The talk on the streets is that "Hot Sara is back!" This joke references the only partly lighted sign that once stood atop Saranac Lake's tallest building: the Hotel Saranac.
But a new era is dawning for this important part of the town: February 11, 2017 (the same day of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade,) the new sign was lit up. It spells out the entire name.
That's not all that is new.
working from the top down
While I am part of a tour which will move from the ground floor to the sixth, the construction is closer to being finished the higher we go. This is a standard tactic to keep dust and other messes from settling on places that should be finished. By working down through the building, the fresh stuff stays looking good.
A little more patience, and this will be the Campfire Adirondack Bar & Grill.
While still under construction, Hotel Saranac is now taking reservations for the fall season. The challenge of historic building reconstruction is keeping as much of the old as possible, while updating with all the necessary advances which are so important to the hotel industry. With so much work completed, a lot of the "surprises" have been encountered, and dealt with, by now.
The older the building, the more likely it is that someone, somewhere along the way, did something unplanned and unexpected. Previous renovations need to be removed or replaced to update. Considerable research was done by the parent firm to re-create the Hotel Saranac in all of its original glory.
This glass window is the last vestige of the original first floor... it will also be replaced with a modern version.
I begin the media tour on the first floor, which is the least ready to receive visitors. But we can see the literal outline of its new shape, which will include a ground floor dining place called Campfire Adirondack Bar & Grill, their Ampersand Spa & Salon, and retail space to make the building more a part of downtown. The new reception area will face Academy Street. They are moving the main entrance to the opposite side of the building.
Here is the original flooring on the ground floor; carefully uncovered and, in places, restored.
This will take advantage of the new parking deck and keep a visual connection with the other building, with larger suites, that will also be part of the hotel.
thrilling second floor
A centerpiece of the hotel, then and now, is its second floor. Its design was inspired by a Renaissance-era Italian Palazzo, the Davanzati Palace, which was built in the mid-14th century. Here is where many weddings, graduation parties, and Winter Carnival balls were held.
"So many memories," we were told. "Not a day goes by we don't hear another great story of how wonderful it was back in the day. So we want those days to come again."
Here, where a bar used to be, there will be an even grander one to replace it.
The second floor, with its terrace, dining rooms, and lounge area with fireplace, will once again host delightful gatherings. It will now be known as the Great Hall Bar. The emphasis will be artisan cocktails and catered events.
The sweep of the rooms, a key factor in their welcoming atmosphere, will be enhanced by restoring the hand-painted beams throughout. The scattering of chairs and couches I have seen in old pictures will also be a part of the decorating, bringing the room back into its natural function as a happy gathering place.
These beams have been cleaned in preparation for being repainted.
I have always been very fond of the second floor terrace which overlooks Berkeley Green and downtown. It will be fully restored as an option for outside dining. We can't have too many of those, in my humble opinion.
The view from the terrace. Soon.
During cooler months, the central area will be the restored fireplace.
This lovely fireplace will be especially welcome during season when the terrace will be closed.
Saranac Lake's walkable downtown now has another nexus to meet, greet, and mingle in.
the new rooms
But all these previous challenges were those of restoration and construction. The real challenges are on the upper floors, where 1927 realities meet 2017 expectations.
These room and closet doors are numbered so they will go back to where they fit.
They had to number all the doors to the rooms, since they were all a little bit different. There turned out to be thirteen different kinds of room types throughout the residential floors. Hospitality standardization was not the same thing in 1927 as it is in 2017.
Listening to some of the challenges the construction crew encountered, the word "concrete" is prominent throughout. This is because when the hotel opened in July 1927, it was proclaimed the first fully fireproof hotel in the North Country. That meant lots of concrete.
These moldings are more than decorative; they carry all the wiring the walls cannot.
But while this was state of the art at the time, it causes trouble ninety years later. A lot more stuff gets run through the walls and ceilings of today's buildings. This was a tricky part of the updating that we saw handled in various ways.
Another reason to work from the top down is how much of the upper floors offered the same challenges, floor after floor. Once they figured out how they were going to proceed with the different rooms, they could handle several floors worth of changes with the same kind of plan.
Custom rugs and special designs means each room offers the same amenities to all guests.
The hotel designers have taken their cue from the Roaring Twenties legacy and existing design elements. The blue rugs with their gold accents are patterned after some special Hotel Saranac designs found throughout the hotel. The dark wood of all the new furniture will be set off with classic crisp white linen for an authentic Great Camp look.
While the hotel celebrates the history, the guest rooms will be brought into the 21st Century with amenities like 55-inch TV flatscreens, a minifridge, and two-line phones with voicemail.
The view is marvelous!
The Hotel Saranac will be, once again, the place to stay, dine, and enjoy.