Your Lake, Your Newspaper

An Adirondack Journal: An Adirondack Great Camp “Colorama”

An Adirondack Journal: An Adirondack Great Camp “Colorama” March 20, 2024
Fall scene and seaplane, Lake Placid, NY, 1966. Copyright Kodak.
Fall scene and seaplane, Lake Placid, NY, 1966. Copyright Kodak.

Since last summer, when I wrote an article for Quest magazine about John Hendrickson’s decision to put the 36,000-acre Whitney Park up for sale, I’ve been following, somewhat more attentively than in the past, the market for Adirondack great camps.

That, however, does not entirely explain why an advertisement for the Lake Placid real estate firm Merrill L. Thomas in the March-April issue of Adirondack Life magazine caught my eye.

The advertisement noted that the firm had recently brokered the sale of the 151-acre, turn-of-the-century Camp Asulykit on Lake Placid for $8.2 million. And it included a photograph of a building that I recognized instantly.

In 2019, The Hyde Collection presented an exhibition of Kodack “coloramas” – the translucent, billboard-sized images of American life once suspended above the concourse in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. They depicted an America that bore little resemblance to the city outside Grand Central during the 1970s and 80s, when I lived there: a New England farm, the seashore, a golden prairie, an arid but brightly-lit desert. Or the people one saw on the streets. Those in the panoramas were uniformly white, middle class, family-focused; if not on vacation and on the road, then relaxing in modern, suburban homes.

Among the more than five hundred images installed in Grand Central between 1950 and 1990 and among those included in The Hyde’s retrospective was one of the McCutchen family’s Camp Asulykit, its peculiar name a homonym for Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy.

The photograph was produced sometime in the mid-1960s by either Lee Howick or the celebrated Neil Montanus, or perhaps by both, as they sometimes worked together. According to the George Eastman Museum, Howick shot the photo. According to photographer John Montanus, his father deserves the credit. Montanus was responsible for more Coloramas than any other single photographer. According to his 2019 New York Times obituary (written by Lake George resident Kit Seelye), “Montanus was an athletic adventure-seeker whose photographic exploits included embedding himself with a onetime headhunting tribe in Borneo and leaping out of a Land Rover in Kenya to capture the image of a snarling cheetah face to face.” The photograph was displayed in Grand Central for two weeks in October, 1966.

The coloramas lay at the intersection of technology and commerce and, in some cases, art. (Eliot Porter, whose well-known photographs of the Adirondacks were commissioned by the founders of the Adirondack Museum, Harold and Mary Marquand Hochshild, was among the photographers. So, too, was Ansel Adams.) Eastman Kodak’s scientists were pushing technology forward  while, at the same time, marketing far less advanced film and cameras to a mass audience.

When I visited The Hyde’s exhibition in 2019, however, I recall thinking less about the vacation landscapes and family holidays portrayed in the photos, or about what those images might have conveyed about mid-century American life, and more about the city itself during those infernal decades.

Beyond the doors of the train station was an urban effluvium that one might find alarming (“Welcome to Fear City,” reads a brochure from that time) or in my case, thrilling. The city was broke, unable to pay its police force, its firemen or garbage collectors. Nor could it maintain its streets, bridges or subway lines. But as a 17-year-old newly released from boarding school (by mutual agreement, a conscious uncoupling before the neologism was invented), I was never happier.

Support Local Journalism

We cover the Lake George watershed – the news, the people, the issues and, of course, the fun stuff. Please consider subscribing so that we can continue to bring you stories of Lake George – whether you're on the lake or just wishing you were.

Subscribe Today