A Brief History of Camp Santanoni

June 19th, 2010



As you may well know, I'm on a geographical hiatus from Danish Teak Classics and currently residing in the heart of the Adirondacks. This year, I will be working with one of my good friends, Angela Bateson, who is finishing her Masters in Historic Preservation from the Univerisity of Minnesota and Mary Lord, who is working towards a Masters in History at the University of Vermont. Before I delve into our preservation plans and projects throughout the summer, here is a brief history of the property and its architectural significance.

Camp Santanoni was built in 1892 by Albany banker, Robert Pruyn. He was not the first to seek solace in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, nor was he the first to commission a grand rustic styled estate. Camp Santanoni is unique from the rest in a few ways. Robert's father was the first foreign ambassador to Japan when it briefly opened their doors in 1862. During this time, he and his father lived in the attached apartments of the Zempukuji Temple. Japan had recently opened its ports to trade and the world became enthralled with Japanese design and culture, including many of the Danish designers in the years to come. Robert developed a lifelong admiration for all things Japanese and expressed it his Adirondack estate. Unlike other grand American architecture of that time, the Santanoni estate is in harmony with its natural surroundings. Japanese culture taught that we should seek balance in all things. Our structures should not dominate the landscape, but work with them. In this way, the plan of the Pruyn estate is stepped back from the lake front, giving it a smaller presence since the estate can not be seen in whole from any single vantage point. The shape of the plan was also modeled after a phoenix in flight, which was believed to be symbolic of the transition to a better place. One of the greatest aspects of the design is the extensive porch. The estate has four individual cabins, a large kitchen, and central great hall, all of which are connected by an outdoor covered porch. Like a traditional Japanese house, there is not a single hallway, so the traverse between the individual spaces is very public, but the cabins are absolutely private. Today, as it was then, the porch is the most popular gathering space, providing beautiful views and protection from the elements.  

Intermittently between posts about other interesting things related to modern design or Scandinavia, I am planning to post updates about the work we are doing on Camp Santanoni. Please let me know if this is something of interest or not. Many thanks.

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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