Year built: by 1854
By 1854, early settler Colonel Milote Baker built a small hotel and store near Baker Bridge (at what would later be 8 Pine Street and the site of the present Triangle Park, respectively). Visitors included New York Governor Horatio Seymour, United States Treasurer Francis E. Spinner and "many other men of public and professional eminence." Lady Amelia Matilda Murray, lady in waiting to Queen Victoria, who traveled through the Adirondacks in 1856, referred to it as the "last house of reception on the Saranac River".
Frederick J. Seaver, Historical Sketches of Franklin County, Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1918 (full text)
Milote Baker opened a boarding house or hotel and store in 1851 about a mile below the village, but in Essex county. He was a natural host, and his place had a wide reputation and great popularity, though of course in a small way as compared with later enterprises of a similar sort. The sportsmen who stopped with him sought their fishing and hunting for the most part at the lake, and as indicative of the former abundance of game it is told that Mr. Baker employed thirty men as hunters in 1868, kept two teams constantly on the road in autumn and early winter, hauling venison to market, and shipped five hundred deer. His store burned in 1869, but was rebuilt.
Unidentified newspaper clipping, January 29, 1923
FIRE DESTROYS OLD BAKER HOTEL, FIRST ESTABLISHMENT OF KIND IN ADIRONDACKS; WAS FIRST POST OFFICE AND FREE LIBRARY
Fire, which had gained such a start that despite the efforts of the Fire department it destroyed the entire inside of the building, routed the tenants early yesterday morning and left standing only the frame of the old Baker hotel in Stevenson Lane, which was once the only hotel in this section.
When the fire fighters arrived on the scene, after an alarm had been sounded by Louis Hesse, one of the tenants, they found it impossible to enter the burning building. Over two hours the flames were fought, but when the fire was under control only the frame of the building remained.
The hotel was built by Colonel Milote Baker, who came here from Keeseville in 1852. It was then located on the East side of what is now known as the Baker bridge. The building was used as the first post-office of the village and also the first public library.
Orlando Blood became the owner of the property on the death of Colonel Baker. During his ownership the house was no longer used as a hotel, but was changed into an apartment house.
Wallace Murray, the present owner, moved the building to Stevenson Lane and it was remodeled into a more up to date apartment house. Mr. Murray's residence, a large stone structure, now occupies the original site of the old hotel.
While the old building was run as a hotel, it was the stopping place of many of the notables who visited the Adirondacks at the time. C. G. Gunther, mayor of New York, was one of the celebrities it sheltered. Alfred B. Smith, state librarian, was another. Governor Seymour and his party were other visitors. Charles A. Dana, of the New York Sun, whose brother's widow married Colonel Baker, was a frequent visitor.
A short distance away from the burned building is the Memorial cottage of Robert Louis Stevenson, which houses priceless Stevenson souvenirs and is visited yearly by hundreds of visitors. Fortunately, it was not threatened by the flames. It is occupied by Andrew J. Baker, a son of Colonel Baker, who was a close friend of Stevenson during his stay in Saranac Lake.
It was impossible to obtain any estimate of the damage done by the fire. There was, it is reported, no insurance on the building. In addition to the money loss the village has lost one of its oldest and most interesting landmarks.
Malone Farmer, January 31, 1923
OLD LANDMARK BURNS
One of First Hotels Erected in the Adirondacks Destroyed Sunday Morning.
The building known as the old Baker hotel in Saranac Lake, originally erected many years ago beside the river on the east side of Baker bridge where Wallace Murray's residence now stands, but moved a few years ago to Stevenson Lane and converted into an apartment house, was practically destroyed by fire Sunday morning. Only the shell remains.
Col. Milote Baker, who settled at Saranac Lake in 1852, built the hotel, which was once the only hotel in that section of the Adirondacks. Governor Seymour and party were among the early visitors entertained at the hotel and many other notables frequented it. Col. Baker married the widow of the brother of Charles A. Dana, of New York, and the latter, who was a close friend of the family often visited Baker's.
