1995 Big Blow - Ray Sr. & Raymond with chainsaws     2004 Church Interior


Imagine the surprise of the Carmichaels in 1958 when, after struggling through some three acres of brush and fallen trees, they found the beautiful Island church in excellent shape.  It was fully appointed with linens, chalice, carpet, stove and pump organ – 1892 hymnals and 1889 prayer books in each pew – everything in working order.

1918 Rectory designed by Stanley Brown-Serman      1918 Dining room table built by Stanley Brown-Serman


In 1895, after 15 summers of visiting clergy, the Stott family of Bluff Point brought along their new minister from St. Barnabas in Stottville,  William Brown-Serman.  He remained until 1941, holding services from July through September.  In 1918 Stanley Brown-Serman designed a new rectory as well as the long dining room table still in use.  The lumber was shipped to Merlin Austin at Hunters’ Rest and likely brought over to the Island by barge.  

But in 1959, after 18 years of neglect, paths had to be cleared, roofs replaced and the old Ice House and workshop knocked down before services could resume.  In 1968 the church exterior was restored to as close to the original as possible, using old photographs found in the study.

          Blocks of ice harvested from lake & saved in Ice House for summer     Filling the Ice House at Raquette Lake - Carl Heilman II     1943 The old pump

Raquette Lake Ice House
Photo used with permission 
 Carl Heilman II


During the 1920s and 1930s, students from the Virginia Theological Seminary vacationed at St. Hubert’s with the Brown-Serman family.  Although without electricity, the island was almost totally self-sufficient.  Huge blocks of ice were saved from the winter in the sawdust-strewn Ice House.  Fresh spring water was brought over from neighboring Osprey Island.  

But the enormous water tank in the rectory attic had to be filled with lake water every second day.  The late Rev. Frank Hayes (who married Betty Brown-Serman in 1980) well remembered his days as a student, reciting his Latin and German vocabularies with every pump stroke – 1,452 strokes to fill the cistern!

1883 Church of Our Saviour Mandarin FL     1883 Florida church built from Good Shepherd's plans


In the 1880s Henry Caleb Crane from Blue Mountain Lake wintered in Florida, where he attended a bible study group organized by Professor Calvin Stowe, husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  In the 1860s Dr. Thomas Durant had brought Crane up with him from the Union Pacific offices in New York City to be treasurer of  the newly formed Adirondack [Railway] Company.   

At a dinner party Harriet mentioned that the Florida congregation was looking for a plan for their new church.  William West Durant, a guest of the Cranes, overheard Mrs. Stowe’s comment and described the new chapel that had just been constructed on an island on Raquette Lake.  Josiah Cleveland Cady was the architect.  Durant then sent for the plans, which he modified to suit the Florida site.  

The Church of Our Saviour on the St. John’s River, Mandarin, Florida, was built in 1883 and consecrated in 1884, identical to Good Shepherd but for the placement of the bell tower and the two entrances on the opposite wall.  

Founding members of the Florida church included the Cranes from Blue Mountain Lake, the Huntingtons from Raquette Lake and the Mead family from Philadelphia – perhaps the same Mead family who donated Bluff Island (St. Hubert’s Isle) to the Diocese of Albany.

For more about the “Twin Churches,” see the 1962 article by William Wessels of Blue Mountain Lake.