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National Historic Landmark Article

The following article appeared in the Winter 2004 of Columns, SUNY Cortland's alumni newspaper.

Cortland's Raquette Lake Camp Becomes First National Historic Landmark in SUNY

By Peter D. Koryzno, Columns Editor

The U.S. National Park Service officially designated SUNY Cortland's Camp Pine Knot, now known as Camp Huntington and the site of the College's Outdoor Education Center since 1948, as a National Historic Landmark on Aug. 18.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton signed the document making Camp Pine Knot the first and only National Historic Landmark owned and operated by a SUNY institution.

"National Historic Landmark designation is the highest level of designation afforded to historic resources in the United States," explained William Krattinger, a historic preservation specialist with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "Fewer than 2,500 national Historic Landmarks have been designated nation-wide.

"It's wonderful news for our College that the Department of the Interior has formally recognized the importance of Camp Pine Knot, which we now call Camp Huntington, in American architectural history," said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum, adding that the College will celebrate this new designation with a special event tentatively scheduled for this summer.

"This new classification will provide an increased status for much-needed historical preservation funding and expand opportunities for both private and federal support of this magnificent facility," said Jack Sheltmire, the director of SUNY Cortland's Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

He explained that the Outdoor Education Center is presently funded through the College's operating budget and donations from alumni and friends.

The process of Camp Pine Knot becoming a National Historic Landmark began two years ago, said Krattinger, whose office had just successfully worked on getting landmark status for Santanoni Preserve in Newcomb, N.Y., and Sagamore Lodge on Sagamore Lake, two highly significant examples of the Adirondack Camp design.

Krattinger had used the Adirondack Camps National Historic Landmarks Theme Study, a document created by a private consultant in 2000, as a guide and a resource for evaluating potential sites that would meet the demanding national significance criteria needed for landmark designation.

"In January 2003, the National Historic Landmarks program contracted with our office for two more nominations to be produced as part of the study," said Krattinger. Both Camp Pine Knot and Eagle Island Camp were submitted and Krattinger worked on the projects until their successful completion.

The birthplace of the Adirondack style of architecture, Camp Pine Knot was the first of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks.

"Begun in 1877 and designed primarily by William West Durant, an innovator in the field of Adirondack camp design and one of the first promoters of the region, Pine Knot formed the prototype for the decentralized-type Adirondack camp and proved a landmark architectural essay in the form's development," explained Krattinger.

The structural design represented a blend of Durant's experiences in Europe and his exposure to the vernacular architecture of the Adirondack region.

"Camp Pine Knot, with its rustic, interrelated buildings developed sensitively within a remote and secluded location on Raquette Lake, offered the prototype for the American Adirondack Camp," added Krattinger. "The influence of these camps, which formed both architectural and social expressions of the patrons who financed their design and construction, extended well beyond the Adirondack region, and remains clearly readable in much of the rustic architecture of our larger National Parks in the western United States."

Durant's ownership was transferred to Collis P. Huntington in 1895. Huntington died at the Raquette Lake camp on August 13, 1900. In the mid-1940s, SUNY Cortland faculty discovered the unused camp and the College negotiated with the Huntington family to purchase it for its outdoor education classes. In 1948, ownership was deeded to the Cortland State Teachers College and renamed Huntington Memorial Camp.

In the 54 years since, SUNY Cortland faculty and students have restored and preserved the original integrity of the buildings and grounds, while using the cherished historical site for year-round classes in physical education, recreation, biology, art and other sciences. Other colleges and organizations have also used Camp Huntington for instruction and conferences.

"Raquette Lake has been a very special place for generations of Cortland alumni," said Sheltimre. "The College has done an excellent job in maintaining the century-old facilities."

In 1998, Adirondack Architectural Heritage presented SUNY Cortland with a special award for its long-time preservation efforts at Camp Huntington.