The memory of Maude Adams, First Lady of the American Stage, is precious to the Northern Catskills’ Village of Tannersville, where Adams lived on and off for over xx years before choosing it as her permanent home at the end of her life.
Maude Adams was the first actress to play Peter Pan on Broadway. In fact, James Barry is said to have written the play with Adams in mind.
Mark Twain, a frequent visitor to Onteora Park in the Town of Hunter, where Adams kept, her summer home, once wrote to her:
“It is my belief that Peter Pan is a great and refining and uplifting benefaction to this sordid and money-mad age; and that the next best play on the boards is a long way behind it as long as you play Peter.”
Louise Boynton, who would become Maude Adams’ “nurse” at the end of Adams’ life, wrote in the December, 1906 issue of The Century Magazine:
“New York needed Peter Pan. The play came at one of those discouraged moments when the public mind was occupied to an almost morbid degree with huge and vexing problems, and with things that were going wrong. Legalized evil-doing was rampant in business and politics, the exposure of fraud was the principal business of those who were not committing it. Cynicism was the dominant note in literature and dramatic art, a cheerful, clever, twentieth-century cynicism, but a bitter and depressing influence, for all that. At such a moment came Peter Pan, created in the mind of a man of insight and gentleness, embodied by a woman beautiful in life and thought, with the soul of an artist, and the heart of a child…”
Playing Peter Pan is not acting a role. It is embodying a living thought. It is expressing the life-force in the simplest, most beautiful way by teaching us to look at life from the child’s point of view…Realities that seemed formidable are found not to be real at all, and all sorts of lovely illusions are dreams that may come true.”
Maude Adams was always a private person and as one of the world’s first “super-stars,” she chose to find a retreat from the demands of the theater—and her enormous fame—here in the Catskills in house built just for her with its low ceilings to accommodate her petite frame and its charming name, “Caddam Hill.
It was here at Onteora Park in the Town of Hunter, NY that Maude would come to ride her horse or tree bath for hours in the forest of maple, oak, hemlock and evergreen. And it was here in 1953 that she would retire from the world that had adored her, making certain to leave just a little part of Peter Pan, the “boy” who refused to grow up, in these cloves and valleys that she loved so much.