During 2017 through April 2018, the Newcomb Historical Museum focused its major exhibit on the history of Tahawus and the National Lead Company, an economic and cultural “engine” that left its mark both on its home township of Newcomb and on a wide swath of other Adirondack communities. Thousands of residents and commuters owed their livelihoods to the success of NL’s titanium mining venture from 1941 until 1989 when the mine officially closed.
Starting on Monday, July 2nd, 2018, with the opening of its newest exhibit, THE PRUYNS OF CAMP SANTANONI, the museum moves deeper into its history to focus on another such enterprise, the nearly 13,000 acres of the Pruyn Preserve and Great Camp Santanoni on Newcomb Lake. Begun in 1892 by Albany banker, Robert C. Pruyn, and his artistic and wilderness-loving wife, Anna Williams Pruyn, the Camp was sufficiently completed for its first official party of family and friends in 1893. In the years that followed, R.C. and Anna hosted many more events, raised a family of four, taught their grandchildren to love the Adirondacks, and relished their infamous spring fishing parties with 16 guests who often stayed for two weeks. For years the closure of each summer season was marked by an October hunting trip reserved for nine Albany gentlemen and Mr. Pruyn, of course. It was rumored that the caretaker’s shots frequently bagged more than a few trophies!
As impressive as the entertainment was, no one who visited Camp Santatoni could forget the awe-inspiring architecture that can still be seen there today. Constructed to resemble a phoenix, with wings extended in preparation for flight, the log structure of the main camp is definitely influenced by R.C.’s time living in Japan with his ambassador father.
In recognition of the 125 years that the camp has gracefully stood watch over Newcomb Lake and its mountain surroundings, the NHM has planned a two-year celebration: the first (2018) concentrating on the 61 years of Pruyn family ownership of Camp Santanoni; the second (2019) in a totally new exhibit entitled BEHIND THE SCENES AT CAMP SANTANONI: THE PRUYN YEARS AND AFTER. During the second exhibit, attention will be paid to the many local and regional employees whose loyal service made the Preserve work as a productive farm as well as a seasonal home for its owners. For both exhibits, visitors will be indebted to extensive collections of photographs and artifacts generously donated by Susan Pruyn King, the only surviving Pruyn grandchild, and the Tummins and Vroman families, longstanding residents of Newcomb. Note the Japanese dinnerware in photograph.
Camp Santanoni has always prospered from cooperation between town and camp. Today ownership of this beautiful historic site is in the managing hands of the State of New York, but generous support is also provided by the Town of Newcomb and the Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH). The trip into Camp Santanoni is well worth the effort. It’s a moderate walk or bike ride (4.9 miles one way), but visitors can also reserve a horse-driven wagon ride by calling Larry Newcombe at 518-639-5534; 518-480-1743.