HISTORIC BIRD CAMP – AN AUTHENTIC ADIRONDACK VACATION GETAWAY

Bird odd yellow sky

AUTHENTIC VACATION RENTAL CABIN IN THE SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS

For rates and availability, click here … https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1510744

 

Bird Camp is a delightful 1910 Adirondack cabin which has been lovingly restored by the great-granddaughter of the original owners.  Commanding gorgeous mountain views and surrounded by wildflower meadows and pristine woods, Bird Camp is a wonderful place to rejuvenate, relax and unwind. 

At Bird Camp, my great-grandparents summer place in the Adirondack Mountains, there are treasured family hand-me-downs as well as odds and ends which nobody felt comfortable throwing away.  Like all family camps, there are bits and pieces of everyone who came before.  Wooden floors record the scuffs and scratches of generations. There are many photographs showing life at “camp” since the turn of the century, original Oriental rugs and treasured old quilts.   All this gives Bird Camp its own special personality, a unique sense of space.

Bird Camp is a treasury of feelings, sensations and memories of family and friends.

Cozily decorated and freshly renovated, this historic camp still retains many original details:  lovely leaded glass windows, handsome rustic stone fireplace and richly stained wood walls.  The camp also retains much of the original furnishings:   beautiful Wilshire oriental rugs, black painted rocking chairs, plank dining room table and original china.  The antique metal bedframes have been repainted, and they have fresh new mattresses and linens.

There are gorgeous views from the full-width front porch which can be enjoyed in all seasons with its leaded-glass casement windows and screens.  A bright red glider is a perfect place to gently rock and … read, relax, nap.  The first floor is made up of a combined living and dining area.  There are two comfortable sofas, and the table seats six.  The stone fireplace has been retrofit with a Vermont Castings insert which is a welcome addition on cool evenings.  There are original oriental rugs, framed Asian artwork, a TV, books.    To the rear is a tidy new country kitchen with reclaimed porcelain sink, new gas stove, fridge, microwave, dishes and utensils.  Diamond pane casement windows swing up to be hooked out of the way and bring in the fresh mountain air.

Upstairs are two cozy bedrooms each with a double bed (new mattresses and linens), wide pine floors, and country décor.  At last — after a 100 years of our relatives using an outside “privy”, we have a bathroom — a recycled clawfoot tub with shower hoop and a vessel sink on original ladies vanity.

The house sleeps four to six comfortably.  For larger gatherings, you may wish to rent one of our additional cottages.

Building Bird Camp 1910

Going “upstate to the camp” has been a way of life in our family for more than 100 years.

My family’s connection with the Adirondacks goes back to 1905 when my great-aunt Edie Bird — then a teenager living in Port Washington, Long Island  — became sick with TB.   At that time, the Adirondack wilderness had acquired a reputation for its health giving properties, and people were convinced that the fresh air, isolation, and plenty of rest and wholesome food would help people infected with TB.   So my great-grandparents sent their daughter Edie here to North River where she “took the cure” by boarding at the nearby Cedarwood Farm on School House Road where she sat outside all winter with the other boarders, bundled under quilts on the porch, and in summer months, walking the roads and wildflower meadows.  Happily, my great-aunt Edie Bird recovered from the dreaded TB (the owners of the farm were not so lucky — they contracted and died of TB themselves).

In 1910, my great-grandparents, Tim and Ida Bird, bought eight acres of beautiful property on “Christian Hill” (as it was once known) in North River.  (I have since then bought an additional abutting 40 acres).

They then built a small “shingle style” camp in the rustic Adirondack style  —  siting the small rustic dwelling to capitalize on dramatic southward views across the Gore Mountain range and (at that time) the Hudson River two miles below.  They brought up by train beautiful leaded glass windows and other building materials from a demolished Guggenheim estate on Long Island.  The rest of the building materials were all locally acquired — cedar shingles, stone, milled lumber nearby North Creek where intensive amounts of logging was being done.

