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Saranac Lake, New York

Saranac Lake
Lake Flower, from Riverside Park
Lake Flower, from Riverside Park
Nickname(s): The Capital of the Adirondacks
Saranac Lake is located in New York Adirondack Park
Saranac Lake
Location in the state of New York
Country United States
State New York
Counties Franklin, Essex
 • Type Mayor and Board of Trustees
 • Mayor Clyde Rabideau
 • Total 3.0 sq mi (7.8 km2)
 • Land 2.8 sq mi (7.2 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Elevation 1,545 ft (471 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 5,041
 • Density 1,812.0/sq mi (699.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 12983
Area code(s) 518
FIPS code 36-65233
GNIS feature ID 0964482

Saranac Lake is a village located in the state of New York, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,406. The village is named after Upper, Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes, which are nearby.

The Village of Saranac Lake covers parts of three towns (Harrietstown, St. Armand, and North Elba) and two counties, Franklin and Essex. The county line is within two blocks of the center of the village. The village boundaries do not touch the shores of any of the three Saranac Lakes; Lower Saranac Lake is a half mile west of the village. The northern reaches of Lake Flower, which is a wide part of the Saranac River downstream from the three Saranac Lakes, lie within the village. The town of Saranac is an entirely separate entity, 33 miles (53 km) down the Saranac River to the northeast.

The village lies within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park, about seven miles (11 km) from Lake Placid. These two villages, along with nearby Tupper Lake, comprise what is known as the Tri-Lakes region.

Saranac Lake was named the best small town in New York State and ranked 11th in the United States in The 100 Best Small Towns in America.[1] In 1998, the National Civic League named Saranac Lake an All-America City and in 2006, the village was named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[2] 186 buildings in the village are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


  • History 1
  • Culture 2
    • Artists' residences 2.1
  • Economy 3
  • Transportation 4
  • Geography 5
  • Demographics 6
  • Climate 7
  • Sister cities 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


The area was first settled in 1819 by the Jacob Smith Moody family from Keene, New Hampshire. In 1827, settlers Pliny Miller and Alric Bushnell established a logging facility with a dam and sawmill, forming the basis for the village. The first school was built in 1838, and in 1849, William F. Martin built one of the first hotels in the Adirondacks — the Saranac Lake House, known simply as "Martin's" — on the southeast shore of Lower Saranac Lake. Martin's would soon become a favorite place for hunters, woodsmen, and socialites to meet and interact.

The village of Saranac Lake, with Lake Flower below and Lake Colby above, from Scarface Mountain to the Southeast.

In 1876, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau arrived to treat his own tuberculosis; in 1884, he founded his Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, starting with a small cottage, called "Little Red", where two tubercular sisters from New York City became the first patients. Little Red, the first "cure cottage", was built on a small patch of land on the backside of Mount Pisgah, which was purchased for Trudeau by several of his hunting guides. As more and more patients visited the region, including author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1887, Trudeau's fame grew.[3] Soon, the sanitarium had grown so that it was entitled to its own post office, which would sort and deliver mail to its many patients. The Trudeau Institute, an independent medical research center, evolved from Trudeau's work for the sanitarium. In 1964, the Trudeau Institute began researching the functions of the immune system and how it guards against many infectious diseases, including tuberculosis.

William S. Fowler was a real estate speculator and developer who owned several properties around Saranac Lake. One of them was a beautiful multi-acre property just outside the Town on top of a hill. He named it “Spion Kop” in honor of a battle that was fought in the Boer’s War in Africa. In commemoration he placed miniature cannons on various parts of the property.

Several buildings were erected so that people could “Cure”. In 1919, he sold the property to the Northwestern Fire Insurance Company. They turned it into a private Sanatorium for their employees.

In 1925, the Sanatorium was sold to the National Vaudeville Artists. Around this time there were Vaudevillians in Saranac Lake curing at different locations. The NVA (as it was known) held Benefit Programs in New York City so that one large Building could be built. The older cure cottages were torn down and some were moved. By the end of the 1920’s the dream came true and the Tudor Building was built and still stands today.

