Summers at Camp: Siblings recall Pine Lake before it was closed to public

L ong before Pine Lake was the village of Whitehall’s reservoir, and long before public access to the idyllic lake was prohibited because of fears misuse could endanger the safety of the water, the property was home to three siblings who grew up in Dresden.

Frances Barber Hebert, Agnes Barber Peterson, and Stanley Barber called the lake home for a time near the end of the World War I.

“I was actually born there and lived there for about two years,” said Stanley Barber, who at 94 years old, is two years younger than Peterson and four and half years younger than Hebert.

At the time, Pine Lake was home to a popular retreat known as Camp Lingerlong. The resort was owned by Devereux Robinson, who lived in Manhattan and oversaw the financial aspects of the resort. Royden Barber and his wife, Eunice, managed the day-to-day operations of the camp.

“I was my father’s right-hand man,” Hebert said. “He really liked working up there but my mother didn’t. She couldn’t wait to get out. It was a lot of work and my father kept it as good as he could, even in the winter.

“He was a country bumpkin, but he could handle it.”

A brochure from the camp billed it as “for people of all ages,” but membership was composed primarily of young people, some of whom had families. Many of the people were from New York City or the surrounding area, although some guests were from as far south as Alabama and as far west as Missouri.

“It was quite popular at the time,” Barber said.

Most of the guests enjoyed an affluent lifestyle. A list of people who spent summers there included doctors and professors, some from such leading educational institutes as Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. The list even included R.H. Shreve, who was part of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the architectural firm that would go on to design the Empire State Building.

 

Camp life

The camp was composed of tents and cabins spread around the lake and a central hall where guests could enjoy meals. The hall was nearly 50 feet square and had a large stone fireplace. The tents were mounted on platforms and came equipped with beds, as did the cabins, each of which had several windows and some of which had fireplaces.

The camp was surrounded by 500 acres of wooded and mountainous land and guests enjoyed horseback rides, tennis (the camp featured its own courts), dancing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hunting and “tramping,” which could be achieved by car, foot or horseback.

Some of the local attractions people took in were the views from Black Mountain, Ausable Chasm a few hours to the north, and the “ruins” of Fort Ticonderoga, before it was rebuilt.

 

Memories linger

The Barber family lived in one of the cabins year round and while some memories of the camp are limited by their young age at the time, and others have been stolen by the intervening years, they can still recall some events with vivid detail.

“We didn’t mind being up there,” said Hebert. “We were just kids, but I remember our father taking us for canoe rides. He had us sit on the floor in the middle of the boat.”

She remembers her father picking up guests at the train station in Clemons, snowstorms “when they had real snowstorms,” and can even recall the name—Nonie Zallaner–of one mean-spirited camper who pushed her sister into the lake.

“We had to be polite and had to stay out of everyone’s way,” Hebert said.

When the girls got older, they moved closer to Clemons so they could attend school in Whitehall.

At about the same time, the village of Whitehall was looking for a source of drinking water and Pine Lake was identified as the best option.

According to Stanley, his father needed to convince Robinson to sell the camp.

“He didn’t want to. My father talked him into it because Whitehall needed the water,” he said. “The water was very pure.”

A 1924 article in the Whitehall Times quoted engineer James P. Wells as saying “there is no place in the state of New York which would derive such a large financial return for the amount of money invested as would the village of Whitehall by securing the Pine Lake supply.”

Shortly thereafter a deal was struck, Pine Lake was sold to the village of Whitehall, and the camp was razed.

 

Later years

That didn’t stop people from visiting the lake. People continued recreational pursuits on the property for years.

Marion “Babe” Gregory who is in her eighties and is one of Frances’ neighbors, started going there in the 1950s.

“I walked my dog in there every Sunday for years,” Gregory said. “It’s a beautiful spot. I don’t think there’s anything that could take that lake’s place.

“Frances and I would like to walk in there one more time.”

Sue Foster Ives recalls visiting the lake and several others in the area with her father, an avid fisherman and the driving force behind the creation of the public beach in Huletts Landing.

“I bet more than half the people of Whitehall have been in there at some point in their lives,” she said.

It’s been years since most people have been to the lake though. Public access was denied because officials feared that misuse of the property, including litter, threatened the purity of the water.

Earlier this year, Mayor Peter Telisky expressed his desire to see the lake reopened to the public for recreational pursuits, but the village is still exploring that idea and has not made a decision.

There are many things to consider, including liability concerns and the safety of the drinking water, which could be compromised by misuse. But many municipalities, including New York City, have found ways to open reservoirs for recreational activities.

For their part, Hebert and Barber have not visited the lake in many years, but would like to see it reopened under the right circumstances.

“They would need a lot of restrictions and they would need police to regulate it. You can’t let them throw stuff all over the place,” Barber said. “If it was tightly regulated, I think it would be a success.”

 

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