Sitting in the Adirondack Museum's library, I placed a brown, leather-bound photo album on the table in front of me. It had an applique of pine trees on the front, attractive yet obviously homemade. I was about to enter a fantasyland of photographic history from a place called Camp Topridge.
The Adirondack Museum recently acquired the Topridge photo album from Carol Moffat of Salisbury, N.C. She is the daughter of Frank Moffat, who worked for businesswoman and philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) for about 40 years. Post's secretary, Marge Voigt, gave him the album.
When Post's father, Charles William Post, died in 1914, she became the owner of the Postum Cereal Company. At the time, she was married to New York lawyer Edward Close. They divorced in 1919 after 14 years of marriage and two children, Adelaide and Eleanor.
Post married New York stockbroker Edward F. Hutton in 1920. In February, they bought land on the shores of Upper St. Regis Lake near the Franklin County, according to Ed Hale's "Topridge" story in the May/June 1983 issue of Adirondack Life magazine. There were seven or eight buildings on the property at the time.
The main lodge and other structures were designed by Theodore Blake and constructed by local builder Ben Muncil in 1920. In the following decades, new structures would be built, others would be improved, and more property would be purchased.
The Topridge album begins with photos of the property as it was seen in 1920 and ends with photos from 1959.
In all, there are 114 images, spanning three marriages: to Hutton from 1920 to 1935; diplomat Charles E. Davies from 1935 to 1955; and Pittsburgh industrialist Herbert A. May in 1958. Her marriage to May ended in 1964.
But this is an album about the Great Camp's buildings.
The first photo was taken in 1920 from the lake and shows the main building and boathouse. There is a wide selection of outdoor and indoor shots, including the cable car at the top landing, the main house terrace, the grand stairway at the main house entrance, the main house's 60-by-70-foot living room with a 25-foot ceiling, the dining room, the breakfast room, the Dacha cottage (built in 1938), Mrs. May's Cabin, the Honey Moon Cabin (prepared for Adelaide's marriage in 1936), the beach on Spectacle Pond, the tennis house and court, the Up-North cabin (where Adelaide and Eleanor first stayed), the Up-South Guest Cabin, the kitchen, the guide's house, the secretary's house, and Deenie's First Camp (built in 1924, later the Honey Moon Cabin).
Deenie is Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, Post's third daughter, born in 1923. Nedenia later changed her name to Dina Merrill, the actress and television star.
New York state acquired the property on July 25, 1974 as a gift from the Marjorie Merriweather Post Foundation. The state opened the camp to the public, running it as an attraction until 1985, when it was auctioned off to the highest bidder.
In July 1985, New Jersey businessman Roger Jakubowski bought Camp Topridge for $911,000. That included 45 buildings on 105 acres. The state kept 102 acres and added it to the Forest Preserve. Jakubowski bought many Adirondack properties in the 1980s, including Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake.
By the early 1990s, Jakubowski had defaulted on the Topridge mortgage. In April 1993, the bank sold the camp to Midlantic National Bank, of Edison, N.J. In November 1994, Texas businessman Harlan Crow bought Topridge and currently uses it as a summer home.