Built by William Durant in 1889, St. William's on Long Point is a not-for-profit, non-denominational, lakeside retreat and cultural center, accessible only by boat on Raquette Lake, New York. Musical, historical, and environmental programs are held during July and August. Semi-private and dormitory lodging for up to 19 people is available for retreats, family gatherings, weddings, and more!
Even before Mercer's ice cream and the W.W. Durant boat, Adirondack visitors have enjoyed Raquette Lake. The last leg of a two day journey into the mountains from New York City, it's water ways provided transportation to the peace, beauty and silence of nature so attractive to city dwellers of the Industrial Age. Developers, like William West Durant, saw the financial opportunity in offering land and vacation homes to these wealthy urbanites, tired of the noise, crowding and smog of the cities they had themselves created. So, while building Great Camps like Pine Knot and Sagamore, Durant was not only establishing summer residences for families like the Morgans and the Huntingtons, but creating towns for the workers and families that lived year round in the mountains, maintaining and running the Great Camps their employers visited only a month or two out of the year.
In 1889, William West Durant established one such town on Long Point of Raquette Lake . He built a post office there and a general store, naming the town Durant , NY . A year later, he responded to the needs of the Catholics in the area by donating the land, the materials and the money to build a Catholic Church just down the shore from the general store. Designed by the J.C. Cady Company of New York City , the church was completed in 1890 by Hammond and Mosher, a contracting company in Saratoga Springs . William West Durant entitled the church St. William's. The following year, the Franciscan Friars, Order of Friars Conventual, began administering to the needs of the parishioners of St. William's. As transportation technology advanced and the railroad arrived within the blue line, the water-locked town of Durant , NY (having changed its name to Raquette lake soon after its creation) relocated to its present location, where the railroad spur from New York City ended. Still, the cedar shakes and shingled church, St. William's on Long Point, continued to serve the parish until the end of the 1930s. It was when the rectory in the town of Raquette Lake burned in 1938 that the new St. William's, in town, was built, despite the financial strains of the Great Depression. The parish, now with two official churches, saw more frequent use sway towards the St. William's in town, the St. William's on Long Point offering masses mostly during the summers. Finally, in 1979, with the death of Father Henry Gibeau, the parish fell under the jurisdiction of St. Anthony's in Inlet, NY and St. William's, the first Catholic church in the area, became a mission church to a parish it had help to establish.
St. William's on Long Point and the old general store of Durant , NY (having been deeded together to the Catholic church) were still in use, functioning as a summer retreat center for Franciscan Friars. One member of a class retreat in 1974 felt a close connection to the church, the house and the spiritual, natural and historical aspects they encompassed. Brother Ed Falsey, serving as director of St. William's from 1983, opened and closed the house, bunkhouse and church for use in the summers by fellow Franciscan Friars. As use of the camp continued to decline and a deferred maintenance plan was instituted, Br. Ed remembers climbing under the church at the beginning of each season to patch broken foundations and loose piers. For the church's centennial celebration, Br. Ed and Louie Burke climbed the dome of St. William's to install a cross built by Louie Burke and painted yellow to match the trim. The mass celebrating the church's hundredth anniversary in 1990, was held in the St. William's chapel of Raquette Lake, the foundation of the church on the Point too unsure to accommodate a congregation safely and the boat docking logs torn loose by winter's ice.
After the centennial, Br. Ed knew a change was in St. William's future. The condition of the buildings as well as the withdrawal of the Franciscan Friars from the diocese (including St. William's) hinted at the church's wish to end their relationship with the property. If the church did so by selling, the probability that the buyer would see the value in the land, not the historically rich, but ailing, structures, would be high. If the property was sold, the bunkhouse, the old general store and the church would likely be torn down.
Following models like the Covenant House in New York and the Samaritan Counseling Center, Br. Ed began to develop an idea to save St. William's. A non-profit organization aimed at providing a quiet retreat location for religious, educational and other non-profit organizations, could maintain and restore the facilities with a respect for the rich history and natural beauty of the site. It would mean much restoration, rebuilding and repairs, but Br. Ed was confident that citizens of Raquette Lake valued their local history and would work hard to preserve it...VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR THE REST OF THE STORY!