Real Estate

JP Morgan's former country getaway can now be yours

Source: Goss

This National Historic Landmark is a prime example of the Adirondack-style Great Camp — rustic lakeside compounds built for the wealthy in the late 19th century. Constructed from local timber and stone, they exhibit craftsmanship that isn't easily replicated. But Camp Uncas almost wasn't completed until J. Pierpont Morgan stepped in — even though he didn't want the place at first.

Uncas, which is brokered by Michael Franklin of Franklin Ruttan in Syracuse, New York, was previously priced at $3.35 million and then $3.25 million. Now, as winter's promise of evenings by a cozy fireplace beckons, the price is reduced to $2.95 million. (It has also been listed as a vacation rental for $1,000 - $1,400 per night, although all future dates are unavailable.)

Let's have a spin through to see how much this rustic "cabin" $3 million buys, and learn more about its gilded age past.

—By Colleen Kane, special to
Posted 19 Nov. 2015

Main lodge

Source: Goss

Since the 1980s, the original property has been divided into three parcels with separate owners. The Howard Kirschenbaum family is selling the main part of the camp, which has five buildings.

The main lodge, Uncas, is named for the hero of "Last of the Mohicans" by James Fenimore Cooper. Located on a peninsula with water views from both sides, it has five bedrooms, 3½ baths, three fieldstone fireplaces, a big three-season screened porch overlooking the lake, built-ins including closets (a rarity for homes from this age) window-side seating and a modern cherry wood kitchen, added later as meals were originally prepared in the dining hall.


Source: Goss

Uncas comes furnished with almost all of its original "stick" furniture, including an oak-top table seating 12, a 14-foot rustic sideboard, dressers, beds (seen here), tables, and desks, as well as other furniture dating to the period when it was built. Bathrooms include an original sink and original claw-foot tubs, including Morgan's 6-foot long bath tub, the better to accommodate his tall figure. It also includes boats, taxidermy, customized blankets (pictured here) and embroidered linens, dishes and silverware. Many of the latches and other household hardware were forged by the blacksmith on site.


Source: Goss

Also part of the deal are two guest cabins named for characters from the book: Hawkeye (which can be used three seasons, pictured here) and Chingachgook (four seasons), as well as a lean-to and a boathouse. Building exteriors are crafted from log and bark, with interiors made of polished planks and logs.

The property is 4.6 acres with 1,700 feet of shoreline on Raquette Lake, including a waterfront lawn and sandy swimming area.


Source: Goss

Uncas is one of several "Great Camps" in the area built by William West Durant, who built the railroad leading into the Adirondack Mountains.

From 1893 to 1895, building Camp Uncas was a job for 200 men. They made a 20-building complex set on 1,500 wooded acres, which included the main lodge, a guest cabin, a dining hall, a boathouse, and caretaker and staff quarters (staff ranged from 10 to 30), as well as farm and other support buildings like an iron foundry to forge all the buildings' hardware and a sugarhouse.

As had happened in his other local endeavors, Durant ran out of funds during the construction. Enter Morgan, who loaned him enough to continue. When Durant's financial woes got worse, the two reached an understanding resulting in Morgan buying the camp in 1897.

It almost didn't happen. "'He took one look at Camp Uncas, recalled one of his granddaughters, and decided he wasn't interested, as he was not at all an outdoor gentleman,'" according to Jean Strouse's "Morgan: American Financier." But he did it for the kids, and the friends, and the rest of the family, who enjoyed visiting year round. Morgan himself came around, but only in the winter.

Durant went on to build the Vanderbilts' nearby Great Camp Sagmore.

Morgan's additions

Source: Goss

Morgan tailored it to suit his lifestyle. His upgrades included the most modern bathrooms of the day, long-distance telephones, a 12-griddle range, two Steinway pianos, three dozen champagne glasses, blue and white china, thick fur sleigh rugs, horsehair mattresses, feather pillows, a white polar bear rug, and 125 Plymouth Rock hens, according to Strouse. He added the second guest house, expanded the dining hall and joined with his neighbors to create an 18-mile railroad link from their properties to the nearest train station in Clearwater, which would bring them into New York City.

Strouse wrote that Morgan didn't stay long at Uncas when he went, not being one for relaxing in nature. "As soon as he finished setting up and fitting out each new country 'barony,' from Cragston to Camp Uncas, he tended to lose interest and move on." However, Uncas remained in the family well after his death, for half a century in all.

Later history

Source: Goss

In 1947, the compound first changed hands to Margaret Vanderbilt Emerson. It later became a retreat, then went to the Birrell family for 10 years. The family opened it to public for two years and leased it to the head of A&P grocery chain for five years. It then sold to the Boy Scouts, which sold it to the State Forest Preserve. In 1975, Howard Kirschenbaum and Barbara Glaser, who directed the nonprofit that owned Sagamore, bought Uncas. They rented out some of it, and part of it was used for a summer camp. The couple divorced in the 1980s and and split the property. Family friends bought the guest house. The couple have remarried, and all families continue to use their property and restore it and cooperate to pay for the road and water system.

The neighborhood

Source: Goss

The surrounding 1,500 or so acres that were once part of the property are now permanently protected as the New York State Forest Preserve. Great Camp Sagmore is still standing up the road as a conference center and historic site, and only one other private camp, Kamp Kill Kare, shares the six-mile road, which has Camp Uncas positioned at the end.