A section of Upper Saranac Lake", showing the location of Pinebrook at top, left of center, 1912.
Other names: Pinebrook, Pine Brook
Year built: 1898
Architect: William L. Coulter
Camp Pinebrook is a Swiss chalet style great camp designed by William L. Coulter on Gilpin Bay on the west side of Upper Saranac Lake near Camp Eagle Island. It was built for former U.S. Vice President Levi P. Morton in 1898. It is similar in style to nearby Moss Ledge, another Coulter design.
Morton sold Pinebrook to Mitchell Levy in 1903. It was burned to the ground in 1911 but was rebuilt. It was later owned by Carl Loeb. The Loebs gave the camp to Syracuse University in 1948 along with Moss Ledge. After many years as a conference center, it was sold in the 1970s and is again a private camp.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 8, 1994
The evolution of the Adirondack Great Camps
By Don Williams
The evolution of the Great Camps in the Adirondacks was more complex than simply the contributions of William West Durant, the original Great Camp builder. Others picked up on his Adirondack "elegant simplicity" native style and carried it to another level. One such builder was New York City architect William Coulter.
Coulter was sent to the Adirondacks by his architectural firm to supervise the construction of buildings at the Trudeau TB Sanitarium. He had contracted TB and found the Adirondacks to be a healthy place to live, so he stayed.
Coulter admired the work of Durant and began to design log camps and cottages for the influx of summer residents who found the Adirondack playground at the turn of the century. He founded a firm that still exists today. It became Coulter and Westhoff for awhile and later was carried on by William Distin. Today, Ronald DeLair continues the Adirondack style architecture begun a century ago.
One of the first Great Camps designed by Coulter was on Upper Saranac Lake. The camp complex, called Moss Ledge, was built on a small peninsula owned by Miss Isabel Ballantine of New York City. Her fortune came from her family who owned the Mercury Water (not beer!) Meter Company. 1 She was one of several single women who developed a vacation retreat in the Adirondacks.
The Moss Ledge Camp was designed to fit the site. The main house was located on a high ridge with the front of the building facing the lake. It provided a good view from the water of the "screening," a decorative log, lattice-type work designed by Coulter and used in most of his buildings. The windows were unique with one design on the floor level and a different design on the second floor.
The guest houses on each side of the main lodge were turned to parallel the shoreline, avoiding the look of," three boxes in a row. One of the attributes of the Great Camps was their deliberate design to fit the chosen site. The windows in the guest houses were not as fancy as those in the main lodge.
Coulter followed some of Durant's work by using a peg construction and a log veneer with the bark left on. One of the mysteries of the Great Camps is the bark has remained tight on the original logs while replacement logs today tend to lose their bark. Some say the increase in bugs that get under the bark in modem times is causing the problem.
In 1943, Ballantine gave her camp to the Girl Scouts of America, who used it as a girls' camp. In 1947 it was purchased for $10,000 by Carl Loeb. There is a story that he was unhappy with the taxes so he, in that same year, along with adjacent Camp Pinebrook, gave them to Syracuse University for a conference center. It took them off the tax rolls and gave Syracuse a large enough complex for its use. Syracuse operated the center until 1972 when Moss Ridge was sold to Herbert E. Pollock. Pinebrook was sold to a couple other investors.
The Pollocks use the complex of about 10 buildings for a family camp. They face the dilemma of many of today's Great Camp owners; the taxes have tripled in recent years, with the new assessments placed on waterfront property. They have put some of the acreage up for sale and the property faces the possibility of further development to make it financially feasible to keep it.
The end of an era of the Great Camps in the Adirondacks is in sight unless enough of our citizenry appreciate the value of their preservation. Creative steps and extraordinary sacrifices are needed to ensure the perpetuity of the Adirondack's Great Camps.
- 1Isabel A. Ballantine was the daughter of Newark, New Jersey beer baron, John Holmes Ballantine.