Escaping Life at Work

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View of the Bear Mountain Bridge on the way to Arden, NY.

Labor Day weekend typically kicks off the fall season and back-to-school, back-to-work, Fashion Week, and the U.S. Open, but Fall 2020 has been a bit different.

Only 10% of office workers have returned to the office, schools have opened sporadically, New York Fashion Week is being viewed online, and the U.S Open — both tennis and golf — were played without fans!

My dining table turned quarantine workstation.

Working from home has blurred into living at work. Many Americans are fleeing the city life and seeking refuge in more “remote” areas. Three-day weekends are more satisfying than week-long excursions; and people are opting out of holiday travel plans this year for more local escapes. According to the AHLA (American Hotel and Lodging Association), hotel bookings are down 66% and urban hotels have an occupancy rate of just 38%.

The top trending US destinations over Labor Day weekend were Hilton Head, Charleston and Big Bear Lake; while cities like New York, Boston, and Miami have been the most negatively affected.

So, what’s on the uptick? Renting and buying cottages, cabins, barns, micro-homes, and even tree houses in places like the Adirondacks. Many people are simply looking for less populated places to unwind.

So rather than heading East over Labor Day weekend, George and I happily accepted an invitation to visit Averell Harriman Fisk at his Lake House at Arden, New York.

The main house is at the top of a mountain east of the village, reachable by Arden House Road. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, not open to the public.

Arden is a hamlet of Orange County near the towns of Tuxedo and Monroe in the “boot” of New York state west of the Hudson River.

Originally known as Greenwood, it was noted for the iron works belonging to Robert and Peter P. Parrott of Parrott Guns. Established in 1810, the Greenwood Furnace produced the iron used for the Parrott guns extensively employed during the Civil War by both the Union and Confederate armies. during the Civil War. The Parrotts named the area Arden after Mrs. Parrott’s maiden name and built St. John’s Episcopal Church at Arden in 1863.

The Arden House was built by railroad magnate E. H. Harriman and his wife Mary Averell Harriman in the late 19th century. By the early 1900s, the family owned 37,863 acres and employed more than 610 superintendents and workers to run it. Harriman hired Carrère and Hastings (New York Public Library and The Frick to name a few iconic buildings) to design the home, which was begun in 1905. Although he planned it for many years, Harriman actually only lived in it for a few months before his death in 1909.

Photographs of Native Americans taken by Edward S. Curtis during the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899 which hang in the home of Averell and Kirsten Fisk.

The house features a dramatic music room, modeled after a medieval great hall. Around the central courtyard is a brick corridor lined with murals by Barry Faulkner. Harriman commissioned a number of American artists to decorate the house. James Earle Fraser created a bas-relief portrait of Harriman over one of the fireplaces, as well as a fountain in the interior court; Malvina Hoffman created a bust of Mrs. Harriman; and sculpter Charles Cary Rumsey created a fountain of the Three Graces, a marble fireplace surround that featured a caricature of architect Thomas Hastings and corbel carvings of bighorn sheep in the music room.

Wedding announcement of Mary Harriman and Dr. Shirley C. Fisk, who were married at Arden Church, which appeared in The New York Times, April 28, 1940.

Rumsey subsequently married Harriman’s daughter, Mary, in 1910. Lining the staircase were Herter Brothers tapestries depicting the creation of the house. On the second floor was an “Indian Corridor” featuring photographs of Native Americans taken by Edward S. Curtis during the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899.

Mary Averell Harriman gave the house to her son W. Averell Harriman upon his marriage in 1915, although she continued to live in the west wing of the building until her death in 1932. After the U.S. entered World War II, the family offered the house to the U.S. Navy, which turned it into the first of the Navy’s convalescent hospitals.

In 1950, Averell Harriman and his brother Roland deeded the property to Columbia University for use by The American Assembly — a public policy think tank founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower. The house was identified as America’s first conference center, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1966, but is not open to the public. Mrs. Harriman donated 10,000 acres and $1,000,000  to New York State to start Harriman State Park in 1910.

Averell and Kirsten Fisk.

Like his parents, Kirsten and Averell Fisk were married at Arden 18 years ago. “Everyone in our family has been baptized, married and buried here,” Averell told us. “It’s a family tradition. Everyone spent the night after the wedding,” he added (Arden House boasts 97 guest rooms). “I think the party continued, but we were off to Bermuda for our honeymoon.”

Arden House Road — basically the Fisks’ 3.5 mile driveway.
It was suggested we “take the Jeep.”
Arden Homestead Church, 1863.
Picturesque waterfall along the drive.
GL and AHF enjoying a cocktail at Fisk Cottage before heading to the Lake House for dinner.
Polo — A family tradition. Sculpture by Charles Cary Rumsey (1879-1922).
Averell’s grandfather, Governor W. Averell Harriman, an American Democratic politician, businessman, diplomat and eight-goal polo player. The son of railroad baron E. H. Harriman, he served as Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman and later as the 48th Governor of New York.
Averell’s grandmother, Kitty Lanier Lawrence Harriman, with his aunt Kathy (left) and mother Mary.
Rowing across Forest Lake.
The Boat House.
Averell and Buddy at the Boat House.
The magnificent view from the Lake House.
Lake House interior.

Another Palm Beach family with a history in the Adirondacks are the Rumboughs. Having fond memories of his grandmother’s camp on Upper St Regis Lake, Stanley Hutton Rumbough, the grandson of Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. Hutton, and son of the late Dina Merrill and Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr., recently purchased Camp Pine Cove on Lake Simond in Tupper Lake.

Lake Simond in Tupper Lake. Photo by Stanley H. Rumbough.
Stan Rumbough sailing his Sakonnet 23 solo on Lake Simond.
Camp Pine Cove. Photo by Stanley H. Rumbough

The camp is a five-hour drive from their home in Greenwich, Connecticut, but Stan quickly realized (after purchasing it in 2017) that if they were going to be spending time there in the summer they would most likely be traveling from their summer place in East Hampton — which would mean a nine-hour drive! What to do? Buy a float plane, of course!

Flying Fish — The Rumbough’s Cessna Caravan EX, single engine turbo prop, eight seater, float plane, decorated by Stan’s beautiful wife, Leah, who also chose the N Number: N622TP (Tango Papa).

Stan met his wife, Leah, while working at Town & Country. He was a photographer, she was a model. Still gorgeous, the couple have four children: David “Cole” Rumbough, twins Allegra & Siena Rumbough and Kiera Rumbough, all college aged and above, who have also been spending time at Camp Pine Cove during the pandemic.

Stanley H. Rumbough, with daughters Siena, Allegra and Kiera, wife Leah and son Cole. Photo courtesy of Allegra Rumbough.

Last year, Stan’s work was published in a book called Behind the Privets: Classic Hamptons Houses by Richard Barons and Stanley Rumbough (DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2019). The foreword was written by David Netto, with preface by Alec Baldwin.

Available on Amazon, it was featured in Architectural Digest in June, 2019. Stan is now at work on his next book: Behind the Pines, Camps of the Adirondacks.

Stay tuned!

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