Choose to stay... in the past!

There's a little patch of the Adirondacks, near Saranac Lake, where we can step into the past. We can also book a stay there.

Apollos (Paul) Smith was an integral part of welcoming visitors to this section of the Adirondacks. In 1859, he founded the Saint Regis House in Brighton (though it was commonly known as Paul Smith's Hotel), one of the first wilderness resorts in the Adirondacks. It quickly became "the place to be," popular with statesmen and celebrities, setting a trend for long summer stays for those who could afford to flee the hot cities.

Many others followed the hospitality trail he blazed. A railroad depot went up in nearby Lake Clear in 1891, letting people from many different walks of life travel to the fabled Adirondacks.

at the beginning

Charlie's Inn was also built in 1891, as part of the complex supporting Dr. Webb's Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad. This was a major hub into the mid-1960s. Paul Smith himself was the original owner.

Current owners John & Jill Brockway pride themselves on the same hospitality tradition. They offer seven rooms in the historic Inn, a rental apartment and cabin, and a full-service campground in the summer. This is in addition to a year-round restaurant.

On the left, Charlie's Inn in 1912; on the right, Charlie's Inn now. (photos courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake wiki website (

While the owners have updated the lodging and amenities, they are mindful of keeping the original charm. The giant wraparound porch is still there for fine-weather dining, only now it has been screened in. The menu has kept hearty tavern favorites and modern innovations like chicken wings in a variety of sauces. It's 21st century plumbing, with views from 1891.

Because a lot of Lake Clear has not changed at all.

Lake Clear Junction, train depot, in the early part of the 20th century. This building is still there today. (photos courtesy of Historic Saranac Lake wiki website (

This charming little hamlet still has its namesake giant lake, full of fish. So famous it has its own lure: the Lake Clear Wabbler. Just to the west lies the gorgeous paddling of the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness, with over fifty ponds and lakes of all sizes, an incredible variety of terrain that supports all kinds of fish, birds, and wildlife.

Nearby hiking is spectacular, from the stunning views of St. Regis Mountain to the 25 miles of beautiful paths in the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. In this one area we can experience almost every Adirondack environment there is.

And be back in time for dinner.

In winter, Charlie's Inn is a popular snowmobile destination.

Charlie's Inn is a highly popular snowmobile destination. It is on the main corridor #7, which connects to over 300 groomed snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks. They offer on-site, 24-hour, premium gasoline service with free parking and free maps.

historic experience

Lake Clear Lodge and Retreat has an amazing pedigree. Since the lodge itself was built in 1886, this twenty-five acre complex has been the resort choice for generations of families. Today, Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer are training their own offspring to keep the tradition going.

The main lodge was built in 1886 by Millard F. Otis, Cathy Hohmeyer's great-uncle. Mr. Otis's grandfather came to the Adirondacks early in the 1800s, starting a long pioneer tradition that continues to this day.

The Lake Clear Lodge from a 1955 postcard. Originally built in 1886.

The Lodge now has rooms in the original building, and various sizes of rooms and cabins throughout the complex, including a lovely conference space for meetings and weddings. There's hiking trails, horse drawn carriage and sleigh rides according to the season, with paddling and cross-country equipment for the guests to use as needed.

The warmth of the wood paneled rooms and the book of activities in each room reflect the Lodge's commitment to each of their guests having a great, relaxing, time.

The Lake Clear Lodge mixes classic Adirondack style with modern comfort touches.

Their dining is something special, too. Head Chef Cathy strives to create cuisine from within a 100-mile radius, with local meat and produce, homemade yogurt and jam, and her own sourdough bread. Ernest is in charge of the basement rathskeller, with beers, wines, and rare liqueurs from around the world.

There's also classes in healthy cooking, wine and beer pairings, and fermented and sprouted foods. It is not just a vacation, it's a guide to full Adirondack enjoyment, from the outdoor recreation to the Saranac Lake healing heritage.

The dining room has a view down to Lake Clear, which has spectacular sunsets.

Chef Cathy emphasizes fresh seasonal choices in the dining room offerings. It might be an eye-opening introduction to the surprising number of local farms and creameries in this section of the Adirondacks.

Mr. Otis choose an extraordinary site for his lodge, since the sunsets sink behind the mountains and are fully reflected on the waters of Lake Clear.

Perfect sunsets over the lake and mountains are just another service they offer.

Summer White House

White Pine Camp is a classic Great Camp on the shores of lovely Osgood Pond. It has been restored and modernized, but retains all the delightful aspects of Gilded Age "camping."

New York businessman Archibald White began building this fascinating complex in 1907, under the supervision of his second wife, Olive. The thirty five acres, leased from Paul Smith himself, accumulated some of the most unique buildings among all Adirondack Great Camps, such as a bowling alley with a self-powered ball return and  the creation of a tiny island for the absolutely essential Japanese teahouse.

The teahouse sits on its own tiny island, reachable by a charming bridge. A wonderful place to enjoy the view of Osgood Pond.

Legend has it that Olive knew a social rival had a teahouse in her Great Camp. So Olive was going to have one in hers!

Such stories are abundant, and form much of the charm of staying in a place which created a pivotal scandal prior to the Great War, invented what is now the iconic  ''brainstorm siding,'' a form of shingling using the rough bark edges of the tree, and was the summer White House of Calvin Coolidge during the Roaring Twenties.

Unusual roof angles bring in lots of natural light. The wavy lines are the "brainstorm" siding.

Guests have the use of all the public buildings, such as the two boathouses, indoor tennis house, Great Room, and the extensively landscaped grounds which set a new standard for Great Camps. They were the only camp to have an alpine rock garden, now fully restored.

In classic Great Camp style, each room was its own building, for both privacy and to reduce the risk of fire wiping out an entire facility.

Through an ingenious series of tracks for the ball, it comes back without any mechanical assistance. This was also the game room, with a delightful little porch that overlooks the lake.

There are framed pictures and memorabilia everywhere, detailing the rich history of White Pine Camp. The media of the day loved to cover President Coolidge fishing during the summer he spent there. There were also events like the arrival of a 5,000-pound cherry pie that was a gift from Oregon cherry growers. This helped promote the idea of vacationing in the Adirondacks.

Trains brought such items to the Lake Clear station almost daily, depending on the guest list and the needs of the celebrities who were visiting, along with orchestras, fresh groceries, and enough potted plants to decorate the entire camp.

One of two boathouses, reached by a 300 foot boardwalk that is a favorite of wedding parties.

One famous story is about how Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, would launch his rowboat from the boathouse in order to practice in the middle of the lake. Locals would hear him and row out to get a free concert.

Those were the days. They are still close enough to touch, thanks to the living history of these three lodging places.

Explore all our delicious dining. Lake Clear is also a depot for Rail Explorers and the Scenic Railroad.

This week in related ADK touring news:

Great Camp Santanoni

Fore reasons, four seasons

From there to here

Dreaming of a white season

Say cheese

Discover the arts

The 6th Great Lake

Author:Pamela Merritt
Categories:Heritage, Family fun, Dining
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