Old Address: 16 View Street
Other names: Baroness Halcott Cottage
Year built: 1903
Malone Farmer, April 8, 1903
New York Times, June 12, 1904
The Baroness Halkett a Recluse in the Adirondacks
HER HERMITLIKE ISOLATION IN A COTTAGE AT SARANAC LAKE
SARANAC LAKE. N. Y., June 11.—The Baroness Halkett has taken up the life of a hermit in a cottage which has been built for her on Reservoir Hill, a part of the town that is rarely visited. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Anson Phelps Stokes and the sister of the Rev. Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., who is Secretary of the Yale Association. It is said that [s]he is suffering from nervous prostration.
When she last appeared in public, two or three years ago, she was still the charming, pleasant woman who, when a girl, won for herself social distinction and favors on both sides of the water. Her marriage with the Baron Halkett was regarded as one of the most brilliant international matches.
The married life of the Baroness was never happy, and eventually culminated in her securing a divorce, much to the gratification of her many friends, who were glad to see her freed from the Baron.
The Baroness Halkett came into the mountains to live about three years ago. She had been a visitor each Summer to her father's camp, Birch Island, in the Upper St. Regis Lake, and was very fond of Adirondack life. She came in the Winter and selected a cottage in the village of Saranac Lake, and even up to this time was cheerful and light-hearted and seemed to take great pleasure in the meeting of old friends.
But after she became a resident in the village and the courts had freed her from the Baron, she began to receive people less and less, ultimately withdrawing from social life entirely and declining to meet all with the possible exception of the immediate members of her family and her maids.
A year ago this Spring the Baroness concluded to build a cottage in or near Saranac Lake and spent two days inspecting available sites. She went over many beautiful building plots, but she objected to one after another on the ground that they were "too public" or "overlooked the village."
Finally she journeyed to the top of Reservoir Hill, which lies to the west of the village, and the brow of which, on the village side, is covered by a growth of timber. Two or three ponds are located on the top of the hill and they form the storage reservoirs for the supplies of drinking water used by the people of the village. It is an out-of-the-way place, reached by a hard climb up hill, and does not possess any scenic attractions. The western and southern exposures had been lumbered.
Here the Baroness selected the site for her home. The building spot determined upon was the southern edge of the hill and the queer little cottage has been so placed that it is entirely hidden from the main highway, except at a point out on Algonquin Avenue, whence one with sharp eyes may distinguish a corner of it.
It was necessary to build a road from Algonquin Avenue along the western edge of Reservoir Hill. The road follows an easy grade along the hilltop, but the cottage of the Baroness is hidden from view by ledges or rock until one surmounts the steep incline at the top which reveals the ponds and the upper part of the house. The house faces to the south, and the rear and much of the lower story are concealed behind a rather singular formation of rock.
The highway up to this point appears to be a public thoroughfare, which may serve the convenience of the employees of the water board as well as the Baroness Halkett, but beyond it is plainly a private highway, for a gateway bears the sign "Private Road, No trespassing."
The cottage has two stories and the exterior is of shingles. The first floor is divided into dining room and kitchen, maid's room, cook's room, laundry, & co., while on the second floor are the apartments of the Baroness. It is said that there is one guest's room on this floor which has never been occupied.
A Strange Telephone.
The main entrance to the cottage is on the west side, where stone steps have been built at the side of the stone chimney that runs from the ground to the top of the house. Across the front are two verandas, upper and lower, over which the roof projects. The house is built upon solid rock, and its cellar was blasted out of the ledge. It is heated by steam and has all the conveniences of the town house, even to a telephone.
The strange feature about the telephone. however, is that the line and phone in the Baroness's cottage do not have a bell on them, which makes it impossible for any one to call up the cottage by phone, although the Baroness or her servants may use the line to order what supplies they desire or to transact any other business.
There are several business men in the village of Saranac Lake who have had dealings with the Baroness for two years or more, but who have never seen her. It is her custom to attend to all her important business matters by correspondence, although her cottage is not more than ten minutes' walk from the centre of the town.
There is one Saranac Lake dealer in particular who has been at the cottage much during the last year, looking after this and that detail about the house, but he has never seen the Baroness, although it has been necessary at times for him to enter her rooms, upon which occasion she had taken herself to some other part of the house out of the sight of all except her maids. At one time it seemed absolutely necessary for this business man and the Baroness to confer upon some details about the house. The man looked forward to a meeting with considerable pleasure, for he had never seen the Baroness, although he had been employed by her for more than a year.
Upon the day set, however, the Baroness concluded that she would not [be] able to keep her appointment, and the business at hand was transacted through a maid. This was the nearest the business man ever came to seeing the Baroness Halkett.
It is said that the Baroness has been known to talk business with one or two of the few callers at the house in a most ingenious way. Upon one or two occasions the Baroness has placed her chair behind the door of her room, and the caller would be seated on the other side of the door in the outer room. In this manner they would converse through the crack of the door, which would be opened a few inches, with the Baroness taking due precaution that she would not be seen.
Her business with her banker is transacted through the mails, and the Baroness has never been seen by the clerks, although the bank is but a couple of hundred feet from the Post Office where mail matter is received and delivered. The house-to-house delivery of mail has not been adopted in Saranac Lake.
The vistas revealed from the verandas of the cottage of the Baroness Halkett may scarcely be called charming when contrasted with the bits of Adirondack Mountain scenery elsewhere about Saranac Lake. In the valley, a half mile to the south, appears a large quantity of dead timber which has been killed by water overflowing from the Saranac River.
There are patches of still water of the Saranac River in the picture, while the background as viewed from the veranda of the cottage is filled with mountains, of which there are three ranges. In looking toward the west the Baroness gets glimpses of a few modest homes in the outskirts of the village; and a corner of the Hotel Ampersand appears in the distance, but it is apparent from the location of the house and its style of architecture that the Baroness does not wish to see other people, and that she prefers the wild view to the southward rather than the evidences of human activity which appear in the northwest.
The Baroness neither rides nor drives. There are not any walks about her grounds or water to row upon. She has a few pets In the form of dogs, which run out upon one's approach, and by their incessant barking they are likely to bring a frowning maid to the back door.