Fall house

The second camp on the property (the white one where I live) was built in 1922 by my grandfather, Charles Mullon, a builder from New York City.  He bought a quarter acre of land in the center of the 8 acre parcel from his in-laws, Ida and Timothy Bird who owned the Bird Camp.  He brought up leaded glass windows (like the Bird Camp ones), window sash, doors and his crew of carpenters and built a small simple camp — Mullon Camp.  In the next two decades, he enlarged and improved the camp, adding stone retaining walls, adding a porch, expanding the living room.  The camp was then left alone until about 1958 when his widow, Ethel Mullon, added the kitchen and master bedroom.  Mullon Camp has a bungalow cottage feel to it, and retains original windows, sash, flooring, fireplace and fir trim.

 

Japanese lanterns porchParosol baby carriage wildflowers

 

Traditionally, the women and children stayed all summer while the men traveled back and forth. Life was leisurely. Visiting, and having visitors, was an important part of life. Cooking was done with a hand pump and wood cook stove.  It was a four day long trip from Port Washington, Long Island.

Families who built camps altered how the Adirondacks were experienced.  For one thing, families didn’t move well;  the shift from home to camp and back again was undertaken after an effort that resembled mobilizing an army unit.  The result was that families got attached to their camp for practical as well as emotional reasons, so they took a proprietary view of the mountains in the distance;  pointing and naming each to visitors on the porch.  In time, a family’s knowledge of the Adirondacks was limited to the locality — to local people, favorite views and summer neighbors — and to little beyond it.

Even when they were well into their 80’s, the original three daughters of the Birds came to the Adirondacks and stayed all summer.  They still pumped water by hand and cheerfully used the “privy” out back.  Electricity wasn’t brought in until the 1950’s.  After that time various members of the family “claimed” the right to use Bird Camp over time.  In the 1960’s, my mother’s cousin used to arrive in spring with numerous cats and cases of whiskey.  There were various uncles who made repairs to the siding, mowed the fields and brought in gravel for the driveway.

 

BW cracked ceiling

 

I was told many times that my great-grandparents wanted the camps to “stay in the family so that there would always be a place to gather”.  Unfortunately, by the 1970’s, it became apparent that the system wasn’t working — too many family members owned the property but none of us could agree on how to share it, maintain it or pay for it.  Bird Camp in particular went into terrible disrepair — porch sagging, roof leaking, siding peeling away.  It sat for decades while the family bickered about it, nearly reaching the point of having to be demolished.

Fortunately, after years of negotiation, I was able to buy out the other family members.  It was a giant struggle with some of my relatives while others simply deeded over the property, grateful to have one person finally having ownership .. and never being asked to pay taxes or upkeep again!

BC Sammy FP 2EB571D6

I then got to work restoring Bird Camp and spent four gratifying years of hands-on carpentry, painting, wiring and plumbing.  The oriental rugs have been cleaned and repaired, beams added to strengthen for the weight of the new bathroom above and a glass front fireplace insert installed into the stone fireplace.

The walls and ceilings had never been finished with plaster or drywall, and after wiring and insulating, I spent two long winters cutting and hand-nailing narrow “beadboard” wainscotting which I discovered at a local lumber yard which was decades old and had a beautiful natural patina after aging outside under cover all those years. I finished the walls with amber shellac to pull out the gorgeous coloring of the wood.  The cedar shingle siding on the south side had worn down to about a sixteenth of an inch after a hundred years of exposure to Adirondack winters. I pulled them all off, and nailed up new cedar shingles, going up ten feet high, then hired friends to help complete it.  (I tell folks that I built, painted or fixed everything under ten feet. Although I was a daredevil union carpenter in my twenties, I don’t go any higher than ten feet anymore!)  Rosa rugosa shrub roses and perennial flower beds were tucked into place after siding completion.

I believe that my great-grandparents would be so happy to know that their treasured little camp is now fully restored, winterized and being enjoyed by our vacationing house guests ….

 

And if you’d like to come for an authentic Adirondack vacation, please let us know!

For rates and availability, click here to bring you to our airbnb listing

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Traditionally, the women and children stayed all summer while the men traveled back and forth. Life was leisurely. Visiting, and having visitors, was an important part of life. Cooking was done with a hand pump and wood cook stove.  It was a four day long trip from Port Washington, Long Island. 

“These camps and the land around them are very dear to my heart,” Leslie said. “Having visitors, being outside in the fresh air and walking in the wildflower meadows are traditions which go back more than one hundred years.”

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