Saratoga County

State revives Adirondack resort as campground

A former resort site on the scenic western shore of Schroon Lake is the state’s newest Adirondack ca

A former resort site on the scenic western shore of Schroon Lake is the state’s newest Adirondack campground.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation this summer opened Scaroon Manor, its first new campground in more than 35 years — a disabled-accessible facility built where there was once a major lakeside resort called Scaroon Manor on Taylor Point.

The 241-acre site in Chester, on the northern border of Warren County, includes meadows facing the lake, a beach and boat dock, both open and wooded campsites, and even a stone amphitheater with a bandshell, a remnant of the swank resort.

The resort employed as many as 300 local people in its heyday, from the 1920s through the 1950s. Parts of the Hollywood movie “Marjorie Morningstar” were shot there in 1957, with local people cast as extras. One of the camping loops is called “Morning Star” in the film’s honor.

“We’ve had lots of people come in and reminisce about when it was a resort,” said Shireen Sheehan, DEC’s site caretaker.

One of a kind

But Scaroon Manor Campground isn’t just new, it was designed so that the entire facility, from its 60 camp sites to its dock and beach, are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

It employs a principle called “universal design” — meaning camp sites have reinforced surfaces, picnic tables have extensions for wheelchairs, there are many paved paths, and the showers and other buildings are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.

Carole Fraser, coordinator of DEC’s universal access program, said it’s the most accessible facility she knows of in North America, exceeding the standards set by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“People of all abilities have access to the full range of recreation,” Fraser said.

While the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation operates campgrounds in other parts of the state, DEC operates the 50 state campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves. Scaroon Manor is the first new campground DEC has opened since 1974.

There was a soft opening on June 24, and an official dedication ceremony attended by DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens on Aug. 9, at which he emphasized its universal access features.

“We are thrilled to offer the public a one-of-a-kind campground that has been designed from the ground up to provide access to the natural beauty of the Adirondack Park to people of all abilities,” Martens said.

Following universal design principles fit with the approach DEC uses when building in the forest preserve, said Tom Miller, chief of DEC’s design and construction bureau.

“Because it is in the forest preserve, we try to fit it into the character of the community, keep the buildings rustic, and screen facilities from the lake,” Miller said. “We let the site tell us what to do.”

The Scaroon Manor property is relatively flat, and had a number of paved paths already from the days when it was a resort.

“When we looked at the site, it wasn’t a big lift to make it all accessible,” Miller said.

Fraser said the accessible design features benefit not just people who use wheelchairs, but many others, too, like senior citizens who may have mobility problems but not consider themselves disabled, and families camping with small children.

Natural attraction

Fraser hopes the campground will be a draw that gets more disabled people to spend time in nature, and they and other campers will learn from each other. Scaroon Manor’s higher profile may encourage more people to try other accessible DEC facilities in the Adirondacks, she said.

“We have created over the last few years hundreds of accessible sites throughout the Adirondacks, but it’s hard to get the word out,” she said.

The land has a long history of being used for rest and relaxing in an Adirondack setting.

New York state bought the property in 1967 with the intention of re-developing the closed and run-down Scaroon Manor resort, but questions then arose about the appropriateness of the state building such a project in the Adirondack Park.

“Back in ’67, there were big plans to develop it,” said Gary West, DEC’s regional operations supervisor. “Then all of a sudden, the money wasn’t there.”

The nearby Eagle Point DEC campsite offers camping near the lake, but doesn’t have a beach.

So over the years people began camping on the land and using the beach there on their own — pitching tents, crowding the site and leaving litter behind. That unsanctioned activity prompted the state to develop plans for a regulated campground.

“Memorial Days, we would have a couple of hundred people here, large volumes of alcohol, and they didn’t forget not to pick up the garbage,” West said. “There was no sanitation. There were problems with fires, with people fighting.”

The state developed a management plan for the site in 2002, with work then going forward as funding has allowed, West said.

The campground has cost the state $3.85 million. Money from the Environmental Protection Fund and from a 1996 environmental bond act has helped pay for it.

Work started in 2004. The day use portion of the facility opened in 2006, but readying the three loops of campsites took until this year.

Storied past

For more than a century before its new incarnation, Taylor Point was a place people came to relax and admire the Adirondacks’ beauty.

A man named Charles Taylor opened a hotel and guest cottages on the point in 1865.

That resort was known as Taylor’s on Schroon and was popular throughout the second half of the 19th century.

The property was purchased in the early 1920’s by Joseph Frieber, a New York City restaurateur who developed a major Borcht Belt-type resort he named Scaroon Manor, with a hotel, cottages, beach and nine-hole golf course. At its height, there were 135 buildings on the property. For many years, it was a destination for well-to-do Jewish families from New York City, an Adirondack version of the great resorts of the Catskills.

“It was a world-class resort,” Monroe said. “A lot of stars got their starts there.”

The movie “Marjorie Morningstar,” about a Jewish girl’s summer experiences at an Adirondack camp, was filmed there, starring Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood.

The resort is fondly remembered today, but business at such great resorts declined after World War II, and Scaroon Manor closed in 1962. Soon afterward, the state began eyeing the property.

Once the state decided not to develop a new resort, the remaining buildings were sold or burned.

But the history isn’t entirely lost. Interpretive signs at the campground tell much of the history.

Over its seven years of development, state inmate work crews and public works crews from Warren County and the towns of Chester and Schroon have helped build the campground. The communities hope they will benefit from campground users spending money locally.

“It’s definitely going to bring in people to buy food and gas, benefit the convenience stores,” said Chester town Supervisor Fred Monroe.

Local officials have long wanted the state to do something with the land it bought after the Scaroon Manor resort had closed.

“It’s been closed for 44 years. I’ve been supervisor for 20 years, and opening it has been one of my goals. It’s a gorgeous place,” Monroe said.

Roger Friedman, a Realtor in the village of Schroon Lake and member of the Schroon Town Board, said businesses there, about five miles north of the campground, may be seeing an economic benefit already.

“Schroon Lake village is having an uptick in day use this year, and there isn’t anything else new,” said Friedman, a Schroon native whose mother was an extra in “Marjorie Morningstar.”

“It is absolutely gorgeous,” Friedman said of the campground. “Obviously, when they started with improvements, people were hoping for more, but you have to be happy with what you get.”

The campground has access to two miles of state-owned shoreline on the lake.

West said a third phase of development, not yet funded, would establish 15 more campsites near the lake shore north of Scaroon Manor, on the former Camp Cayuga property.

The campground is off Route 9, about three miles north of Pottersville, and less than a mile south of Northway Exit 27.

Camping costs $25 per night, and the day use fee is $10. Information on camping reservations is available at DEC’s website at

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