting the Park, the People and the Landscape” by Maria F. Reynolds.] EXTRACURRICULAR: Ring Around the Campfire. Imagine yourself back in the day, sitting next to Jerome Kern or Richard Rodgers or Hoagy Carmichael as they worked through some of the songs that would become world famous! We'll sing some of those and more, so bring your stories, songs, or an instrument to play as we gather ’round the campfire at Sagamore's rustic lean-to. Makings for 'Smores provided!

Accommodations: Great Camp Sagamore
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Tour of Camp Pine Knot, Raquette Lake Luncheon Cruise, Gilded Age Scions, Scandals and Scallywags
(Thursday, June 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Sagamore dining hall.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: After breakfast, we'll take a short trip to the nearby hamlet of Raquette Lake, where we'll board the W.W. Durant cruise boat, that will transport us to Camp Pine Knot. Completed by Durant around 1889, Pine Knot was described by scholar Alfred Donaldson as the "first of the artistic and luxurious camps" in his 1921 history of the Adirondack region. Today, the camp is owned and operated by the State University of New York -- Cortland, and used for a variety of education programs. Yet the camp retains many of its original design elements, including whole log slab siding, decorative twig railings and ornamental rustic decoration. Among the buildings we see: the Chalet at Pine Knot, about which Donaldson wrote: before it was built, there was nothing else like it . . . since then, despite infinite variations, there has been nothing essentially different from it;" the Recreation Center, with its scissor truss beams and whimsical rustic decor; the Barque of Pine Knot, a floating houseboat of sorts, which Durant's wife escaped to, in order to avoid the biting insects of spring. Finally, we'll take a short walk over to St. William's, the Catholic church that Durant built for his workers and which has been restored by volunteers from the town and is now operated as a non-denominational retreat center.
 Lunch: After the tour of Pine Knot, we'll re-board the W.W. Durant for a delicious and delightful lunch cruise around Raquette Lake.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: While eating lunch, we'll enjoy a narrated cruise past several other great camps of the Gilded Age, including those belonging to important characters of the period, folks with names like Huntington, Stott, Carnegie, and Collier.

Built during the winters of 1990-91, the “W. W. Durant” captures the opulence of a by-gone era with wainscoting, stained and etched glass, gleaming brass, rich carpeting, and polished oak, while at the same time offering the convenience and comfort of modern amenities.

 Dinner: Dinner in Sagamore dining hall.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: Scions, Scandals and Scalawags: From Cornelius Vanderbilt, through the Durants, to Alfred G. Vanderbilt, the owner of Great Camp Sagamore, to Collis P. Huntington (Pine Knot) and J. P. Morgan (Uncas), discuss the impact of the Industrial Revolution on American culture, politics, rivers, roads and rails. Were these Gilded Age magnates "Robber Barons" who ruthlessly dominated the American landscape from coast to coast to enrich themselves? Or were they simply the Social Darwinian "Captains of Industry" who not only oversaw corporate "combinations" but also gave us libraries, great camps and colleges? And what of those working class folk who dreamed of a better life as shown in the Hollywood films and magazines? Author Theodore Dreiser, whose powerful story about the real-life murder of an upstate factory girl by her lover in An American Tragedy was later filmed by Paramount as A Place in the Sun, also wrote a trilogy of novels (The Financier, Titan and The Stoic) based on the actual life of Charles Yerkes, Chicago rail magnate and robber baron. What so fascinated one of America's greatest writers to focus on themes as different as a tragic Adirondack working-class murder and a wealthy Chicago banker?
Accommodations: Great Camp Sagamore
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: The Adirondack Park in American History & Heritage
(Friday, June 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Sagamore dining hall.
 Morning: PRESENTATION: We'll conclude the program with an analysis and discussion of the Adirondack Park itself: its establishment, enlargement, protection, land use, and ongoing importance in American cultural and natural history.

The program concludes with this presentation. We trust you have enjoyed your learning adventure here at Great Camp Sagamore and will return for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!

 Lunch: Participants will have the opportunity to make a pack lunch at breakfast, consisting of cold cuts, chips, fruit and cookies, etc, that you may eat in camp, or take on your way.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Raquette Lake, NY Adirondack Museum
Often described as the "Smithsonian of the Adirondacks" the Adirondack Museum is a multi-building facility on lovely grounds with views of the Eckford Chain of Lakes. 518 352-7311 For additional information, visit
  The W.W. Durant
The Durant is a dine and cruise boat on Raquette Lake, the largest natural lake in the Adirondacks. Their educational narration will contribute to your understanding of the Gilded Age in the Adirondacks. 315-354-5532 For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

The First Tycoon

Author: T.J. Stiles

The Gilded Age

Author: Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner

The Robber Barons

Author: Matthew Josephson

The Financier

Author: Theodore Drieser

The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald


Author: Sinclair Lewis

An American Tragedy

Author: Theodore Drieser

Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks

Author: Philip G. Terrie

Great Camp Sagamore: The Vanderbilts' Adirondack Retreat

Author: Beverly Bridger

Description: Beverly Bridger has been Sagamore's Executive Director for more than 20 years.

You can't find a better value than Road Scholar.

As a not-for-profit organization, we are dedicated to providing all-inclusive educational programs at great value. From lectures to gratuities to field trips to accommodations - the tuition you pay up front is all that you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

Plus these special experiences...

View the Daily Schedule to see more

And included with all Road Scholar programs:

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