A remote Adirondack cabin built by famed naturalist Anne LaBastille will soon be moved from its wooded lakefront location to an indoor exhibit at a museum in the central Adirondacks.
The small structure and many of LaBastille’s personal effects were donated to the Adirondack Museum by her estate following her death in 2011. An accompanying gift of $300,000 will help cover the cost of moving the rustic dwelling and incorporating it into a new exhibition, “The Adirondack Experience,” scheduled to open in 2017.
A well-known author, ecologist, environmental advocate and former Adirondack Park Agency commissioner, LaBastille took refuge in the wilderness in the 1960s and published a series of popular “Woodswoman” memoirs about what it was like to live alone in the Adirondacks. She was 77 when she died.
The cabin the museum will acquire is the first of three LaBastille built and lived in. Constructed in the mid-1960s, it is located on the shore of Twitchell Lake and is accessible only by boat. It has no running water or electricity.
LaBastille expanded the cabin over the years, enclosing porches and adding some space, but the museum will exhibit only the original, one-room, 12-by-12-foot core, along with its outhouse.
Laura Rice, chief curator for the Adirondack Museum, visited the cabin for the first time last year.
“It was actually really cool because her hat was still hanging by the door, her boots were still upside down on the wall to dry, her slippers are there, little bits of writing on the desk. It really was almost like she just walked out the door, except dustier,” she recalled.
This fall, curators and conservators from the museum will catalogue the cabin’s furnishings and other contents and prepare to move them to the museum. The cabin will be carefully dismantled, and once the lake freezes, it will be skidded across the ice.
Structural preservationist Michael Frenette, known for his work in stabilizing and restoring Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, will relocate the structure to the museum’s 32-acre campus.
Items to be featured in the museum’s exhibit include LaBastille’s boots, one of her hats, her typewriter and a little red dresser on which she hung her jewelry.
“She had these beautiful Guatemalan textiles she used for curtains and in other places, so actually there’s a lot of color in the cabin — lots of reds and yellows,” Rice noted.
Headstones made for LaBastille’s beloved German shepherds will be on display, as well.
Rice said LaBastille had a tremendous influence on women, nature and the conservation movement in the United States.
“I think that she, like so many other people, found something here in nature, in the Adirondacks, that really resonated on an emotional level, and I think she made it not just OK, but really great, that women could participate in that experience, that they had a voice in conservation on a much larger stage,” she said.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, met LaBastille when she was a board member for the Adirondack Park Agency.
“She was deeply passionate about the ecological and natural processes in places like the Adirondacks. Living as she did, she was very close to those natural processes and had an opportunity to observe them in a way that few people ever get to do,” he said.
LaBastille’s lifestyle can offer important lessons to the public, Woodworth said.
“We all could learn that we could simplify our lives and have less of an impact on the resources of the planet,” he explained.
In addition to the LaBastille exhibit, the Adirondack Museum has other new attractions in the works, including activities that will invite visitors to descend into a mine shaft, break up a log jam and enjoy an Adirondack waters play area. Outdoor experiences will include a mile-long hiking trail to Minnow Pond and a new boat livery with examples of historic Adirondack vessels.