In the 1930’s the NVA no longer existed and was taken over by a group known as the Will Rogers Memorial Commission. In 1936, one year after Will Rogers’ tragic death, the Building was renamed the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital. Also a Laboratory was built in later years and was named the O’Donnell Memorial Laboratory in honor of R.J. O'Donnell who was a well-known Theater Chain Manager. In the 1970’s, New York State forced the closure of the Hospital. The costs would have been prohibitive to bring the Building up to their codes. The Will Rogers building went through several changes at this point. It was opened up as a Night Club, then as a Time Share and finally apartments at which time it was abandoned and fell into ruins. In 1980, it was the press headquarters for the Winter Olympics. In 1995, it was sold to the Kaplan Development Group so that it could be turned into a Retirement Home for Senior Residents. Plans were made to restore the Building to its full glory as it was originally built. This is the history of the Saranac Village at Will Rogers.

A tuberculosis "Cure Cottage"

Telephone service was introduced in 1884, and the Chateaugay Railroad reached Saranac Lake from Plattsburgh in 1887.

The village was incorporated on June 16, 1892, and Dr. Trudeau was elected the first village president soon thereafter. Electricity was introduced on September 20, 1894, by installing water wheels on the former site of Pliny Miller's mill. Paul Smith, an important figure in the history of the village, purchased the Saranac Lake Electricity Co. in 1907, forming the Paul Smith's Electric Light and Power and Railroad Company, which eventually became part of Niagara-Mohawk. At the same time, the village began to stabilize, with public schools, fire and police departments, and other municipal facilities forming.

In 1892, John Rudolphus Booth, the Canadian lumber king, rented a cottage at Saranac Lake, where his daughter would cure for several years. Booth brought a pair of skis with him, thus introducing the sport of skiing to the area.[4]

George Marshall

Starting in the 1890s and for the next 60 years, Saranac Lake was known as "the Western Hemisphere's foremost center for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis".[5] An effective antibiotic was first used on human TB patients in 1921, but only after World War II did it begin to be widely used in the US. Thereafter, sanatorium treatment began to lose its importance, being phased out completely by 1954, when the sanatorium's last patient, baseball player Larry Doyle, left. Among the last of the prominent patients who sought treatment for tuberculosis was Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, the first Filipino president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, who died in Saranac Lake of the disease on August 1, 1944.

But the village's preeminence in tuberculosis care had lasting consequences beyond the many large, handsome private cure cottages that were left vacant after the patients were gone. The effect of the hundreds of patients and doctors from all over the world who came to live in the village, many of them prominent in business, literature, science or other fields, many of whom stayed for years, cannot be overestimated. Combined with the area's popularity with the power elite, who built their Great Camps on the nearby Saranac and Saint Regis Lakes, the effect was to change the sleepy village of 300 of the 1880s into the vibrant "little city" of 8,000, as the village has referred to itself for many years.[6]

Like the cure cottages, downtown buildings included porches for tuberculosis patients.[7]

Mark Twain vacationed on Lake Flower in 1901[8] at the height of his fame. While there, he wrote a Conan Doyle spoof, "A Double-Barreled Detective Story".[9]

Saranac Lake became an especially busy town in the 1920s, with the construction of the Hotel Saranac and several new, permanent buildings after multiple fires destroyed a large part of downtown. Bootlegging was common in the village. Legs Diamond visited his brother Eddy, who had tuberculosis and attempted a cure at a local cottage sanatorium.[9] During the 1920s, entertainer Al Jolson and president Calvin Coolidge were semi-frequent visitors to the village — Jolson once performed a solo for three hours at the Pontiac Theater on Broadway.

Beginning in 1936, Albert Einstein had a summer home in Saranac Lake, renting the cottage of local architect William L. Distin; he could often be seen sailing with his wife on Lake Flower.[9] He summered frequently at Knollwood Club on Lower Saranac Lake during World War II, and it was there on August 6, 1945 that he heard on the radio that that atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima; he gave his first interview after the event at Knollwood, on August 11.[9]

In 1954, Saranac Lake hosted the world premiere of the Biblical epic film The Silver Chalice, Paul Newman's film debut. Several of the stars, including Virginia Mayo, visited the village and participated in the winter carnival parade.

In recent years, Saranac Lake has become a more conventional tourist destination. New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has visited there ever since he was a teenager and regularly vacations there with his family.[10] The Hotel Saranac is a memorable early 20th century Art Deco structure. The former sanatorium is now the corporate call center for the American Management Association.


Robert Louis Stevenson's Cure Cottage.

