Summertime, lakeside, and easy living.
Photos by Rana Faure
Jim Henry, a longtime resident of Waccabuc, describes the Lewisboro hamlet as “just south of Brigadoon on the Yellow Brick Road.” His wife, Susan, a descendant of the original Meads who settled the area around 1776, recalls growing up on a dairy farm when the main drag was a dirt road (finally paved in 1955). “It’s surprising how much has remained the same,” she says. “We went out on rowboats in the summer, skated and ice-fished in the winter, and people still do those things today.”
Indeed, driving down Mead Street, with its ancient stonewalls and meticulously restored homes, feels like a step back into the 19th century, while across the lake in South Salem, entering the Lake Waccabuc community is more like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting: fresh-faced kids selling lemonade from stands on their front lawns, fishing off docks, jumping into the lake from an impossibly high tree swing. And while not encouraged, climbing the 75-foot-high Castle Rock and diving into the water is a rite of passage for all who’ve grown up in the area.
Lake Waccabuc, whose name comes from the Algonquin word for long pond, wequa-paug, is known for its exceptional fishing. In addition to sailing, canoeing, and kayaking, powerboats up to a 25-horsepower limit are allowed. “There are always fun things happening here: a lobster bake in June, fireworks on the Fourth of July, bonfires and barbecues in winter,” says Maria Hyde, a Brit who has enthusiastically adopted her South Salem neighborhood. Cruising the 138-acre lake with Hyde, we passed impressive estates, old fishing lodges, and modest summer bungalows. “In summer, we live in bathing suits and shorts,” she says. “On a typical weekend, I get up early and take my little whaler to a friend’s house for breakfast, or go out in the afternoon with a bottle of wine and a book. Sometimes a group of us will tie our boats together in the middle of the lake and have a potluck dinner at sunset.”
In 1926, land developers Ward, Carpenter & Company bought a 125-acre parcel of land, dammed the existing lake to enlarge it, and planned a community of summer homes geared toward New York City residents. Advertising literature featuring happy families cavorting in the lake likened the development to living in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, or the Adirondacks.
Fast forward to the present, and happy families are still cavorting in the lake—and around it. In addition to boating, fishing, swimming, and sunning at the beach, there are tennis courts, a playground, and a rustic clubhouse. The homeowners’ association sponsors a fishing derby on Memorial weekend, Fourth of July fireworks, and provides charcoal and ice for Friday-night “Fire and Ice” gatherings in the summer. Cooler months bring indoor activities: Novemberfest, a holiday party and craft fair, and a popular tea party.
The colony of summer cottages built decades ago has grown to a vibrant community of 108 homes of varying architectural styles from Victorian to bungalow to contemporary, along with a few of the original faux-log cabins. Like so many others, Steve and Pat Pickering started out as weekenders, moving in full time after they retired in 2006. “This is an enormously diverse and friendly community filled with interesting people,” Pat says. “And once people move here, they tend to stay put. At the last holiday party, we honored the long timers and there were ten people who had lived here for 40 years or more!”
Her husband Steve also likes the sense of community: “It’s nice to know if you walk around the lake, you are bound to see neighbors doing the same. Meeting kids at the bus stop at Todd Road is like a community gathering.”
“This is one of the best-kept secrets in Westchester,” says Elizabeth English, looking out over the 65-acre glacial lake from the back porch of the house her grandfather, one of the first residents in the community, built in 1932. “While it has changed over the years, it has always been a relaxed environment, and a close knit community, where everyone works for the common good,” English adds.
The lake is divided between the Pound Ridge side which has 15 homes with lake access, and the Lewisboro side, which has an active homeowners’ association that maintains the sand beach, dock, playground, meeting house, and adjacent park. Everyone who lives in the community has access to the lake, which allows boating and fishing. The Lake Kitchawan Association sponsors movie nights in the meeting house, an annual clambake in August, and a pig roast on Labor Day to end the season on a high note. Icing on the cake: The lake abuts the 383-acre Leon Levy preserve and five miles of trails.
Blue Heron Lake
The most exclusive of the lake communities we visited, there are only 13 houses on this 48-acre, man-made lake that is split between Pound Ridge and Bedford, bordered by the Henry Morgenthau Audubon Preserve and private land owned by Ralph Lauren. Interior designer Shelley LeBoff and her family bought “a funky old house” in 2001, knocked it down, and rebuilt it in a mid-century modern style.
“Living here is like being on vacation every day,” LeBoff says, noting that the family makes good use of their kayaks, canoe, and Hobie Cat, going out almost every summer day. They also have a pontoon that holds 14 people. “We call it our party boat. One year we anchored in the middle of the lake and celebrated Rosh Hashana there on the water. In the fall when the lily pads are gone, we go kayaking into all the inlets, and in winter we snowshoe, ice skate, and cross country ski across the lake. It is beautiful in all seasons.”
There is a “loosey-goosey” homeowners’ organization that meets about once a year, but it doesn’t sponsor any group activities. Only a few families live here full time, LeBoff explains, while others are weekenders or just spend winters at the lake, summering at homes on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. The closest thing to community events are the impromptu hockey games in winter. “One neighbor, a Canadian, has a Zamboni machine so when the lake freezes over, he sets up a hockey rink,” LeBoff says.
If this ultra-private enclave intrigues you, don’t get your hopes up. Properties rarely change hands according to David Turner, an associate broker in the Bedford office of Houlihan Lawrence. “This is the best privately owned lake in the county, and some of the homes have been owned for generations,” he says.
Cruising on Lake Waccabuc
A Lake Katonah dock
Waccabuc Country Club's boathouse