Guides & guests on Lower Saranac Lake
Before Jacob Smith Moody settled in Saranac Lake in 1819, Native Americans were attracted to the area for hunting and trapping. It is thanks to these early settlers that this region is now called the "Adirondacks", a Native American name meaning "bark eaters."
Saranac Lake grew slowly through the early 1800s, its economy based on logging as well as hosting and guiding 'sports' who came to hunt and fish. In 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. That hotel became well known as "Paul Smith's." Among his early guests was Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected governor of New York in 1898. Roosevelt's stay in the Adirondacks helped him become a champion of environmental conservation, recognizing the Adirondack Park as a great resource for forestry and wildlife.
Paul Smith was hugely successful, and outdoor recreation became a mainstay of the region's economy. In his will, Paul's son left the entire estate to found a College named for his father. Today, more than a century later, Paul Smiths College provides a four year education specializing in Arts, Forestry, Hospitality and Hotel Management.
The Cure Era
Dr. E.L. Trudeau
By 1876, the village was home to 700 residents. Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, his wife, and their two children were among those new residents, and Trudeau would quickly transform the Saranac Lake area. 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 thriving community and a fashionable destination resort - 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 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 spent memorable times in the Saranac Lake Area. Among the many well-known families with local great camps are 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 Harrison, Roosevelt, McKinley, Coolidge and Clinton have come to Saranac Lake for rejuvenation of body and spirit.
Saranac Lake Today
Nestled between the villages of Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake is the largest village in the Adirondacks with just over 5,000 year-round residents. Without question it is the hub of the region, being home to the largest hospital in the Park, a state-of-the-art airport, many studios, galleries, and shops as well as the only four-season theatre in the region.
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. You can visit the Wiki here. The village's traditions continue today: Every year the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival kicks off on the first Friday in February. The celebration continues for ten days, and people travel from near and far to see the spectacular fireworks above the ice palace along the shores of Lake Flower.
Take a walking tour of Saranac Lake's historic park system. Designed by the renowned Olmsted brothers - the same firm that designed New York City's Central Park - Saranac Lake's
park system is owned by the Village Improvement Society, a not-for profit volunteer group that has cared for the parks since 1910.
Saranac Lake's proximity to hundreds of hiking trails and the numerous lakes and rivers, Whiteface Mountain, Dewey Mountain, Mt. Pisgah and the Adirondack Park Visitor's Interpretive Center - just to name a few - makes it the perfect destination for nature lovers. Wintertime events like First Night and Winter Carnival are not to be missed, making Saranac Lake a year-round destination. Whether you come to experience the local culture or surrounding wilderness, you're sure to enjoy your visit!