Sometime between the end of the Civil War and the start of Spanish American War, Lake George ceased to be an agrarian community and became a fashionable watering hole -a transition captured perfectly in a beautifully restored house in Hague.
Not only the original interiors, but the furnishings are intact.
Built in 1884 in a vernacular, Queen Anne style, in all likelihood by local carpenters working from pattern books, the house is owned today by Jesse and Antoinette Jackson, best known as the founders of Look Media.
The Jacksons – who, as it happens, are just the third family to own the house – came to be its stewards in an indirect, somewhat serendipitous way.
“We became the best of friends with the owner, who lived next door and who allowed this house to sit empty because he didn’t want any neighbors,” recalled Jesse Jackson.
When he decided to offer it to the Jacksons, they couldn’t afford to say no.
“The house was a wreck,” said Jesse. “A raccoon was living in an upstairs bedroom – we first saw him when he stuck his head out and peered at us. No one had been inside in a long time. Curiously, the dining room table was set for one, as though someone had just stood up and walked out the door, who knows how many decades ago.”
Two contractors whom the Jacksons consulted said the house was beyond saving and urged them to demolish it – and hire them to build a new one. A third agreed it ought to be restored, but warned that a restoration would cost more than the price of a new house.
Nevertheless, the Jacksons opted to save the house, initiating a two-year project that entailed re-assembling furniture, restoring the tall, 19th century glass windows, replicating architectural details, rebuilding porches, replacing plaster walls and installing and painted cedar siding, among other things.
“Structurally, the house was sound,” said Antoinette Jackson. “The fireplaces were in excellent shape. The natural woodwork was beautiful.”
Today, the interior is not unlike a house museum – though a living one, not some antiquarian’s taxidermy project.
According to the Jacksons, 80% of the furniture is original to the house, Eastlake or Arts and Crafts in style, appropriate to a house of its vintage.
Books, glassware, china and even the kitchen utensils that were in the house when the Jacksons bought it have been cleaned or repaired and returned to the uses for which they were intended.
The rooms retain their original functions; the Jacksons have not bothered to reconfigure them to suit the 21st century American’s taste for wide-screen televisions and open dining and living areas.
They found the trunks used by the first owners to transport their belongings from Brooklyn to Hague at the start of every summer – by railway and steamboat – in an upstairs bathroom.
According to Antoinette Jackson, those original owners were four sisters named Miller.
It is very easy to imagine the Miller sisters spending their summers on the wide porch overlooking the lake, and in the very rocking chairs in which you happen to be sitting, which is precisely how the Jacksons spend their summers.
“We’ve stared at this view thousands of times, and every single time it’s different. We’re absorbed by it,” said Jesse Jackson.
The Jacksons may choose to sell the house, which sits on a nearly 1.5 acre parcel with mature trees, abundant wildlife, paths and stone walls, and which comes with a private beach and dock. They’re waiting, though, for the right individual to show up – someone who appreciates the house and its history as much as they do. For information, contact Donna Levenstien at email@example.com or visit Northern Lake George Realty at nlgrealty.com.