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This Month in ADK History: the Adirondak Loj

This Month in ADK History: the Adirondak Loj

March 30, 2022

By Henry Liebers, Johns Brook Property Coordinator

It’s 1927 and a long vacant piece of property at the foot of the MacIntyre Range is about to fill with life again. Featuring a shimmering heart-shaped lake and a small, but picturesque, peak called Mt Jo, this tract of land was once the site of Henry Van Hoevenberg’s Adirondack Lodge. In 1903, this area was ravaged by a massive wildfire, which destroyed the structure and left Van Hoevenberg bankrupt. Now, 24 years later, under the ownership of the Lake Placid Club (LPC), the property will once again have a lodge.

The current Adirondak Loj (so named because of former LPC president Melville Dewey’s fascination with phonetic spelling) sits just north of the original Adirondack Lodge site and was completed in 1927. At this point, the LPC was the sole owner and operator of the Loj and the Heart Lake Property. However, it did not turn out to be a lucrative venture for the LPC, so they began searching for a way to either lease or sell the property. In 1932, ADK caught wind of the opportunity and approached the LPC. Under the leadership of Fred Kelsey, a member of both ADK and the LPC, ADK subsequently leased the 706-acre property through the newly formed Adirondak Loj Club Chapter. 

A group of people stand on a lawn

Under Kelsey’s purview, the Adirondak Loj was primarily used as a space for chapter members to convene and as a headquarters for ADK’s operations until his death in October 1957. Around this time, the Lake Placid Club lost interest in leasing the property to ADK, but also wanted to keep the property out of the hands of commercial developers. This resulted in the sale of the property to ADK in 1958. As the details were negotiated, ADK ran the property under a leasing agreement with Kelsey’s wife until the sale was finalized in March of 1959. The papers were officially signed on April 1st, 1959, and ADK took sole ownership of the Adirondak Loj.

Two people rock climbing

This month marks sixty-three years since ADK entered negotiations to purchase the Adirondak Loj and the surrounding property. Now called the Heart Lake Program Center, the property looks very different from how it looked when ADK took over in 1959. A larger dining area, kitchen, and upstairs staff quarters (now offices) were added to the Loj in 1963, as well as the two-story bathroom facilities. 1967 saw power lines strung down the road from Route 73, brightening a dimly lit Loj. A Campers and Hikers building (now the High Peaks Information Center) was completed in 1973 and continues to help hikers plan their trips. ADK also now operates a Wilderness Campground, three private cabins for rent, and facilitates countless educational programs and courses on the property. As ADK welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year to this property, it is fair to say that the leasing of the Loj ninety years ago was one of the most consequential decisions in the history of the organization.

Today, ADK finds itself in a position to make a familiar step forward through the purchase of Cascade Ski Center. Located about 15 minutes from the Loj by car, this 200-acre property sits along Route 73 and has incredible potential as an information center, recreation area, and more. Just as Fred Kelsey saw an opportunity for ADK to expand its impact when he helped lease the Adirondak Loj, there is similar potential at Cascade as ADK heads into its second century. And, much like how Heart Lake Property evolved over time, surely one hundred years from now Cascade will have taken on a different appearance and will have grown in similar ways. No matter what, it will create new opportunities for stewardship and provide a welcoming atmosphere to countless future generations of outdoor recreators.  

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