The Waldheim

Big Moose Lake, NY


The Waldheim was established in 1904 by E.J. Martin, who came to the area seeking work during the heyday of Adirondack resorts.  E.J. built the buildings with wood from the property, some of it cut in the sawmill still on the premises.  With two of his brothers, he also built many of the early camps on the lake.  He and his wife, Hattie, soon established a reputation for good food and hospitality.  They took the time to know their guests personally and many became lifelong friends who returned year after year.  Descendants of E.J. and Hattie's still welcome people whose ancestors were some of those early guests, some families coming for five generations.  The Waldheim is still a place where each guest is a friend.

To read more, enjoy some excerpts below from:

Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks: The Story of the Lake, the Land, and the People

This enterprise, which preserves many features of the early palisade style of architecture on Big Moose Lake, is the result of the determination and perseverance of one man – the shrewd, irascible, and long-lived Edward Joseph Martin, known to nearly all as “E.J.” 

"Although he died in 1973 at the age of one hundred and one, many people on the lake still remember E.J., a stocky, square-jawed man with penetrating blue eyes surmounted by a tangle of abundant, curly, white hair.  As a boss he held his employees to high standards; thus he was feared by the lazy but admired and emulated by the energetic."

"In the early 1890's, E.J. and his younger brother Charlie set out to look for employment.  The two young men came to Big Moose Lake and found various construction jobs in the area, building camps and working at Dart's Hotel and later at Higby's." 

"In 1896, E.J. took some time off in the winter and studied at Albany Business College for three months.  When he ran out of money and was forced to leave two weeks short of completing the course, the director of the college wrote, “He is a faithful, diligent student, and has won the confidence and respect of associates and teachers.  He is an efficient bookkeeper, accurate and neat in his work.  His is capable of keeping any ordinary set of books, and whoever secures his services will have an able and trustworthy assistant”.  E.J. returned to the Big Moose area and continued his building activities over the next four years.  In 1901, when he was only twenty-nine, E.J. was able to buy a large tract of land on the north side of the lake.  This new purchase extended from the east line of the present Insley property (which then belonged to John Ellis Roosevelt, a cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt) to just east of the point where the present Waldheim beach is located.  After this sale closed, E.J. hastily put up a one-room cabin with a loft."

"In January 1902, E.J. married Harriet “Hattie” Eliza Brown, a school teacher whom he had met while she was working as head waitress at Higby's.  In the depths of that winter he brought her, a brave and energetic soul, to his isolated house."

"Between 1902 and 1904, E.J. and Hattie lived in this tiny house while building what is now known as the Main House.  This structure, which is still in use today as part of the dining complex, had a living room with a fireplace, a dining room, and a large kitchen on the first floor.  On the second floor were five bedrooms ranged along both sides of a corridor.  The “modern” bathroom, which was mentioned in the hotel's first brochure and was very unusual for the time, was on the first floor near the kitchen." 


"In 1904, with the building complete and ready for occupancy, E.J. and his brother Charlie started in the hotel business together.  Their letterhead read, “The Waldheim, Martin Brothers, Proprietors.”  The name Waldheim - “home in the woods” in German – was a sign of the brother's Swiss heritage."

"The Martin brothers soon attracted paying guests.  E.J.'s neighbor, Arwed Retter, recommended The Waldheim to a lady in Utica who wanted a place “for friends.” And so it happened that the very first guests at The Waldheim were the wife of the governor general of Panama, her three grown daughters, a son-in-law, and a Japanese maid.  The governor general himself, Major General George W. Davis, joined the group later in the summer.  Most of the family stayed all summer, and the income must have given the new enterprise a solid start." 

"During the first few years after The Waldheim opened, Hattie Martin kept the business going while E.J. worked around the lake, building or helping to build a prodigious number of camps.  He hired teams of workmen who built camps under his supervision.  At The Waldheim, June cottage was completed in 1905 while Cozy cottage was finished in 1906; others followed steadily.  In 1909, E.J.and Hattie's first son, Everett, was born and a cottage was named after; a second son, Howard, was born ten years later."

"At some point in the first decade of The Waldheim's operation, E.J. sold three lots to the west of the house in which he and Hattie lived.  The money he accumulated from this and his other activities enabled him to build, in 1909, the large dining room and summer kitchen attached to the Main House." 

"E.J. and Hattie continued to add to and improve their property.  By 1929, they had completed a row of eight cottages along the lake shore to the east of the Main House.  Because each cottage had at least two bedrooms, the hotel's capacity was fairly large.  Unlike the custom today, cottages were typically rented to more than one family at a time, and bathrooms were shared.  Likewise in the dining room, it was usual to have several couples or families seated at one table.  The office, then as now, was attached to the boathouse, because the entire resort was oriented toward the lake, with guests always arriving and departing by boat.   By 1928, the road from Eagle Bay to the Glenmore was in reasonably good shape and automobiles were beginning to replace the railroad-wagon-boat method of transportation."