Many tourists come to the village, which is very picturesque owing to its setting and the preservation of unique older architecture. Much of the village fronts on Lake Flower, which was created by a dam in the Saranac River and named after Governor Roswell P. Flower.

Summer visitors enjoy canoeing and other forms of boating, hiking in the forest, climbing in the nearby mountains, and visiting the local shops and restaurants. In the summer, the Village of Saranac Lake offers free concerts in Riverside Park on Lake Flower and the Berkeley Green park. Camping is also a popular pastime in the Saranac Lake region (List of area's state campgrounds).

Doonesbury (c) 2005 G.B. Trudeau. Dist. by Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.
Ice Castle from 2008's Winter Carnival

During winters, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling are popular activities. There is also an annual 10-day winter carnival, an event that has brought people together in celebration of winter since 1897.[11] Each year the carnival is given a theme - 2011's theme was "Medieval Times". The Winter Carnival parade reflects the theme, and Garry Trudeau, the creator of the comic strip Doonesbury who grew up in the town, creates artwork with characters from his comic strip doing things related to the theme for a button that can be purchased each winter. The carnival's main attraction is the ice palace, which is made with blocks of ice taken from Lake Flower and illuminated with colored lights, along with various winter activities and competitions.[12] These include a parade, which normally has several bagpipe and drum marching bands and the popular Lawn Chair Ladies, along with more usual floats and local school bands. Each year a Winter Carnival King and Queen, who preside over carnival activities, are selected from village residents based upon their contribution to Saranac Lake, while the prince and princess are from the two local colleges, North Country Community College and Paul Smith's College. There is also a winter rugby game.

Beaver Park (Village Improvement Society)

A non-profit Village Improvement Society, dating from 1910, currently owns and maintains eight parks. The extensive parkland along the lakefront, now owned by the village, is the result of the Society's earlier efforts.

Every year the popular Can Am Rugby Tournament, the largest such tournament in the Western Hemisphere, is held in the village.[13]

Artists' residences

The composer Béla Bartók spent summers in Saranac Lake and wrote some of his best-known works there.[14]

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent the winter of 1887 in a cottage in Saranac Lake, which still stands, and serves as a museum dedicated to his life.[15]

The cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who draws the Doonesbury comic strip, was raised in Saranac Lake and has maintained his connections there. He is the great-grandson of Edward Trudeau, described above.[16]


After the local

  • Adirondack Daily Enterprise newspaper
  • Saranac Lake History - Historic Saranac Lake
  • Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce
  • Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
  • Adirondack Scenic Railroad
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation designation of Saranac Lake as one of the "Distinctive Dozen Destinations"
  • North Country Community College
  • , "SL Named a Top Destination by the NY Times"WBNZ News
  • The Trudeau Institute
  • A directory of merchants in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Tupper Lake, NY.
  • An Adirondack Chronology by The Adirondack Research Library (large pdf)
  • Historic Saranac Lake

External links

  • John J. Duquette (March 1992). John M, Penney, ed. Saranac Lake, A Centennial: 1892-1992. Make-up by Carol Baker Snyder. Saranac Lake, New York: Saranac Lake 1992 Cenntennial Committee. 
  • Maid, Chery (February 7, 2006). "Building boom brought many local landmarks- How the 20s roared in Saranac Lake". Adirondack Enterprise. pp. 1, 9. 
  • Gallos, Phil (February 8, 2006). "Famous people you might meet on the street- How the 20s roared in Saranac Lake". Adirondack Enterprise. pp. 1, 10. 
  • Jackson, Linda. "Flaunting the booze ban- How the 20s roared in Saranac Lake". Adirondack Enterprise. pp. 1, 12. 
  • Gallos, Phillip L. (1985). "Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake". Historic Saranac Lake ISBN 0-9615159-0-2. pp. viii. 

