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Northwest Bay: From Nature Preserve to Preserve of the Wealthy

Northwest Bay: From Nature Preserve to Preserve of the Wealthy January 10, 2024
$5.9 million house on Northwest Bay built by Bolton contractor Don Russell.
$5.9 million house on Northwest Bay built by Bolton contractor Don Russell.

For roughly a century, the Loines family acted as stewards of more than 10,000 acres of land along and above Northwest Bay. What the family didn’t protect itself, it donated to the Nature Conservancy or sold to New York State.

With the death of daughter Elma Loines in 1983, the last surviving members of the family were the two granddaughters of Stephen and Mary Loines. The North West Bay estate was subdivided and sold to Stewart Reid, the son of Herald Tribune publisher and Westchester congressman Ogden Reid, among others.

Today, Northwest Bay is considered one of the most desirable sections of Lake George.

“Northwest Bay has clear water, seclusion and views that knock people out,” said Lonnie Lawrence, a realtor who has represented more than a score of buyers and sellers along its shore.  “It’s what everyone wants, in part for these reasons. It’s also expensive, which makes it cost-prohibitive for many people looking at Lake George real estate.”

Quarter Deck, built in 1898, has been extensively renovated and is now on the market for $8.9 million.

Matt Brady, a Bolton resident, purchased a series of lots north of Quarter Deck from the heirs before deciding to sell all but his own building lot to others.

An artist’s studio built on one of those lots, near the outlet of Northwest Bay Creek (or Brook, as it is known today) sold for nearly $3 million just a few years ago.

Another house, owned by Bruce and Mary Ashby, is listed for $5.9 million. (This property, as well as Quarter Deck, are represented by the real estate firm of Davies and Davies.)

Both the artist’s studio and the Ashbys’ house were built by Don Russell, the Bolton contractor responsible for many homes and boathouses on Northwest Bay.

Russell was working in commercial construction in Texas when his parents bought property in Bolton Landing in the late 1970s. He moved here to build a house for them and has never left.

While Russell built his reputation designing and constructing houses in a rustic Adirondack, Great Camp style, he says he responds to his clients’ wishes as well as to the demands and limitations of the property.

“We looked at designs in building magazines and Don modified them to create something that suited us,” said Bruce Ashby, best-known for funding the Lake George Association’s floating classroom, the Rosalia Ann Ashby.

“We were living in Saratoga, but it had long been a dream of mine to live on Lake George,” said Ashby. “That’s how all this started.”

The house, which was completed in 1999, was “designed to fit the lay of the land – to accommodate the natural ledge rock and the steep slopes,” said Russell.

The interior is an impressive one – not only for its soaring spaces and the windows framing the views of the Tongue Mountain peninsula, Northwest Bay and Dome Island – but for the hand-crafted woodwork, for which Russell was personally responsible.

“I asked Don what was delaying the completion of the house – and then I saw the staircase. Wow,” said Ashby.

Mary Ashby said the house was meant for entertaining.

“We’ve had weddings here. We’ve had birthday parties. We’ve had Thanksgivings and family reunions, and whoever calls us and says they’re coming. We’ve had soup parties for 60. It’s what Bruce and I love to do,” she said.

“We’ve had some emotional moments, saying good-bye to this house,” said Bruce Ashby. But it’s a 5,400 square foot house. It’s time to downsize.”

The number of property transfers on Northwest Bay in recent years represent an inflection point in Northwest Bay’s history, perhaps the most significant since the granddaughter of Stephen and Mary Loines began selling off property in 1980s.

According to Lonnie Lawrence, the transition is a generational one. The couples who purchased these properties in the 1980s and 90s are ready for the next stage in life, one that doesn’t entail the responsibilities of maintaining a large, lakefront house. And a new generation, equally prosperous, is now ready to enjoy the lake and the nearby protected lands.

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