Wiawaka was created by and for women in 1903. It is the oldest and longest continuously operating retreat for women in America. We are proud to honor our tradition and embrace the future as we work to maintain this historic property and fulfill the mission set forth by our founders, Mary Fuller and Katrina Trask.
The daughter of a Troy industrialist, Mary Fuller was active in the Girls Friendly Society, an Episcopal organization founded in England in 1875 to
support working class young women employed in factories, mills, and as domestic servants.
Miss Fuller became friends with Spencer and Katrina Trask when they first moved to Saratoga Springs in 1882 and summered at their Yaddo estate.
At that time, the Girls Friendly Society ran numerous Holiday Houses across the U.S. that provided affordable vacations, and around 1900
Miss Fuller began pursuit of her dream of a locally situated Holiday House to
serve the working women of Troy and Cohoes.
Troy was at the time known as “The City of Women” because so many were working in the garment industry. They endured long hours, no sick leave, no
paid vacations, poor regulation of sometimes dangerous working conditions, unchecked sexual harassment and potentially losing their jobs for becoming
A Holiday House would enable respite in beautiful natural surroundings.
Miss Fuller and the Trasks spent two years visiting potential sites and in 1902, Spencer Trask and his business partner George Foster Peabody purchased the
Crosbyside Hotel, an idyllic setting for Mary Fuller’s vision. Crosbyside was
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.
The new Holiday House opened in 1903, with Mary Fuller as President. In its
first summer of operation, 176 guests came, and room and board was $3.50 per
week. Katrina Trask served as Honorary President, and the Trasks and Mr. Peabody stayed involved, planning events and tours for the “Girl Guests”, maintaining and constructing buildings, providing vegetables and flowers. From the start, Mary Fuller also enlisted the help of numerous women of means who provided furnishings and décor, served as Officers, fundraised, and endowed “scholarships” for holidays. Katrina Trask created the name “Wiawaka” in 1905, and in 1908 she deeded Miss Fuller the central 8 acres of property including the buildings for “a bouquet of May flowers.” Miss Fuller remained committed and involved with Wiawaka until her death in 1943.
Wiawaka is proud to share a heritage with Yaddo. In 1899, Katrina envisioned
Yaddo as an artist retreat after her death; the first artists would arrive decades
later in 1926. Meanwhile, Spencer Trask began a Lake George summer artist
retreat in 1908 on property he purchased just north of Wiawaka.
He and Mr. Peabody built the Wakonda lodge as a dormitory. Top students from the Arts Students League in New York City arrived that first summer, and Georgia O’Keeffe stayed in room 18.
The artist residency was called “Amitola” and sadly closed soon after Spencer’s untimely death in 1909. Wakonda remained in use as a dormitory for Wiawaka.
Today Wiawaka Center for Women is a non-profit that honors its historic tradition with its modern mission: to “enrich, inspire, and celebrate the growth of women through unique and relevant programming in a natural and peaceful setting.