• Adirondack Rustic

    Rusticity is an American expression, inspired by romantic notions of wilderness as untamed nature.

    This concept of wilderness was really an imaginative creation since by the mid-19th century most "wild" land was tamed and lived in. Nevertheless the idea spawned an extraordinary output of furniture, architecture, and art.

    Rusticity was, to a large degree, defined and refined in the Adirondacks.

    Ingenuity and imagination, novelty and fantasy are hallmarks of Adirondack rustic creations.

    The enduring fascination with rustic objects coincides with the enduring attraction of untouched natural places, and the importance of wilderness in American thought and culture.

    The Adirondack forest has served as a remarkable resource, fueling settlement, offering recreation, providing habitat and watershed protection, and inspiring artist and artisan alike. Since the early 1800s local loggers have valued its timber just as city folk have looked to these same woods as sanctuary.

    In Adirondack Rustic: Nature's Art the response to wilderness is to tame and capture its form in the things of everyday life: chair, bench, desk, dwelling. One man's lumber is another's artistic inspiration.

  • Adirondack Log Cabin

    ca. 1900
    P20735

    Early Adirondack settlers constructed homes and other buildings from logs for practical reasons, as wood—but not sawn lumber—was abundant. As late as 1882, most sawmills, like roads and towns, were located on the edges of the region. People living in the interior eked out a living by market hunting and fishing, guiding, farming, and logging. Frame construction was often too expensive. By the 1870s, as wealthy summer visitors established comfortable, sometimes elaborate, camps in the Adirondacks, the homely log cabin became a picturesque symbol of America's roots in the wilderness, and an inspiration to developers like William West Durant.

  • Adirondack Guides' Association at NY Sportsmen's Show

    ca. 1900
    P10895

    " 'Camp Adirondack'—which many persons have declared to be one of the gems of the Exposition—is as effective a suggestion of how delightfully snug and cozy a rustic abode in the North Woods may be made as could well be imagined."

    —New York Forest, Fish and Game Commission exhibit in Palace of Fish and Game, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904. Woods and Waters VII, 2, Summer 1904

    World's Fairs and national expositions have captured the imaginations of hundreds of millions of visitors. Showcases of design, architecture, technology, industry and politics, fairs and expos display society's accomplishments and hopes for the future. In Philadelphia in 1876, Chicago in 1893, and St. Louis in 1904, expos regularly featured "Adirondack" log cabins, guides, trophy animals, and lean-tos. Such exhibits advertised the region as a sportsmen's paradise and vacation destination, and showcased the rustic aesthetic that was increasingly identified with the Adirondacks.

  • Avalanche Camp lean-to

    ca. 1930
    P15095

    "Just because you cannot obtain a carload of real logs, you need not deny yourself the pleasure that a cabin gives. Manufacturers have modernized the log-cabin idea and made it available to everyone. In fact, the modernized cabin usually is cheaper in the long run than the genuine log variety."

    —How to Build Cabins, Lodges and Bungalows, Popular Science Publishing Co., Inc., 1948

    By the late 19th century, Adirondack rustic architecture was incorporated in national mainstream design for vacation homes across the country, particularly in the Appalachians, Maine, the Great Lakes states, the Western Rocky Mountains, and Canada. Log building plans modeled after Adirondack camps were published in "how-to" books as early as 1889. Beginning in 1916, the National Park Service adopted the style for National Park lodges and camps. The Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s built Adirondack rustic style lean-tos and other structures in the forest and mountain regions across the country.

    This remarkably rich and diverse style still appeals today. Once again, there is a booming market for the beauty and practicality of the rustic aesthetic in how-to-build-a-house books and pre-fabricated log house kits in the United States and Canada.

  • Saranac beer carton

    2002 - 2004
    2004.9.1

    The idea of rusticity has been used to lure travelers to the Adirondack Park for more than a century. Today, it lingers in the American imagination, associated with clean living, honest work, health, and getting back to nature. Rusticity is used to advertise not only the region, but a host of goods and services ranging from clothing to furniture to Absolut vodka. In fact, the terms "Adirondack" and "rustic" have become practically interchangeable in popular usage.