RAQUETTE LAKE HISTORY
Raquette Lake was first settled by hunters, and a hearty breed indeed were those who colonized the remote shores of Hamilton County’s largest natural lake. William Wood, one of the first to arrive in 1840, was reputed to have lost both legs at the knee to a particularly bitter winter and an inadvisable penchant for drinking while trapping, but carried on his backwoods trade for several decades thereafter. Redoubtable guide Alvah Dunning also made his abode at Raquette after trials at Piseco, Lewey Lake and Blue Mountain Lake, moving further and deeper into the wild as the growing population of Hamilton County exposed him to an inconvenient degree of civilization.
The first hotel at Raquette Lake was a rustic affair that appeared in 1857 and was later moved to Forked, reopening as Forked Lake House. But Raquette’s most singular claim to fame would come not in the form of hotels but Great Camps, the celebrated form of woodsy architecture peopled by a veritable laundry list of industrial magnates. The Raquette Lake Railroad brought them there in style, begetting the present-day village of Raquette Lake at its terminal. Elegant steamers including the Killoquah, the Adirondack and the Osprey began to ply the waters of the Lake and by the turn of the century, Raquette was in its grand heyday, its “camps” – Echo, Fairview, Uncas, Pine Knot, Bluff Point, Antlers – a byword for backwoods luxury.
In 1927, a devastating fire swept through Raquette Lake, an echo of the conflagration that had destroyed the community of Long Lake West in 1903. Both communities rebuilt. While the golden age of the Great Camps was effectively over, both Long and Raquette remained popular resort towns through the 20th and into the 21st century.