Explore Saranac Lake's History
Cool stories abound!

Once a world-famous health resort and center for scientific research, today Saranac Lake is a popular heritage tourism destination. You can enjoy an array of fascinating historical sites, museums, tours, and special events. Stay at the carefully restored Hotel Saranac, a unique 1920s hotel in the heart of downtown Saranac Lake. 

Historic Saranac Lake operates the Saranac Laboratory Museum in downtown Saranac Lake. Built in 1894, as the first laboratory built for the study of tuberculosis (TB) in the United States, the museum is open year-round with permanent and temporary exhibits. Historic Saranac Lake hosts regular summer and fall tours of various historic sites, including the former Trudeau Sanatorium property, and the Bartok Cabin, where the great composer spent the last summer of his life. You can explore historic downtown with a self-guided walking tour. 

Other interesting historic sites include the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage, and the Six Nations Museum in Onchiota.

EARLY DAYS: Adirondack Guides & Guests

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.

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 fund 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, hospitality, forestry, natural resources, and ecology.

THE CURE ERA: Seeking Health & Happiness

In the 1870s, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau came to the area sick with TB. To his astonishment, his health improved. He settled in the village and established the first successful sanatorium for the treatment of TB in the U.S. 

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. By the turn of the century, the village had grown into a prospering community and a fashionable destination - home to the world-renowned Trudeau Sanatorium, a dozen bustling hotels, and a hundreds of local homes that catered to TB patients, known as "cure cottages." 

THE GREAT CAMPS: Finding Prestige & Promise

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, Albert Einstein, 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. 

 

 

E-Newsletter Signup Form

Upcoming Events

Sunday, December 17th, 2017
A delightful holiday comedy perfect for the whole family. Pendragon Theatre is taking a walk on the wild side this holiday season with its production of Barbara Robinson’s The Best...
Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
To event remaining 1 day
St. Bernard's School students will be caroling around town on Tuesday, December 19, 2017! With little legs, we will only be able to carol on Broadway (as far as Bloomingdale Avenue) and...
Thursday, December 21st, 2017
To event remaining 4 days
Volunteers are needed to help with the Adirondack Snowshoe Fest, slated for February 24 and 25, 2018. The event planning committee will be available to answer questions on December 21st from 7:30-8:...
Friday, December 22nd, 2017
To event remaining 4 days
The lights will be bright on Broadway for Friday nights in December starting the 1st until the 22nd.  The following businesses will be open till 8 pm:  Book Nook Goody Goody's...

Recent Blog Posts...

Thursday, December 14th, 2017
If a game of King of the Hill that ends in tears and a handful of snow down your collar is your typical day of winter-family-fun — let me help you out! Saranac Lake is bursting...
Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
New Year's Eve is a special, even unique, holiday. It is the only one which celebrates both the old, and the new. It is a time to look backward and forward. To take the stress off of such...
Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
The Adirondacks are a geological treasure chest. They are an extension of the Canadian Shield, one of the world's largest continental shields. These mountains, rivers, and lakes...
Thursday, November 30th, 2017
Goodbye warm-weather gear! Sadly, on November 1, I hung the kayak and canoe in the garage, but I was still holding out for another bike outing which was scheduled for November 7....
Fly to Saranac Lake via Cape Air The Adirondack Regional Airport, your "Gateway to the Adirondacks," provides quick and convenient access to and from Logan International in Boston, MA. Daily flights are provided...
Woods and Water Defined by nature, recreation, heritage, learning, creativity, and cuisine, we invite you to explore our historic routes and waterway connections.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Interested In
Sign Me Up!