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Wiawaka is one of the oldest and longest continously operated retreats for women in America. Mary Wiltsie Fuller established Wiawaka in 1903. A progressive activist for women's rights, she saw the need for an affordable respite for female immigrants working in the shirt-collar factories, mills and laundries of her native Troy, and Cohoes.
Today, Wiawaka continues as a summer retreat for women. We offer affordable vacations on a sliding fee scale and many enrichment programs. Guests must be over 18 years of age. Wiawaka is a place to recharge spirits and try out new skills.
Wiawaka is a special place created with foresight by and for women in 1903. It is both one of the oldest and longest continuously operating retreats for women in America.
Wiawaka's founder, Mary Wiltsie Fuller was the daughter of a Troy industrialist. She was active both at St Paul's Episcopal Church and the Troy Young Women's Association (which later became the YWCA) (link YWCA Troy/Cohoes). She used her position and her wealth to help the young, mainly immigrant, female textile workers employed as shirt collar makers, laundresses and millworkers in Troy and Cohoes. Troy was at the time known as "The City of Women" because so many were working in the garment industry. The Troy Y and the churches provided reading rooms, free instruction, religious training, safe affordable housing, and recreational opportunities for the women. Wiawaka made it possible for the "girls" to escape the city and enjoy affordable vacations. In its first summer of operation, 176 guests came, and room and board was $3.35 per week. Miss Fuller remained committed and involved with Wiawaka until her death in 1943.
Miss Fuller approached her friends Spencer and Katrina Trask of Tuxedo Park, Saratoga and Lake George about helping to find a location for her retreat. The Trasks had purchased an old estate called Crosbyside (once Algonquin and Iroquois fishing grounds, the site of a colonial garrison, and home to one of the earliest resorts on Lake George - The United States Hotel c. 1850, as well as the site of the founding of the American Canoeing Association) for back taxes. At first they leased, but ultimately the Trasks gave the property to Miss Fuller, who in turn deeded it to Wiawaka. The official transfer of property from Katrina Trask to Mary Wiltsie Fuller was marked by the exchange of one dollar and a bouquet of flowers. From the start, Mary Wiltsie Fuller enlisted the help of other socially progressive benefactresses to raise funds to support Wiawaka's activities and endow "scholarships" for holidays.
Wiawaka is proud to share a heritage with Yaddo. The Trasks built their first artists' retreat at Wiawaka - an Adirondack lodge known as Wakonda where pupils from the New York Arts Club held their first retreat and Georgia O'Keeffe was a registered guest-artist. The Trasks went on to locate Yaddo in Saratoga Springs- perhaps America's most respected artists' retreat. There has always been an arts component in programming at Wiawaka, and it itself has provided inspiration to generations of artists - amateur and professional. Wakonda is the "artists' roost" of Wiawaka and it is in need of restoration. We are raising funds to perform necessary structural work on Wakonda so that we can once again receive guests here. There is some evidence that Stanford White may have had a hand in the design of Wakonda - as he was at work on Trask's Three Brother's Island estate on Lake George when Wakonda was built.
Direct lake access on our property, a magnificent dock with panoramic views immortalized in paintings of Lake George, many breezy screened porches, two spots for swimming, and House of Trix a building that lends itself to groups activities from yoga to scrapbooking. There are nearby hiking and biking trails.
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