Wiawaka is a holiday house for women. It has lake front property on Lake George, New York. It is one of the few remaining fully operational vacation/retreat centers which arose out of the women’s rights movement in the early part of the twentieth century. Originally founded in 1903 by Mary Wiltsie Fuller, Wiawaka provided “affordable vacations” for female textile workers from Troy, New York who lacked the economic means to find respite anywhere else.
The earliest reference to the property of Wiawaka is in the tax records of Caldwall (now Lake George) where it is referred to as the old "garrison ground." This suggests that military activity took place on the site which also is home to sunken bateaux, but no archeological survey has been done at Wiawaka to answer these questions.
The first private owner of the lake front property ran the United States Hotel on the site until F. G. Crosby bought the land and building in 1848. Financial difficulties caused him to lease the structure to the Lake George Young Ladies Institute in 1855 but it was shut down after only one year of operation.
Next, he enlarged the hotel, changing the name to Crosbyside, and housed several customers from cities who retreated to Lake George for a vacation in the country. With a new wave of tourism, Mr. Crosby was very successful and he soon built several Victorian cottages as lodging for his best and most loyal customers. These are Mayflower Cottage, c. 1873 and Rose Cottage, c. 1873. He also built a house for himself and his family soon after in 1876 (it was later named Fuller House). The Second Empire style residence is very little altered in its appearance today. In 1890s, Crosbyside was sold to a new owner.
In 1902, Katrina Trask and her husband Spencer Trask acquired the property. Spencer and Katrina Trask built Wakonda Lodge, formerly called “Amitola,” in 1905 as their first experiment in a building an artists' colony before receiving artists at Yaddo. The famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe later stayed in this lodge. Katrina gradually handed over her land to her friend Mary Wiltsie Fuller who had a vision of providing retreats from the polluted city to women factory workers from Troy (known then as The Collar City). Using the original structures built by Mr. Crosby, Mary Fuller opened her retreat center in 1903 and named it Wiawaka Holiday House. Wiawaka is derived from the Abenaki word meaning “The Great Spirit of Woman.” Mary proved the existence of the collective “Great Spirit” as she formed a board of women to run and look out for the interests of Wiawaka. Eventually, Wiawaka added workshops covering different skills to add an additional dimension to the guests’ vacations.