"In 1935, the Martins acquired a large tract of land to the east when the small hotel Veery's Nest went out of business.  This new acquisition gave the Martins not only a large amount of land but also several buildings that could be converted and added to The Waldheim complex.  Although the main house of Veery's Nest had burned down in 1929, the Martins converted the woodshed that was nearly lost in the fire into Ivy cottage, the boathouse that looked out upon North Bay into Whipsaw cottage, and the playhouse once used by the daughters into a single-room cottage called Dream cottage. (This building, never very popular even with honeymooners, was torn down and replaced in 2000 by a new Dream cottage that faced the open lake.)  Two other cottages, Pointview and Longview, are also legacies from Veery's Nest."

"In 1938, E.J. bought the parcel that extends down to the end of North Bay."  (Much of this land is now owned by Howard Martin's children, Jon, Nancy, and Philip, who have build their own residences on it.  The remainder is owned by his grandchildren, of those, are Jason and Keriann, the next generation looking to manage and continue the legacy of The Waldheim.) 

"The conversions and refurbishings of all the Veery's Nest buildings took time, but with Cedar Lodge and The Knoll cottage, The Waldheim complex was almost complete.  Guests continued to find the hotel a welcome retreat, and many stayed for a full month at a time.  By the end of the decade, most guests arrived by automobile rather than by train, but the Martin family continued to run the establishment in the traditional way.  No alcohol was sold, although guests were free to bring their own.  The food was simple and ample, as it is today."

"The coming of World War II did not affect The Waldheim business greatly.  Gasoline rationing and crowded trains may have made it more difficult for people to get to Big Moose, but somehow they managed.  Is was, however, extremely difficult to find the cooks, waitresses, and handymen needed to operate the hotel."

"E.J.'s son, Everett, now married, spent the war working as an engineer at General Electric in Schenectady.  His younger brother, Howard, attended college for three years and then went into the army, where he saw action in Europe shortly after D-Day.  Howard became engaged to Wanda Kinne, who was working at the American Emblem factory in New Hartford after attending business school.  Howard was sent home from the army in the fall, and he and Wanda were married in the Big Moose Chapel on a snowy Saturday after Thanksgiving in 1945." 

"With Howard's return, The Waldheim gained welcome help in operating the business.  E.J. was then seventy-three years old and Hattie only a few years younger.  The transition to Howard's management was gradual.  E.J. spent more time in the warmth of the workshop building furniture, one of his favorite activities, while Howard took on the more rugged outdoor responsibilities.  For the first few years, Wanda was occupied in bringing up their three children, Jon, Nancy, and Philip.  As soon as the children reached toddler-hood, Wanda hired a babysitter in the summers and took over the office responsibilities.  E.J. retained his desk in the office, where he kept an eye on the activities and offered all the advice he deemed necessary."



"Howard's management ushered in a new era.  Such conveniences as tractors, pickup trucks, and backhoes became available after wartime factories reconverted to peacetime production.  Just as his father had, Howard took responsibility for all of the mechanical systems that kept the place running.  He not only maintained all the cottages, coping with their fireplace, plumbing, and electrical problems, but also oversaw the springs that supplied their water, the access roads, the septic tanks, and all of the other systems necessary to operating a hotel in the country.  In addition, Howard was for many years The Waldheim's head chef, running the kitchen with the proverbial iron hand in a velvet glove.  Of course, he hired help: the staff grew enormously in the summer, and then, as now, many children of lake residents received their first paychecks from The Waldheim." 

"During this time, The Waldheim became a favorite place for families with children.  Although such guests came for shorter periods than had prewar visitors, they enjoyed having a single cottage to themselves, freedom from television and telephones, and the opportunity for a nearly infinite number of unscheduled outdoor activities.  The Days of shared bathrooms in the cottages were gone, and the tables in the dining room were limited to groups (families or friends) who were vacationing together.  This arrangement was particularly attractive for vacationers who wanted the ambiance of the wilderness without the burden of preparing meals." 

"After Howard died in 1985, the rest of the family took over and ran the hotel jointly.  However, both Jon and Philip had developed businesses of their own, and in 1993, Nancy Martin Pratt and her husband Roger became the official managers.  The Waldheim continues to attract guests who love the peace and quiet of the woods and the lake.  The year 2003 marked the Martin's one hundredth year in business operating The Waldheim at Big Moose Lake."

Jane A. Barlow, Ed., et al. Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks: The Story of the Lake, the Land and the People. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

The above was an excerpt from Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks: The Story of the Lake, the Land, and the People. If you would like to learn more about the history of the lake, you can purchase the book here.

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