36,000-acre Whitney Adirondack estate on market for $180 million

Whitney Park includes 36,000 acres conservationists have long eyed
Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson in the 2015
Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson in the 2015

Categories: News, Saratoga County

ADIRONDACKS — The family of the late Marylou Whitney is putting its 36,000-acre estate in the heart of the Adirondacks up for sale with an asking price of $180 million.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Whitney’s widower, John Hendrickson, is putting the property in the town of Long Lake — which includes an Adirondack great camp called Deerlands as well as thousands of acres of remote lakes and forests — up for sale, a year after her death.

The property has been in the wealthy Whitney family since the 1890s, and conservationists have long hoped that someday it would become part of the state’s Adirondack Park forest preserve holdings.

“It is one of the most remote spots in the Adirondacks, the furthest from any roads, so we fully expected within a certain amount of time after the passing of Marylou Whitney that the property would come up for sale,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.

Whether the state could afford the asking price is a different question, but Bauer said the price doesn’t seem excessive, given the way the Adirondack real estate market has appreciated. Some conservationists had speculated the asking price would be $200 million, he said.

Hendrickson inherited the property when Whitney, a philanthropist, socialite and thoroughbred racing owner who spent much of the year in either Saratoga Springs or the Adirondacks, died last July at age 93. He said he wants to sell the property in part because it is lonely there now.

“I think $5,000 an acre is a bargain,” Hendrickson told the Journal. He will be marketing the land himself, without using a real estate agent, he said.

“We’ve been very good stewards of the land and we want the next owner to be the same,” Hendrickson said.

The property not only includes the rustic mansion-like Deerlands, which can accommodate dozens of visitors and sits on Little Forked Lake, one of the 22 lakes on the estate, but also includes both a trapper’s cabin from the 1800s and a commercial timber operation.

The Journal reported that the mansion, built in the 1890s, sits at the end of a road eight miles from the property’s gatehouse. A collection of Adirondack guide boats from the 1800s and 25 canoes are being sold with the property, Hendrickson told the paper. The property came to Marylou Whitney through her previous husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, who died in 1992.

The land is home to bear, deer, moose and bald eagles, Hendrickson said.

The state has made a deal for other parts of the Whitney land in the past. In 1997, Marylou Whitney sold 14,700 acres to New York state for $17.1 million, and the state created the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area between Long Lake and Tupper Lake.

The land going up for sale borders the Whitney Wilderness Area, as well as other state land, including the Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area and Sargent Pond Wild Forest.

Bauer said the remaining acreage in Whitney Park has been on both the state’s and various conservation organizations’ top-acquisition lists for 50 years, and compared the situation to that in the 1990s, when organizations had to coordinate efforts as timber companies put their lands — or development rights to their lands — up for sale. Negotiating and closing the deals took years, and the state has since stepped in to buy much of the land that groups such as The Nature Conservancy initially purchased.

“The difference today is a billionaire could waltz in and just say we’d love to pay that, and New York state can’t do that,” Bauer said. “That’s one of the great properties in the Adirondacks, and to see it sold for subdivision would be a great tragedy.”

Hendrickson is currently in the process of auctioning off a number of his late wife’s possessions in an online auction for charity, which ends at midnight on Saturday. Proceeds will be used to establish a backstretch medical clinic for the workers at Saratoga Race Course.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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