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William K. Bixby and family members at Mohican House, 1901.

William K. Bixby and family members at Mohican House, 1901.

“At the Lake:” A New Exhibition About Lake George at the Chapman Museum

By Mirror Staff

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

“At the Lake,” a new exhibition about Lake George, opened at the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls this month and will remain on view through August 31.

“For anyone who has spent time on Lake George, the phrase, ‘at the lake’ has meaning,” said Tim Weidner, the Chapman’s executive director. “It may suggest a sense of relaxation, prompt memories of great times spent with family and friends, or bring to mind such enjoyable activities as fishing or boating.  Perhaps it means something simpler, just being away from it all, free from everyday distractions.”

The dock at Summer Rest, circa 1880.

According to Weidner, “At the Lake” presents different perspectives on what it has meant to be at Lake George over the past 150 years.  The exhibit tells the stories of groups that camped on the lake’s islands, of families that built grand homes on the lake and of those who constructed more modest camps.  The exhibit also includes the stories of people who lived on the lake and worked there each summer as waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, guides and boatmen.

One story, for example, is that of the Waltonians, a club formed in 1853 as an organization of Glens Falls sportsmen who shared a common passion for fishing.  From 1855 to 1870, the club held annual, two-week camping trips to Waltonian Isle near Hague.  Formal invitations were sent every year to fortunate guests, asking them to join them at the camp for two days of fun.  Waltonian gatherings became the stuff of local legend, with exotic costumes, grand tent sites and spirited hijinks.

The exhibit also features the stories of the Glen Club, the Rangers and other families, the first American Canoe Association meet, the fishing competitions of William Bixby and his friends, the work of hotel staff in Hague, and the Glens Falls Club’s clam bakes, among others. The exhibit includes more than seventy historic photographs, Lake George journals, manuscripts and ephemera, watercraft, camping and fishing gear.

To complement the exhibition, the Chapman Museum and the Crandall Library will present four programs devoted to different aspects of summer life on Lake George.

Waltonian Group, August 18, 1870. The conical shaped hats worn by some of the men appear to have been part of the Waltonian ensemble.

The first, by steamboat captain and local historian Bill Gates, was scheduled to be held May 15 at 7 pm at the library. Gates’ topic is the “History of the Sagamore Hotel.”

On Wednesday, May 28, Meaghan Wilkins, the director of Wiawaka, will discuss the century-old retreat for working women at 7 pm at the Chapman.

Erin Coe, the chief curator at The Hyde Collection, will present “A Strong Conviction of Duty: Seneca Ray Stoddard’s Photographic Books of Lake George” on Thursday, June 5 at 7 pm at the library.

The series will conclude on Thursday, June 12, with a talk by Henry Caldwell, the owner of Bolton Landing’s Black Bass Antiques, entitled “185 Years of Lake George Souvenirs.” Caldwell’s talk, which will start at 7 pm, will be held at the library.

“At the Lake” is funded by grants from The Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation and the Waldo T. Ross & Ruth S. Ross Charitable Trust Foundation, and sponsored by The Lake George Mirror, Glen Street Associates and Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company.

The Chapman Museum is located at 348 Glen Street in downtown Glens Falls. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and on Sunday from Noon to 4 pm.  Admission fees are $5 per adults and $4 for students and senior citizens. Children under 12 are admitted free. For more information call (518) 793-2826.

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