Bygone opulence for today’s travelers

The Point Resort in Saranac Lake, New York, is the ultimate in elegant “roughing it.”

We are in the Adirondack wilderness, driving a winding road with snow-covered pines forming a narrow passageway. Ahead of us, an intricate gate fashioned from logs and branches spells out “The Point.” After punching in a code, the gate opens slowly as if to say “Take a deep breath. Relax. Let the wonders of this very special place envelop you.” And so we do.

From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Great Depression, Gilded Age magnates built magnificent mansions along the rugged lakeshores of upstate New York that became collectively known as the Great Camps. The Point Resort in Saranac Lake was built as a private retreat for the family of William Avery Rockefeller Jr. — brother of John D. Sr. — from 1930 to 1933 by Adirondack camp architect William Distin. It is on a 75-acre peninsula jutting into Upper Saranac Lake and consists of a main lodge and 11 distinctive, delightfully decorated rooms for a handful of lucky guests. The rooms have Adirondack twig furniture, huge stone fireplaces and down beds, with elements striking a balance between being grand and intimate.

The Point Resort is the last of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks, considered by many to be the premiere resort in the country and Condé Nast Traveler’s highest-rated property. It is consistently honored with one of the hospitality industry’s top awards — the Forbes 5-Star designation for “flawless service and the finest of amenities. (The) staff is intuitive, engaging and passionate. They eagerly deliver service above and beyond the guests’ expectations.” Want breakfast in bed, lunch at a fairytale cottage in the woods, or a sumptuous dinner served by the fireplace in your room? Done. In fact, service is so amazing, it almost seems as though you have but to think it and presto, it happens.

Entering the Grand Log Mansion, we were greeted by the general manager, who ushers us into the Great Hall and offers a glass of Champagne. Everything about the Great Hall is great. It evokes the Adirondack camps of old with rough luxe, animal trophies lining the walls, massive native-cut stone fireplaces, vast sink-in sofas and a view of the frozen silver lake beyond. We were told that our visit coincided with a recent renovation that focused on each of The Point’s guest rooms, the Great Hall and the Pub, the former garage that is now a cozy hangout with a full bar and games area. The Great Hall is where meals are served and it shines brightly with luxuriant new fabrics, drapery, furniture and lighting, setting the stage for the tradition of dining en famille where guests gather as high society of yesteryear once did for vibrant festivities deep in the forest. 

Our room is beautifully prepared for us — a carafe of wine, a roaring fire in the fieldstone fireplace that reaches up to the timbered ceiling, lamps softly glowing, candles flickering. We are delighted by a cloud-soft bed made entirely from branches, its tree-trunk post giving the feel of a bed growing out of the floor.  It is amusing fun — so much so that Goldilocks herself would have pronounced it “just right.”  Icicles 4 feet-long form a grid over our leaded glass windows like so many pieces of Swarovski crystal and the snow on our roof is as deep and sumptuous as vanilla icing on a wedding cake. The warm comfort of our room beckons us to linger, but the experience of lunch with fellow guests is too appealing to pass up.

Each evening, cocktails are served at 7, dinner famously at 8 and, every Wednesday and Saturday, dinner is suggested black-tie, a bow to yesteryear’s tradition of elegant Great Camp dining. So, Saturday we dine by candlelight, the table laid with fine china, crystal and silver. There are individual menus at each place setting and, when I turned over my menu, I see that all of the guest’s names are listed by first name only. Discretion and privacy at The Point is, well, the point. Our extraordinary dinner is enriched by lively conversation and generous amounts of fine wine, making for a true house-party atmosphere.

After dinner, a happy surprise awaits us — a snow picnic by a bonfire in the woods.  Earlier in the day, we’ve mentioned an interest in seeing the bonfire before departing. Unbeknown to us, this is arranged. We are led down a snowy path twinkling with fairy lights to an all-out roaring bonfire. Around it, Adirondack chairs are piled high with warm woolen blankets and cushy pillows. The icing on the cake — a fully-stocked bar, long branches to spear marshmallows and the fixings for s’mores. Who could ask for anything, ahem, s’more?

As the next day dawns sunny and bright, it is snowshoeing for us. A guide leads us over the frozen lake and into the woods, up hills and down dales, all as silent as snow. Then before departing, we make it a point to tour the Boathouse, the most requested guestroom at the resort. This is a spectacular open and airy 950-square-foot suite with a lofty, beamed ceiling that vaults over a storybook canopied bed in the center of the room and above the boats and water, with a wrap-around deck offering panoramic views of the lake to the mountains beyond. Here you have the romantic notion of “roughing it” in comfort, elegance and gentility. Formerly only available from May to October, this suite is now fully winterized and is available to be enjoyed year-round.

As we prepare to depart, the ever-attentive staff has prepared box lunches for our journey. Nothing left to chance, nothing forgotten. No, wait…there is one thing they’ve overlooked: Tissues to dab our eyes as we bid The Point adieu.

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