Alfredo Gonzalez, Guild News, June 1954. For the full photograph, see Study and Craft Guild, bottom. Courtesy of Janet Dudones. Gonzalez Cottage, 163 Park Ave. A brick at the Saranac Laboratory has been dedicated in the name of Alfredo and Alicia Gonzalez by Amy Catania.

Born: 1903

Died: c. January 20, 1965

Married: Alicia Milanes del Prado

Alfredo Gonzalez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1903. Stricken by TB as a young college student, he came to Saranac Lake in 1920 seeking a cure. He found it in thoracoplasty, a radical operation in which ribs were removed in order to collapse and thus provide rest for the diseased lung. In 1926, Alfredo met and married a visitor from Havana, Alicia Milanes del Prado, a short, stout, soft-spoken woman twenty years his senior. The couple soon opened their first cure cottage catering to Latin American patients; over the next forty years they would operate several such cottages in Saranac Lake, the largest and longest-running one at 80 Park Avenue.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, Alfredo also inaugurated a number of community projects, including the annual Harvest Hop dance at the Hotel Saranac from 1942 to 1952. The first hop was a gala affair with a Latin American theme. The Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C. loaned a set of large flags representing the twenty-one Latin republics to decorate the hotel ballroom. The event included a Latin dance contest; a beauty pageant with each female contestant representing a different Latin American country; a New York City band, Señor Uvanni and His Caballeros; and the singer Louisa Paván Hennessey.

Several local Latin American families helped Alfredo with the organization and planning of 1948’s hop, retitled the Fiesta Hop. Events included a costume ball; a samba exhibition by Mr. and Mrs. P. J. Serralles (of the wealthy Don Q Rum Company family); and entertainment by Benito Collada, owner of the El Chico Nightclub in New York, famous singer and dancer Rosita Ríos, and Raúl Barragan’s five-piece orchestra. Local photographer Bernard M. Acosta of Costa Rica recorded the festivities. The Fiesta Hop also showcased one of Alfredo’s most prestigious guests, Lieutenant Colonel Mario Vargas, the Venezuelan war hero and chief of the armed forces. Some old-timers in Saranac Lake still remember the general’s heavily medaled uniform, as well as the two Venezuelan presidents, Rómulo Gallegos and Rómulo Betancourt, who came to visit him in town.

Alfredo Gonzalez was known to his friend, Dorothy Stephen, as "Uncle."

Gonzalez Cottages and homes
24 Franklin Avenue  
93 Riverside Drive 1931 - 1932
144 Main Street 1933
14 Park Place 10/2/33 - 3/31/34
49 Shepard Avenue 1934 - private address, no patients recorded
38 Margaret Street 1935 - private address, no patients recorded
80 Park Avenue 1936 - 1950 cure cottage and home 1950 - 1957 rented as apartments
84 Park Avenue 1949 - 1962 cure cottage and home

The Guild News, August, 1945

Portrait (First in a series of Guild faculty members)

Alfredo Gonzalez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended the public elementary and high schools there. He then enrolled at the University of Mayaguez, but this was interrupted after one year when, in 1920, he was forced to come to Saranac Lake for his health. At the time he was heartbroken, naturally, but more recently he shudders when he thinks of what he would have missed had he become a chemical engineer, as his folks intended.

Arriving here, he entered the nursing cottage of Miss Ruth Collins at 90 Park Avenue, where he remained for three years, under the care of Dr. Sidney F. Blanchet. When the latter suggested a thoracoplasty for Alfredo, he was none too keen about it, for up to that time there had been but five such operations performed. However, with the help of Dr. Welles, he was able to make it an even half dozen.

Following his cure, in 1926, Mr. Gonzalez met and married Alicia Milanes, of Havana--who was visiting here--and the same year they opened a cure cottage of their own on Main Street. Moving later to 24 Franklin Ave., and several other stops, they finally reached their present home, 80 Park Ave., the former N. V. A., where they have been for some time. Here he caters to the wants of all the Spanish-speaking patients who come to Saranac Lake from the Latin-American countries -- Cuba, Puerto Rico, and South America.

He was one of the first teachers at the Guild, when it was housed on lower Main Street, and his Spanish courses have grown in size and popularity along with the Guild. He has taught as many as 100 students a week when, in addition to private students, he had classes at Trudeau, Will Rogers, Ray Brook, and Stony Wold. To this, one term, was added a group at Sunmount.

With all his home and teaching activities, Alfredo has still found time --as chairman of the Guild's social committee--to oversee the annual Spring Frolics and Harvest Hops. The more recent of these, the Arabian Nights and Gay Nineties Balls, were the most successful in the history of the Guild. He arranged for the appearance of Rosita Rios on several occasions, among other things.

He inaugurated the Spanish Club, which is open to all students who have had two or more years of Spanish, and can carry on conversation. Meetings are held at regular intervals--at different students' homes--and take the form of social gatherings.

His ambition is to remain in Saranac Lake, and to further it he has recently purchased a home at 26 St. Bernard Street, where he and Mrs. Gonzalez hope some day to settle down--far from the cares and worries of a cure cottage--with just a few friends (thirty or forty) in for a game of poker occasionally--and plenty of Arroz con Pollo (chicken with rice)--as only Mrs. Gonzalez can make it--on the table.

He has unlimited energy and an infectious laugh. Likes people, and is seldom bored by them. For relaxation, he plays the mandolin; and for exercise, he walks around to St. Bernard Street every day, to see if his house is still there.

Alfredo and Alicia Gonzalez left Saranac Lake in 1962 when he became assistant manager at the El Chico Club in New York City. He died there in 1965, with Alicia surviving him. His obituary  in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on January 21, 1965, says that when he first came to Saranac Lake in 1920, he boarded at a cottage owned by Alicia Milanes Delprado, and they married in 1926.


See also: Latin American Patients