BOOK YOUR TRIP
History of Saranac Lake
Surprising facts 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

Saturday, July 20th, 2019
Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins, Jr.! This delightful tale of family and friendship is coming to Camp Pendragon to show audiences how a little magic goes a long way! Join us as...
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
The upcoming date less then 1 day.
Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins, Jr.! This delightful tale of family and friendship is coming to Camp Pendragon to show audiences how a little magic goes a long way! Join us as...

Recent Blog Posts...

Monday, June 24th, 2019
Author: Eileen Mowrey Walk the streets of Saranac Lake during the day and you’ll find local art galleries, charming coffee shops, and a wide variety of eclectic boutiques. It’s the scene you...
Monday, June 17th, 2019
We set out early for a morning paddle on Fish Creek. We planned to paddle a half day, then head into town for lunch at Left Bank Café, followed by a massage. We really needed a break from our...
Earn Your Patch There’s an adventurous spirit in all of us. In Saranac Lake, you can answer that call by becoming a Saranac Lake 6er.
Unplug Outdoors The mountains, rivers, and lakes bordering Saranac Lake aren’t just for show, and those boots on everyone’s feet aren’t a bold new fashion statement.
Enter to Win Sample Saranac Lake with this getaway package. Enter now!
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Interested In
Sign Me Up!