Wiawaka Center for Women in Lake George is the oldest women’s retreat in the country – and with support from the Community Loan Fund, it continues its mission to foster and celebrate the growth of women.
Founded by wealthy heiress Mary Fuller in 1903, Wiawaka was established as a retreat for Troy’s garment workers – most of whom were women. Troy was then known as the “City of Women” because of the area’s huge population of female textile workers. Shirt collar factories and laundries, cotton and textile mills – these industries were dominated by young female immigrants, and Fuller tried to use her position in the community to improve these women’s lives.
Fuller worked closely with the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Troy Young Women’s Association (later the YWCA) to create more opportunities for the women, including safe affordable housing, free education, and reading rooms.
She established Wiawaka to create a vacation spot, when the hot summer months made the mills too miserable. Wiawaka was situated on Lake George at the home of one of the oldest Lake George resorts. Fuller worked with the Trasks, and other socially progressive benefactors to raise funds to support Wiawaka and to ensure that all women had access to it, regardless of income. Today, the nonprofit continues its quest to offer affordable vacations for all women.
“We continue to support our mission of providing respite for women of every socioeconomic place in life to have peace, relaxation, and rejuvenation,” says Executive Director Doreen Kelly. “We offer many events, programs, and workshops to compliment your time at Wiawaka.”
Wiawaka offers overnight accommodations in sweet Victorian cottages or the grand Adirondack style lodge. Activities include yoga and pilates classes, arts and craft workshops, writing and poetry classes, lectures, and even spa services.
In 2015, the Community Loan Fund provided a loan to Wiawaka to remove the large dock that has become synonymous with their retreat, and install a new one. The dock, with its historic boathouse serves as a critical gathering place for Wiawaka’s guests; classes are held there, women meet one another there to swim and enjoy the lake, and retreats host early morning yoga and pilates sessions there.
“The Community Loan Fund helped us with our funding to repair our beloved dock which is attached to our historic boathouse. We are extremely grateful to have the Community Loan Fund as a partner. They have been very supportive and have made this an extremely positive experience,” says Kelly.