Sometimes a trifle is all we need to smile inwardly and lift our spirits. A chuckle. The wink of wonder.
This auction item offered no specific insight into Rosslyn’s yesteryears, nor did it illuminate in any meaningful way our fair village or its environs. But the photo, auction title, and description beguiled me nonetheless. Smile, chuckle, wonder.
Let’s start with the title.
Vintage Snapshot Photo 1946 Buick Special Eight & Cottage Lake Champlain Essex NY
Perhaps as early as the late 1940s or maybe the 1950s a snapshot was inspired by a car and cottage in Essex. No people. No lake view or Adirondack panorama. Just a portrait of travel conveyance and travel accommodation.
Before dilating slightly why this otherwise mundane memento intrigued / enchanted / captivated me, let’s read the auction description.
Vintage 1940’s deckle edge snapshot photograph of a Buick Special Eight sedan parked next to a little vacation house or cabin, identified as being at Lake Champlain in Essex, New York.
If the missing deckle edge disappoints you, sorry. I cropped the image and lost the deckle. But if you share my curiosity about the period when Essex was a popular destination for “motor touring” (car travel), then you’ll understand Why this quirky photograph caught my attention.￼
There’s an elusive longing that I feel when I look at this photograph. I am 50 years old, so the nostalgia is not firsthand.￼ If the heyday of “motor touring” (and the motor courts and cabin/cottage communities that proliferated ￼￼during that time) preceded my birth by a decade and more￼, then what exactly is it that tugs poignantly as if personally relevant and familiar, as if similar a reference point exists in my own younger years?
I’m not certain. On￼ the one hand, I do think that the 30s and 40s and 50s and even the 60s are often romanticized in music and film and art and books. So maybe there’s a sort of inherited nostalgia by way of influences that I’ve experienced through pop culture, etc. even having lived a generation removed from the actual phenomena.
On the other hand there is a small sliver of overlap between my own personal lived experience and the vignette documented in this vintage photograph. It’s this overlap, I suspect, that compels my curiosity about Hillcrest Station & Cabins and Camp-of-the-Pines.
As Susan and I took Rosslyn’s reins in 2006 I found myself inexplicably, irresistibly fascinated with earlier chapters in this property’s history. An almost childlike curiosity kindled my questions and my investigation.
I learned early on that there had been several guest cottages on the property during the days of the Sherwood Inn, possibly located beyond the carriage barn and icehouse. These diminutive guest accommodations had long since vanished, but this only increased my wonder. Where exactly had the Sherwood Inn Cottages been located? Did cars have the ability to pull up to the cottages? Or did they park in a central park area and walk across the lawn? Fix they have running water (i.e. toilets and baths/showers)? Did they have electricity? What sort of design and architectural style? Did they complement or contrast with the home, boathouse, carriage barn, and icehouse? When were they removed? We’re the demo’ed or transported elsewhere?
I suppose my interest is more romantic than nostalgic…
Let’s parse this nostalgia versus romance distinction.
The cottage in the image above resonated in the same way that the Hillcrest Cabins and Camp-of-the-Pines did for me. All of them harken back to a time when our home was an inn that included a few similar cottages nestled somewhere on the property. To date I’ve been unable to locate photographs of these cottages though I have searched.
While I do have a bit of an obsession with the various narratives and artifacts left behind by those who have come before us, I’m not obsessed with history per se. I love the details. The stories. The patina. The aged and neglected and forgotten detritus of life lived. I’m guardedly optimistic that I will find photographs, maybe vintage postcards, or maybe even a brochure, that will show me what the cabins at the Sherwood Inn looked like. Perhaps the cottage in this photograph stood at the Sherwood Inn? I can’t quite figure out how the perspective might align, but as my interest is largely romantic, it’s not a big leap to conjure this building into a corner of our property. Of course, that doesn’t make it true.￼
But there is another romantic element at work here as well. I could not have told you the make or model of the car in the photograph, and, frankly, I’m taking it on good faith that the person who listed this auction item titled it incorrectly. But the visual of a 1946 Buick Special Eight inevitably overlaps in my romantic imagination with our 1949 Riley RMB (photos below). I’ve mentioned this handsome automobile in the past, and it’s recently been front of mine again as I evaluate whether or not I should be matching it up with a new owner more passionately committed to its restoration and maintenance.
I’ll close by saying that I did initially bid on this auction, but I bowed out early. My early offer was immediately overshadowed by another. Separating nostalgic from romantic inclinations proved helpful. This distinction has become increasingly important to me as I disentangle the many motives that braided my life and Susan’s life together with Rosslyn’s life over the last 16 years. But I’m wandering afield, teasing a tangent, so I’d best abbreviate this thought for another post. Stay tuned!