Vintage Adirondack

My bride and I credit the Adirondack lifestyle for luring us away from Manhattan in 2006 to become North Country full-timers. But what exactly is the Adirondack lifestyle?

Actually it’s not so easily defined, perhaps because there are so many different perspectives on what makes living (or even vacationing) in the Adirondacks desirable. High Peaks, Great Camps, cozy little lodges, Champlain Valley, agriculture, hunting, fly fishing, ice fishing, back country adventures, extreme sports, and the list goes on. Although a portrait of our Adirondack experience will evolve out of these blog posts, I won’t attempt to define the Adirondack lifestyle. Though often attempted, any single face of of the Adirondacks is an abstraction. The real Adirondack experience is vast, rich and dynamic. It is precisely this richness and diversity which appeals to us. It is precisely this evolving character which inspires us to get involved with the people and organizations that have welcomed us.

Griffin by Lake Champlain
Image by virtualDavis via Flickr

The video above, the first in a series of three, is called Land of My Dreams and it was apparently created by Joseph J. Harley in the late 1940’s. It captures a nostalgic (if extremely dated) caricature of Adirondack rustic “camp” lifestyle during the mid 1900s.

The story takes place on Bluff Island in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake, New York. My great grandparents had a house that Joe built himself from scratch. The DEC took the house down after a law was made that people could only camp on certified islands in the lake. Joseph J. Harley was an amateur film maker who made many other movies and won awards for them. (

Douglas Yu (@tourpro) over at Adirondack Base Camp put me onto this quirky vintage short, but he wasn’t able to share much more about the film or Harley.

I couldn’t find much information about the filmographer, but at one point he was President of the American Cinema League.

Many of the artifacts that I’ve collected since purchasing Rosslyn fall into this hazy no-man’s land of vintage collectibles (postcards, magazine advertisements, newspaper articles, brochures, videos, etc.) It’s challenging or impossible to determine the background for many of the artifacts, and they occasionally include dated or peculiar elements such as the “black face” character in the the second video. And yet, taken together they provide a context for the quirky tale I have to tell. I’ve decided that this blog is the perfect way to preserve and share these artifacts, characters and stories which don’t find their way into my Rosslyn Redux memoir or the Redacting Rosslyn monologues.

By collecting these artifacts into a “digital museum” I hope to showcase some of the esoteric ingredients of the Adirondack lifestyle which seduced us, aggravates us, intrigues us, perplexes us and inspires us in this new chapter of our lives.

About virtualDavis

A writer, storyteller and unabashed flâneur, George Davis (aka virtualDavis or G.G. Davis, Jr.) is the author of Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks with his bride. He blogs about storytelling, poetry, doodling, marginalia, flânerie, publishing, and other creativity-inspired esoterica at; posts sometimes exhilarating, often unnerving, occasionally euphoric, and always pollyanna "midlife mashups" at; chronicles his sailing adventures (and misadventures) at Sailing Errant; and delves into matters of parenting, babylandia, and childfreedom at Why No Kids? George formerly taught and coached at Santa Fe Preparatory School and The American School of Paris, and he co-founded and launched Maison Margaux: "Paris à la parisienne" in Faubourg Saint-Germain. He currently owns and operates Adobe Oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his bride. George meanders on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
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9 Responses to Vintage Adirondack

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  2. joshclement says:

    This is absolutely brilliant! Thank you for sharing. I grew up in Saranac Lake and have been to Bluff many times. As a recent (6 months ago) college grad I’ve wrestled with the idea of leaving the Adirondacks to find work in my field (TV/Video production.) But as someone with a family and deep ties to the Adk it’s not so easy to pack up and leave. With that said I have embraced what I have here and recently began producing a series called “Exploring the Adirondacks with Colton Clement.” Colton is my 10-year-old son. Your blog reminds me how fortunate I am to have the Adirondacks as my muse and be able to share its beauty with my family. Now if I can just figure out how to get it to put food on the table and pay the bills. That might be the greatest trick of all in these parts. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. virtualDavis says:

    Colton Clement? What a name! That kid’s bound for stardom, I think. And to think he’s starting out his acting career so young. I’d love to learn more about your Adirondack series, Josh. Is there a link I can follow? I appreciate your comment and hope we can talk video some time. Do you still live in Saranac Lake? Ever making over to the “big lake”? Hint: A garden is the perfect Adirondack solution to putting food on the table… ;-)

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  7. Andrew Helgeson says:

    Hi, Im the one who posted the Land of My Dreams video up on YouTube. Im glad that you are sharing this video on your website, I had no idea until just recently. Its great that you want to find out more about the history of Adirondack lifestyle, as I do. My family history in the Adirondacks goes way back to the 30s, and I’ll be glad to provide you with info about anything. Thanks again.

    • virtualDavis says:

      Thanks for making the connection, Andrew. And for sharing this wonderful, quirky, entertaining video! Would indeed be interested in learning more about your Adirondack stories and heritage.

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