Further reading

  1. ^ Crampton, Norman, The 100 Best Small Towns in America, Arco, 1995. ISBN 978-0-02-860577-7
  2. ^ National Trust - Dozen Distinctive Destinations
  3. ^ * Chalmers, Stephen (September 1912). "Sanitary Saranac Lake: A Small Town That Has Had Only Seventeen Deaths From Contagious Diseases In Twelve Years".  
  4. ^ "John R. Booth". Historic Saranac Lake. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ Gallos, Phillip L. (1985). "Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake", Historic Saranac Lake ISBN 0-9615159-0-2, pp. viii.
  6. ^ Gallos, Philip, Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake: Architecture and History of a Pioneer Health Resort, Saranac Lake:Historic Saranac Lake, 1985. ISBN 0-9615159-0-2
  7. ^ "A Brief History of Saranac Lake", pamphlet available at Saranac Lake visitor information center
  8. ^ Historic Saranac Lake
  9. ^ a b c d Taylor, Robert, America's Magic Mountain, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. ISBN 0-395-37905-9
  10. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (August 24, 2011). "In Mountain Village, Cuomo Finds Respite". The New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  11. ^ Tissot, Caperton (2012). Saranac Lake's Ice Palace: history of Winter Carnival's crown jewel (1st ed.). Saranac Lake, NY: Snowy Owl Press. p. 6.  
  12. ^ Tissot, p. 12, 24
  13. ^ "Can Am Rugby Tournament". 
  14. ^ Suchoff, Benjamin, Béla Bartók: A Celebration, Scarecrow Press, 2004, p. 8
  15. ^ "Robert Louis Stevenson Museum". 
  16. ^ "Slate: GB Trudeau's Doonesbury". 
  17. ^ Cortese, Amy (November 12, 2011). "A Town Creates its Own Department Store". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2011. Community ownership seems to resonate in these days of protest. 
  18. ^ "Google maps". 
  19. ^ "Trailways". 
  20. ^ "Yahoo Local". 
  21. ^ "Adirondack Scenic Railroad". 
  22. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  23. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  25. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  26. ^ "Coldest Places in United States". Current Results. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  27. ^ "Average Weather for Saranac Lake, NY - Temperateure and Precipitation". Retrieved July 29, 2008. 


See also

The village of Saranac Lake, bottom, with Lower Saranac Lake, above, from Baker Mountain, to the East. Lake Flower is at lower left.

Saranac Lake has two sister cities:

Sister cities

Climate data for Saranac Lake
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 62
Average high °F (°C) 27
Average low °F (°C) 5
Record low °F (°C) −36
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.51
Source: The Weather Channel[27]

Saranac Lake features a humid continental climate (Dfb) under the Koppen climate classification. While the region's cool, clear air was part of what made Saranac Lake famous, it can be a challenge. Winters are quite cold and it is not uncommon for the village to be the coldest place in the continental United States.[26] Spring is late and cool, summer short with cool evenings, and fall is early and crisp. The weather is famously changeable, and even short-range weather forecasts are often proven wrong. Lake-effect snow is common, and the town gets a substantial amount of it in the late fall and early winter. Sometimes the town can be buried in as much as 2 feet of lake-effect snow in December. However, the lake moderates temperatures enough to avoid the vicious cold of places like Old Forge, Crown Point, Philadelphia (New York), and Paul Smiths.


The median income for a household in the village was $29,754, and the median income for a family was $42,153. Males had a median income of $32,188 versus $24,759 for females. The per capita income for the village was $17,590. About 8.5% of families and 13.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.5% of those under age 18 and 17.6% of those age 65 or over.

In the village the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.8 males.

There were 2,369 households out of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.2% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.1% were non-families. 40.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.88.

As of the census[25] of 2000, there were 5,041 people, 2,369 households, and 1,182 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,812.0 people per square mile (700.1/km²). There were 2,854 housing units at an average density of 1,025.9 per square mile (396.4/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 96.87% White, 0.75% African American, 0.32% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.26% from other races, and 1.33% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.07% of the population.

Broadway, with Main St. at left


The closest major metropolitan city is Montreal, Canada, 112 miles (180 km) to the north. Plattsburgh, New York is 50 miles (80 km) to the northeast, Burlington, Vermont is 64 miles (103 km) to the east and Albany, New York is 149 miles (240 km) to the south.

The village is at the intersection of New York State Route 3 and New York State Route 86. Essex County Road 33 enters the village from the southeast, and Franklin County Road 47 joins NY-86 immediately north of the village.

The village is located at the junction of the Towns of North Elba and St.Armand in Essex County, and Harrietstown in Franklin County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 3.0 square miles (7.8 km²), of which, 2.8 square miles (7.2 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (7.33%) is water.

Saranac Lake is located at (44.325988, −74.130944).[22]

The Saranac River runs though the village.




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