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Norge Village postcard from the 50s

Norge Village postcard from the 50s

Horicon Heights: Keeping it Simple

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

“It seems here a part of nature’s self.” That’s how Seneca Ray Stoddard described the Horicon Pavilion hotel on Black Mountain Point in 1880, but it could just as easily be said of Horicon Heights.

Horicon Heights, like its predecessor, is a resort overlooking Lake George, or Horicon, as James Fenimore Cooper called it in ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ (“The French name was too complicated, the American too commonplace, and the Indian too unpronounceable,” Cooper explained.)

The six-cabin resort is owned and managed by Craig and Amy Clesceri; it was purchased, and named, by Craig’s parents in 1973.

“It was originally called ‘Norge Village,’ in reference to the kit cottages imported from Norway that were used for housekeeping cabins,” explains Nick Clesceri.

(To lure motorists off the road, owner Phil Birch erected a giant Viking, whose ignominious end came after serving as a standing target for too many hunters over too many years.)

Nick and Lenore Clesceri were RPI professors at the time, and Nick was conducting the Lake George research that would lead to the foundation of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, which he directed for ten years.

“We were spending weeks on Lake George and weekends in the suburbs of Albany, which seemed to us to be the reverse of what we should be doing,” said Nick. “One winter, we saw this place, and after digging through the snow, we found a realtor’s sign and gave him a call. We thought it would make a nice small business.”

Very little has changed at Horicon Heights, or on Northwest Bay, for that matter, since the Clesceris discovered the property in 1973.

“It’s nice to look around and the only lights you see are your own,” said Craig Clesceri.

Even the water quality of Northwest Bay is essentially unchanged, said Nick, who headed the first comprehensive study of Lake George more than 40 years ago.

The rustic pavilion at Horicon Heights

“The only measurable change is in the traces of chloride, which can be attributed to road salt,” said Clesceri.” But even that could be reduced if highway departments switched to other materials or employed better practices.”

The Clesceris preserved the cabins rather than demolishing them, and they remain perched throughout the sloping, wooded property. Those not overlooking Northwest Bay and the Tongue Mountain range have views of woods, fields and ponds.

At the bottom of the hill, at the shore, is a small, naturally sandy swimming area and a rustic summer house, built in the 1920s when the property was part of Brook Hill Farm, the estate of Bishop E.M. Stires.

“What we lack in lake frontage, we more than make up for in lake views,” said Craig, who’s also a captain on the Sagamore’s Morgan.

Craig and his four siblings grew up at Horicon Heights, attending Bolton Central School in the winter. In the summer, their lives revolved around the resort.

“The repeat rate was something like 80%. The same families would come for the same two weeks and stay in the same cabins. We would scan the register, excited about who was coming next,” says Craig.

“I was just grateful that there were always children around to keep my kids company,” said Lenore Clesceri. “We were too busy to take them to town every day.”

Some of those friends from summers at Horicon Heights remain Craig’s best friends, and now his four children are making friends from among this generation of guests.

“If someone worries that their kids will be bored, I remind them that we have four of our own. As soon as they’re out of the car, they’re off and running. You can’t keep them away from the ponds. Kids, ponds and frogs: they’re irresistibly drawn to one another,” says Amy.

As in the past, families tend to reserve the same cabins every year, says Amy.

“People personalize the cabins, which we’re fine with. They’ll leave family photographs, artwork, even kitchen utensils. When they return the next summer, everything is still there,” said Amy.

The experience at Horicon Heights remains the same as well.

“We’ve surveyed the guests, asking if they want television or phones, and the answer is ‘absolutely not,’” said Craig.

With high speed, enhanced internet service, though, people do have the option to access the outside world.

“It’s up to the individual,” said Craig. “During Americade, we had guests sitting around a campfire streaming movies from Netflix.”

Craig and Amy, who met at Hartwick College, moved to Horicon Heights to live full-time after five years spent operating a charter boat up and down the eastern seaboard.

“The farther away I went, the sweeter the memories of Lake George became,” said Craig.

He and Amy hope that at least one of their children will become the third generation owners of Horicon Heights.

“We know they’ll go away to college and want do other things with their lives, but we’re hopeful they’ll want to come back someday, ” said Amy.

“Everyone comes back to Lake George, eventually, ” said Craig.

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