Located on the eastern shore of Lake George, Wiawaka Holiday House is the oldest continuously operating women's retreat in the United States. It was founded in 1903 by Mary Wiltse Fuller of Troy, New York as a place where single and often immigrant women who were laboring in the textile mills of Troy and Cohoes, New York could escape the city for a vacation. These vacations were offered to the factory women at discounted prices, and some women attended for free through the philanthropic fund. Almost 200 guests stayed at Wiawaka in its first summer, paying room and board of $3.50 per week.

Mary Fuller originally leased the property, formerly the site of an early Lake George resort known as the Crosbyside Hotel, from her friends Spencer and Katrina Trask. The Trasks had a long history of philanthropic work, and are perhaps best known for establishing the artist community of Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, which remains in operation. Later that first year the Trasks transferred Wiawaka to Mary Fuller for one dollar and a bouquet of flowers; Mary, in turn, deeded the property to the Holiday House. Mary Fuller spent portions of almost every summer at Wiawaka, and remained active in its operation and support until her death in 1943. The main administrative building at Wiawaka bears her name. Wiawaka Holiday House remains in operation, offering affordable programs and vacations for all women.

Wiawaka Holiday House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 (read the Nomination here; view the supplementary photos here). It is one of the Places Where Women Made History, a travel itinerary compiled by the National Park Service of National Register properties in Massachusetts and New York associated with significant events in women's history. The property currently encompasses almost 60 acres of Lake George waterfront and wooded hills at the base of French Mountain, and is located within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park. The Wiawaka Holiday House archives are housed at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York.

Property Timeline:
This timeline will be expanded as research continues. Links from these entries to further information will be added as the site is updated (c. = circa, or an approximate date).
  • Pre-Contact: There are scattered traces of pre-contact Native American occupation in the area around Wiawaka.
  • 1758: Seven British vessels (the Wiawaka Bateaux) were sunk offshore to keep them from falling into the hands of French raiders during the French and Indian Wars. While most of the "sunken fleet" was re-floated, these seven vessels remain at the bottom of the lake.
  • 1840s/1850s: The United States Hotel built.
  • 1855: The hotel leased for one year to the Lake George Young Ladies' Institute.
  • 1858: A map of the area shows the United States Hotel in operation on the property.
  • Late 1850s?: United States Hotel sold to Francis G. Crosby and becomes the Crosbyside Hotel.
  • 1862: Mary Wiltse Fuller born.
  • c. 1873: Mayflower, Rose, and original Pine Cottages built.
  • 1876: Building now known as Fuller House built.
  • Late 1880s: Crosby sells the Crosbyside Hotel; it continues in operation under the same name.
  • 1902: Katrina and Spencer Trask purchase the Crosbyside Hotel property.
  • 1903: Wiawaka Holiday House founded by Mary Wiltse Fuller under the auspices of the Girls' Friendly Society. Guests are housed in the cottages and a wing of the old Crosbyside Hotel. The Trasks transfer title of eight acres to Mary Wiltse Fuller for one dollar and a bouquet of flowers.
  • c. 1904: Building now known as the House of Trix built as a bath house.
  • 1905: The Trasks build Amitola, now known as Wakonda Lodge, as an artists' retreat. Fire destroys the Crosbyside Hotel, the original Pine Cottage, and several outbuildings.
  • c. 1907: Ice house, and second Pine Cottage built. Wiawaka Holiday House incorporated.
  • 1908: Amitola purchased from Katrina Trask by Mary Fuller; she transferred the property to Wiawaka Holiday House before her death. Artist Georgia O'Keeffe spent the summer of 1908 at an artists' retreat at Wiawaka.
  • 1914: Two milk cows purchased for Wiawaka to provide milk for the guests, as it was difficult to get enough supply from local farmers.
  • 1915: Barn and shed built on the north side of Route 9L to house the cows year-round (per 1915-1916 Annual Report; previously barn thought to have been built c. 1912).
  • 1916: Wiawaka's buildings wired for electricity. Boat house built over the winter of 1916-1917 using donated money (per 1916-1917 Annual Report; previously thought to have been built c. 1907).
  • 1917: Large garden planted for summer and winter vegetables to help keep expenses down.
  • 1940s: Gazebo built.
  • 1943: Mary Fuller dies.
  • 1963: Lake House built.
  • 1998: Wiawaka Holiday House placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the property is owned by Wiawaka Holiday House, Inc., and continues to be operated as a holiday retreat primarily for women, though men accompanied by a woman are welcome during the month of July. Wiawaka's mission statement is to provide "enrichment and revitalization for women at a historic lakefront setting." Wiawaka is committed to the preservation of its historic buildings and landmark property.