Explore Saranac Lake's History
Discover the history of the Adirondack Park and more in Saranac Lake.

Early Days

Adirondack Guides & Guests on Lower Saranac Lake

The Adirondack region was initially used by the Native Americans to hunt and trap. It is thanks to these early settlers that this region is now called the "Adirondacks," meaning "bark eaters."

Growth in Saranac Lake was slow through the early 1800s. The economy at that time was based on logging as well as hosting and guiding 'sports' who came to hunt and fish. It began with the arrival of Jacob Smith Moody who settled here in 1819, and by 1856, Saranac Lake was home to just 15 families. 

Paul Smith & Theodore Roosevelt

In 1859, Apollos Austin Smith - known as "Paul" - opened a hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake. The hotel became well known as "Paul Smith's." One of his early guests was Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected Governor of New York in 1898. Roosevelt's stay in the area helped him become knowledgeable in environmental conservation, and he recognized the Adirondack Park as a great resource for forestry and wildlife.

Outdoor recreation became a mainstay of the region's economy and Paul Smith was hugely successful. He left his estate to his son, Paul, who then left the entire estate in his will to found a College named for his father. Today, more than a century later, Paul Smith’s College has a thriving campus, specializing in the culinary arts, forestry, hospitality, natural resources and ecology.

The Cure Era

By 1876, the village of Saranac Lake was home to 700 residents. Among them were Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, his wife, and their two children. Dr. Trudeau would quickly transform the Saranac Lake area. As an outdoor enthusiast who had come to love the forests and waterways, Dr. Trudeau suffered from tuberculosis. To his astonishment, his stay in the mountains cured his disease, thus forming the basis for a curing regimen that eventually established Saranac Lake as a "pioneering health resort."

In 1892, the Village of Saranac Lake was incorporated, and Dr. Trudeau became its first mayor. In the early 1900s the village grew into a prospering community and a fashionable destination - home to the world-renowned Trudeau Sanatorium, a dozen bustling hotels and a host of what became known as "cure cottages." In 1887, author Robert Louis Stevenson came to Saranac Lake to be treated by Dr. Trudeau, and the first annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival was held to bring entertainment to the many people recovering in the village.

The Adirondack Great Camps

Wealthy families of the early 20th century discovered the beauty of the region and many built Adirondack great camps. They would invite their friends and families to spend memorable times in the Saranac Lake Area. Among the many well-known families who owned local great camps were the Rockefellers, Posts, Baches and Guggenheims.

Over the years, many famous figures such as Mark Twain, Christy Mathewson, Jack Dempsey, Al Jolson, Somerset Maugham, Albert Einstein, Bela Bartok, and Presidents William Henry Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge and Bill Clinton have come to Saranac Lake for rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit. You can see many of these camps today by boating the various Saranac Lake's.

If you're looking to really dive into our cool history plan a visit to Historic Saranac Lake & Saranac Lake Laboratory Museum.


 Adirondack Attractions & Events

Nestled between the villages of Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake is the largest village in the Adirondack Park with just over 5,000 year-round residents. It is also home to the largest hospital in the park, an airport, theatre, studios, galleries and shops.

Saranac Lake has 170 former cure cottages listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, making the village a great attraction for lovers of history and architecture. Historic Saranac Lake is a not-for-profit organization historical preservation group that also houses a local museum. The village's traditions continue today: every year the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival kicks off its ten day celebration on the first Friday in February.

Take a Saranac Lake walking tour and explore the area’s historic park system. Created by the same firm that designed New York City's Central Park, the Olmsted Brothers, Saranac Lake's park system is owned by the Village Improvement Society, a not-for-profit volunteer group that has cared for the park since 1910.

Experience the local culture and the surrounding wilderness of this year-round destination and see why Saranac Lake is the Adirondacks’ coolest place! 

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Come and learn to identify wild local edible plants with our expert Patricia Banker from Cornell University Cooperative Extension!
Patricia will answer your questions about how to cultivate...

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Join VIC Naturalists for a guided paddle on Barnum Pond via Barnum Brook. This two-hour program starts with a brief walk to our dock and includes at least one hour on the water. This is a perfect...

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Meet at Trudeau Institute, 154 Algonquin Avenue, for a tour of one of Saranac Lake's first cure cottages and to visit the statue of Dr. Trudeau. Meet at the sign by "Little Red...

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Join In Our Cool Adirondack Traditions Our scenic location, rugged beauty, and abundant wilderness led the small village of Saranac Lake into the cool ways of life we still observe today.