Begun in 1882, Camp Wildair was the first permanent Great Camp on Upper Saint Regis Lake, in the town of Brighton. 1 The camp was built by New York Herald Tribune publisher Whitelaw Reid and his wife Elizabeth Mills Reid on a 29-acre peninsula accessible only by water. It presently consists of 12 buildings, 10 of which were built before 1931.
The camp was originally designed by Reid's niece, Ella Spencer Reid, who also named the camp. It was begun on land that was leased; Margaret Phelps-Stokes Hooker, daughter of Anson Phelps Stokes, in her Camp Chronicles, sniffs that "she seems to have built before she owned." 2 The land was purchased by the Reids in 1890. At Reid's death in 1914, the property was valued at $50,000.3
The main lodge of unpeeled cedar logs, called the Living Room, was designed by McKim, Mead and White, and is the only known example of a rustic design from that firm. It was added in 1917 after a fire damaged earlier structures; it features sitting and billiard rooms overlooking the lake. The "Bishop's Palace", a small log octagon set at the water's edge with a massive fireplace and chimney, was named for its occasional use by Episcopalian clerics; there are two other, similar buildings at the camp, all designed by William Rutherford Mead. There is also a guest cottage with eight bedrooms, two boathouses and a recreation hall. The main buildings are connected by stone walkways. Many of the furnishings are original.
The camp is still owned by descendants of the original owners. It was included in a multiple property submission for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and was listed in 1986.4
New York Times, September 18, 1916
FIRE SWEEPS REID CAMP.
Four Cabins Are Destroyed—Guests Escape Flames.
PAUL SMITH'S, N. Y., Sept. 17:— Four cabins at Wild Air, the Summer camp of Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, were destroyed by fire early this morning. Three young women guests had narrow escapes.
Miss Margaret Nichols, daughter of the late Rev. W. F. Nichols, Bishop of California, awakened by the crackling of flames in her room on the second floor of one of the cabins on the edge of Upper St. Regis Lake, ran to another room and awoke Miss Augusta L. Bishop of New York. While they were making their way from the cabin, Miss Helen Soarth, finding that the door of her room opened on a wall of flame, dropped safely to earth.
A neighboring cabin, used as a living room, was the next to catch fire, but, meanwhile, the young women had run through the camp and awakened every one, Mrs. Whitelaw Reid and Mrs. Hamilton McK. Twombly, who were in one cabin, had ample time to get out before the flames reached it.
In the living room cabin, were a number of valuable moose and elk heads, which were burned. By the time persons from neighboring camps reached Wild Air in canoes and rowboats, the four cabins were in ashes. It was said that the loss was partially covered by insurance.
"I consider it fortunate that the three young women who were in the cabin which caught fire escaped with their lives," said Ogden Mills Reid tonight.
Unidentified, undated (c. 1931) news clipping
CAMP WILDAIR IS BEQUEATHED TO OGDEN REID
Camp Wildair on Upper St. Regis lake was left to Ogden Reid, publisher of the New York Herald-Tribune, in the will of Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, which was filed Thursday in probate in Westchester county. Charitable gifts included $715,000 the largest of which are $500,000 to the Mills Memorial hospital of San Mateo, Cal., and $100,000 to Lady Jean Templeton Ward, her daughter, for use at her discretion for the Barnsbury Boys and Girls Club, London. Several hospitals and sanatoria were given legacies, among them Trudeau sanatorium here, which received $20,000.
Ogden Reid and his sister, Lady Ward, were named as the principal beneficiaries in the will and received trust funds of $3,000,000 and the residue of the estate after charitable gifts are deducted.
Camp Wildair, which Mrs. Reid occupied many summers, was the first elaborate summer camp erected on exclusive Upper St. Regis lake.
Count Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff, German Ambassador to the U.S., was a guest at White Pine Camp in 1914. The scandal that took him down — a newspaper photo of him with two young ladies, neither one his wife, in bathing costumes — apparently occurred there, though he reportedly also visited Camp Wild Air on Upper St. Regis Lake.
Gilborn, Craig. Adirondack Camps: Homes Away from Home, 1850-1950. Blue Mountain Lake, NY: Adirondack Museum; Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Kaiser, Harvey. Great Camps of the Adirondacks. Boston: David R. Godine, 1982.
Hooker, Mildred Phelps Stokes, Camp Chronicles, Blue Mountain Lake, NY: Adirondack Museum, 1964. ISBN 0-910020-16-7.
1. National Register of Historic Places Registration Nomination Form: Camp Wildair from NY OPRHP
2. Hooker, p. 12
3. New York Times, January 3, 1914, "PUT WHITELAW REID ESTATE AT $1,398,884"
4. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Great Camps of the Adirondacks, Larry E. Gobrecht, NRHP, National Park Service