When you hear Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the first thing that comes to mind is probably the clothing brand Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F), right? Probably not. When I think of A&F, I think of a high end clothing store that targets teens and college students with sexy ads. I associate A&F with half dressed models with tight abs, plastered on their store fronts and the wall of cologne that hits you when you walk into the store. This was the coveted brand of clothing that the “popular” students wore when I was in high school that I never could quite afford. I take that back. I might have had one A&F polo shirt that a girlfriend had given me, that I used to wear to the awkward social events that high school inevitably brings. I certainly don’t associate ADK with A&F though. We are far from a high end teenage clothing company or in the fragrance business. Well, I guess we could be in the body odor business. Does that count? It wasn’t until recently that I thought of the two organizations in conjunction with each other. Today, it seems surprising but the A&F headquarters is where the genesis of ADK began in the 1920’s.
Abercrombie and Fitch wasn’t always the sexy casual clothing retailer that it is today. When it was established in 1892, the company was known as a retailer of rugged, high quality hunting and camping gear. They were The North Face and Mountain Hardwear of the day, outfitting professional guides and explorers. By 1917, A&F had a twelve story building in New York City on the corner of Madison Avenue and 45th Street. There was a log cabin that was built on top of this New York City store which was originally the townhouse of one of the owners. This roof top cabin was the site of the first Adirondack Mountain Club meetings.
On December 5, 1921, 40 people gathered in the log cabin on top of Abercrombie and Fitch’s sporting goods store in New York City. This was a group of hikers, mountaineers, hotel managers and others who represented various causes, who came together to talk about “opening up the woods” of the forest preserve. They wanted to improve the trail system and educate the public on preventing forest fires and leaving clean campsites. At a second meeting on April 3, 1922, it was reported that 208 people were in support of starting this organization. Twenty-six days later, on April 29, 1922, ADK’s Certificate of Incorporation was recorded by the New York State Department of State officially recognizing the Adirondack Mountain Club as an organization.
Those early years of ADK were mostly focused on trail improvements and building ADK’s first lodge, Johns Brook Lodge. The organization focused on building of “The Long Trail,” which is known today as the Northville-Placid Trail (a big undertaking for a newly formed organization). In the early years, there was a constant question over where the organization’s focus should be, from hiking or lodging, to conservation and education. These conversations directed the character of ADK into the three branches that we are still involved with today; conservation, recreation and education.
I find it interesting that the first couple of ADK meetings were held on top of an A&F store. Today you wouldn’t necessarily think of the two organizations together but I think it takes us back to the roots of why we became an organization in the first place. We wanted people from all avenues of life to experience the beautiful landscapes of the Adirondacks. We didn’t want to exclude the woods to rugged mountain folks but open them up to everyone, even people like the pretty models on the A&F ads. It is our hope, that through these experiences and connections with the landscape that people will be inspired to protect wild places like the Adirondacks.