Piecing together a property’s history
Heidi Moore. Special to the Enterprise
Fran Yardley, in her own quest to find belonging, has given a gift to the North Country. Her book, “Finding True North,” has captured the history of the property that she and her husband Jay owned. She has meticulously documented the history and published it in the form of a charming narrative.
In 1854, a man named Virgil Bartlett arrived in the Adirondacks and, along with his wife, created a refuge for individuals traveling between two lakes. It was a place in the wilderness where fisherman navigating by water would need to carry their canoe from one lake to another and since it was a long way from any food or shelter, the patch of land was an ideal place for an Inn. Ultimately, the location was named the Bartlett Carry, and although it had many identities and owners over the years – The Bartlett Inn, the Bartlett Carry Club, The Treadway Inn — it remained a retreat for individuals and families. It was a place where a traveler could step out of the car (or carriage, originally), breathe in the scent of balsam and relax.
In 1968, Fran and her husband Jay acquired the property from Jay’s father and planned to reopen the facilities to paying customers. It was an ambitious plan. There were over 20 different structures on the property in various states of disrepair, not the least of which was a powerhouse next to a dam. The powerhouse provided DC electricity to the property, but the cottages themselves were without power. The buildings had to be renovated or destroyed and the renovations had to occur before Fran and Jay ran out of either money or energy. Ambitious, perhaps, but they accomplished their goal. In 1972, the first guests arrived.
While renovating the property, Fran and Jay discovered an old leather bound red journal, and a mystery in the form of a tarnished butter knife. Years later, after Jay died and after Fran had relinquished management of the Bartlett Carry to the next owners, she began pursuing the art of storytelling. Those objects she found years before would be the impetus for her to research and tell the story of the Bartlett Carry. She acquired public records of property owners, interviewed former employees and guests, and read through newspaper articles. Slowly she pieced together the history of the property. The leather journal was priceless for her research. It contained the minutes of the Saranac Club, an organization of cooperative owners of the property.
After her research was complete, she compiled what she discovered into “Finding True North.” The book is part historical document, and part memoir. It contains photos of memorabilia from years past as well as photos of Fran’s own children. She created the personal equivalent of what she found in the red journal … a documentation of the events during her ownership of the property. And she has passed it onto whomever or whatever comes next. The book is a gift linking past and present as well as a record of Fran’s personal journey to find authenticity in her life’s quest. Just like the dragonfly she mounted on the porch railing, she has given directions for others to follow.
My good friend, Ed Kanze, and his buddy, Josh Clement, have created an impressive portfolio of Adirondack videos. They stopped by within the past year or so and filmed this nod to the history of Bartlett Carry.
You can check out their fine work at Curiously Adirondack. Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit, settle back, and enjoy the view through some great windows into the small corners of the Adirondacks.
Finding True North: A History of One Small Corner of the Adirondacks
Fran Yardley’s inspiring memoir Finding True North recalls a marriage and partnership amid a reflection on the vast natural beauty of New York’s Adirondack region and the legacy of a mountain resort. Told in a companionable yet compelling tone, Yardley’s narrative broadens “one small corner” of the Bartlett Carry Club into a heartfelt landmark.
While many young couples of the 1960s were focused on liberation from the past, newlyweds Fran and Jay Yardley took on the mission of restoring the large, abandoned, century-old Bartlett Carry Club mountain lodge that Jay had inherited. In its heyday, the Club had attracted crowds of visitors keen on enjoying the area’s fishing, canoeing, and hiking amid a dazzlingly pristine wilderness.
Hardly a honeymoon, Fran and Jay’s ambitious project involved cleaning, hauling, rebuilding, and other seemingly endless tasks, all done without electricity or heat in their earliest years of ownership. After the renovations were finished and guests began to arrive for the summer season, the Yardleys assumed new duties of caretaking and hosting—in addition to raising two children.
Fran’s spirit of adventure, paired with a willingness to work hard, made her an ideal companion for Jay, but it was her growing fascination with the original founders of the Club and the history of the region that soon turned their efforts into a joint labor of love. Alternating between details of exhaustive rehabbing and recollections of Bartlett’s earliest years through to its initial closing, Finding True North brings the Club to life.
With a flow of lovely language and imagery of lush pines, full moons, and clear Adirondack lakes and skies, Finding True North is a testament to the unique spirit of preservation, regeneration, and place.
MEG NOLA (University Press 2018)
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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