TUPPER LAKE — The historic Wawbeek resort property has been sold.

Norm and Nancy Howard, who have owned the historic Great Camp on 36 acres of Upper Saranac waterfront for the past 12 years, confirmed the sale in a statement.

The property had been “quietly” on the market for about three years, Mrs. Howard said in a phone interview.

A family named the Sittigs, who “vacationed on the lake last summer and fell in love with the area,” bought the resort at an undisclosed price, she said.

The Howards said the Great Camp’s new owners will keep the five-bedroom lodge and adjoining buildings open this summer, honoring reservations and vacation plans.

But afterward, the property will revert to its historic use as a private residence.

“It’s the end of an era,” Nancy said. “We believe they are the right stewards for this Adirondack treasure.”

The Howards plan to remain in Tupper Lake, Mrs. Howard said in an e-mail.

“Where are the Howards going? Nowhere. Staying put. Right here. We love it here. We own our house and property on the far southwestern corner of The Wawbeek. We’ll even enjoy the challenge of training our dog to know new boundaries!”

And what does the adventuresome couple plan to do now that they aren’t running a resort?

“I’ll be able to shower without propping the phone at arm’s length on the sink and grab a quick nap without boots on and take a guilt-free swim in lake, the first of which will be my third in 13 years. We’ve planned some canoe trips, and Norman’s a 36er and thinking to round it out 10 more,” Mrs. Howard wrote.

The historic resort’s return to private use will also exact an economic shift.

The Wawbeek business operation’s total 2006 contribution to the Tri-Lakes community — wages for 59 employees, purchases, marketing and advertising, maintenance, fuel, food, rentals, décor, entertainment, donations and associations — comes to just shy of $1,000,000,” Nancy wrote.

“Make no mistake, however, we will sorely miss sharing The Wawbeek, its ancient setting and spirit, lodgings of myriad ages and design, cuisine, celebrations and staff.”

The Wawbeek was originally a Great Camp built for New York City businessman Moritz Walter, according to Stephen Englehart, executive director for Adirondack Architectural Heritage.

Then called the Walter Camp, the lodge was designed by William L. Coulter, the first professional architect to build a practice in the Adirondacks, who had come to Saranac Lake in the spring of 1896 to cure from tuberculosis.

“He designed many of the most distinctive rustic camps on the Upper and Lower Saranac Lakes and Lake Placid, as well as some of the finest buildings in the Village of Saranac Lake,” Englehart said.

“The Howards have done a magnificent job of creating a first-class resort there. They've have been good stewards of the buildings and have been tremendously generous with so many good community projects.”

Saranac Lake Historian Mary Hotaling has dated the construction of the Walter Camp to 1899 from a letter Coulter penned that year to his construction company saying he finally had “Mr. Walter’s name on a contract.”

Walter’s camp land surrounded what was a famous Adirondack hotel called the Wawbeek.

“Our 40-acre Wawbeek property actually surrounds that of the original two Wawbeek hotels,” Mrs. Howard wrote in a brief history.

“Perhaps Mr. Walter had discovered this splendid setting while taking a stroll as a guest at the Hotel.”

The Walter Camp was annexed to the Wawbeek in later years, Hotaling said.

The big hotel was destroyed in a fire after the 1980 Olympics and never rebuilt.

The adjacent lodge survived and assumed the historic name.

This summer, in a final celebration of “all things Wawbeek,” the Howards plan to host a series of activities “singularly unique to the property and its history,” including guided nature walks along the shoreline, boat tours of Upper Saranac Lake, visits with Adirondack artists and talk and walks relating to Wawbeek heritage and Adirondack stewardship.

In the future, the Howards are looking forward to an adventurous sort of semi-retirement from lodge-keeping.

“Life without Wawbeek responsibilities will be somewhat synonymous with that of having graduated,” Mrs. Howard wrote.

“We’ll have old and new options and the luxury of addressing them one at a time. We’ll put it to good use, mostly.”



E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at:

kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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