The End is Near for One of Lake George’s Oldest, Most Storied Cottages
Rock Rest, Northwest Bay Survivor of Legendary Alma Farm, To Be Sold
For more than eighty years, this summer cottage on Northwest Bay has been a refuge for the descendants of Theodore F. H. Meyer, the New York lawyer who created the 1,000 acre Alma Farm in North Bolton in the 1870s.
The farmland was sold to New York State in 1925, and has since returned to forest, populated in part by the white pines planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
The cottage, known as Rock Rest, is the only building on the farm that was neither demolished or burned. In 1926, it was moved to this parcel which the family retained on lake.
But because it is the very archetype of the summer cottage, it is easy to imagine that in the minds of the cottage’s residents, summer itself never departs, the light and shadows from the lake and woods continuously playing upon its walls.
No one has used the cottage for the past two summers, but nothing has been disturbed. It’s as though the residents have just stepped away, making their way, perhaps, down the steep path through the woods to the lake.
In fact, nothing here appears to have been disturbed for at least fifty years. But that’s about to change. The cottage, with its 215 feet of lakefront, dock and the three acres, is now for sale.
The list price is $1.695 million, said Nancy Jefts, the Davies and Davies agent who showed us the property.
At that price, it’s unlikely that anyone will do anything with the cottage other than raze it and replace it with something contemporary and, if possible, larger.
Despite or because of that, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the cottage’s connection to Bolton’s history, which has been documented by its owner, Barbara Meyer, in the book that she co-wrote with a relative, Dr. Norman Boas, “Alma Farm.”
Rock Rest was situated in a grove and built in the 1880s primarily for the use of Theodore Meyer’s mother-in-law, Emilie Krackowizer.
Alma Farm’s function as a place where Meyer could host his extended family and his many friends more than justifies Barbara Meyer’s description of it as “an Adirondack meeting place.”
“Overall, more than fifty relatives, embracing four generations, enjoyed delightful sojourns at the farm,” writes Meyer. “Other distinguished visitors included Drs. Abraham and Mary Putnam Jacobi, George and Marjorie McAneny, Carl Schurz and his family and many summer residents of Bolton Landing.”
Abraham Jacobi is known as the father of American pediatrics. His wife, Mary Putnam Jacobi, won equal renown as the nation’s most eminent female physician and as a political activist.
Carl Schurz, Jacobi’s closest friend, was accomplished even by the standards of Alma Farm; a refugee from Germany, he served as President Lincoln’s minister to Spain and the Secretary of the Interior.
Another frequent visitor was the anthropologist Franz Boas, a nephew of Abraham Jacobi and the husband of a relative of Theodore Meyer’s wife. Before establishing a summer home for himself and his family near the present site of the Sagamore golf course, the Boases often stayed at Rock Rest.
One of Boas’ daughters, the choreographer Franziska Boas, conducted summer sessions of her New York City-based School of Creative Dance in Bolton Landing.
“We don’t teach dances; we teach how to dance,” she told an undoubtedly perplexed reporter from the Lake George Mirror in 1948.
One of her methods of teaching dance, which she described as “an emotional release and a means of communicating ideas,” was to recruit visual artists to render dancers’ movements in sketches; other dancers would then translate the artists’ interpretation into new physical movement.
Those who attended Hugh Allen Wilson’s Bolton Festival of Music in the summer of 1948 were able to experience that process first hand.
But few, if any, transcriptions of those dances were ever made. So in 2004, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the School of Creative Dance and the 100th anniversary of Franziska Boas’s birth, Barbara Meyer re-staged the process with young dancers and artists in Saratoga Springs.
The commemoration was one way to sustain the legacy of Alma Farm in our own day.
Another way to sustain the legacy was to hold a family re-union at Rock Rest, which Barbara Meyer hosted in 1994. Among those who attended were great-grandchildren of Ernst Krackowizer, the father of Theodore Meyer’s wife Helene.
As Barbara Meyer wrote, “The demise of Alma Farm marked the end of an era, an era that has passed and is but an echo now. However, those whose lives were touched by the Alma Farm carried its memories with them, and their lives were forever affected by its influences and associations.” The same will no doubt be said of Rock Rest.