The first postoffice in Saranac Lake was established in 1854 in a little building across from the hotel and Col. Baker was the first postmaster. The first village library was in the same building. The hotel, standing on its original site, was long used as a dwelling after Col. Baker's death. The famous Stevenson Cottage, owned by Andrew J. Baker, son of Col. Baker, is nearby and stands on a part of the old Baker estate. The late Ensign Miller, who many years after the building of the Baker hotel, erected the big Miller boarding house on the north side of the river, was Col. Baker's son-in-law.
From an unidentified clipping in a scrapbook in the Adirondack Collection of the Saranac Lake Free Library. Though it is undated, it must have been written just before the Wallace Murray house was built, but after the Stevenson Memorial was established. This same clipping is found in Marguerite Armstrong Scrapbook 11, which covers 1925, pasted inside the back cover.
LAST OF BAKER'S IS DISAPPEARING
Site of Historic Old Hotel Now Being Covered by a Modern Bungalow
WAS THE EARLIEST OF LOCAL HOSTELRIES
Many Famous People Were Guests There, Including Those on Way to 'Philosopher's Camp' — Millionaires Slept on Its Floors.
There is a new house being erected these days for Wallace Murray at the long-vacant lot where Main Street cuts across Pine Street into Stevenson Lane. And thereby hangs a tale; not of the new house but its site. For years this vacant site has been an object of military and historic interest to visitors. A grassy plot with an old foundation excavation in the middle and fenced in from the street by an old-fashioned fence half-hidden in wild rose-bushes, it was once the site of the old Baker Hotel which was moved bodily to where it now stands as a residence a little further up the lane. In July and August, when the wild roses are in full bloom the picturesque old fence has been photographed by many summer visitors to the Stevenson Memorial and by others interested in literary and historic landmarks. The old Baker Hotel was the first and earliest of Adirondack hotels in this region. It was built in the early fifties and in its time entertained all the distinguished guests who made early trips through the woods. In the early sixties one of the visitors was Lady Amelia Murray, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria who escorted by Governor Seymour of New York was the first woman to "cross the woods", as the saying was in those days. Overcrowded often in the summer season millionaires many a time were glad to sleep on the old timber floors of Baker's [illegible] about the time of the Civil War the Philosophers of Ampersand Pond, Lowell, Emerson, Agassiz, Judge Hoar, Bayard Taylor and others stopped for dinner and sometimes, before they made Martin's on the Lower Lake their headquarters, styed overnight and discussed abstruse matters. Well, the old fence is gone but possibly the wild roses may remain around the walls of the new stone residence in which the Murray family proposes to live. No more will pilgrims to literary Saranac stand before the grass-grown gate and think of the days when Lowell said he would not take a step further into the woods if Emerson was going to be allowed to carry a gun. It took no powerful imagination to see again the absent smile on the face of the Sage of Concord where he sat by Baker's fire taking the chaff because he forgot to shoot a buck when the "most remarkable creation of grace" he had ever seen suddenly emerged on a deer drive and "turned its soulful limpid eyes" upon him.
Col. Milote Baker's hotel stood next to the Pine Street bridge (where the stone residence now stands) and the store was in the triangle between Pine and Main Street adjacent to the railroad tracks, the space currently occupied by Triangle Park. The latter building was of historical value for two reasons. Colonel Baker was the first postmaster in Saranac Lake and established the post office in his store in 1854. Upstairs, over the store, Milote's brother, Hillel, had a shoe repair shop and in a side room he kept a book collection which served as the first lending library in the community. Although it was not a public library, per se, Hillel was especially fond of children and he allowed them to come and read in the little room or take books home at no charge.
The original store building burned about 10 years after it became the post office but was immediately rebuilt.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 11, 1963
First Post Office And Library of Saranac Lake Being Razed
The small building is cobwebbed with history and early village importance when Col. Milote Baker who built "Baker's Hotel" which later became the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage enlarged on his property.
The Colonel built "the store" in 1854 across the way from his hotel and became the first postmaster in Saranac Lake. The original structure was destroyed by fire in the 1860's but was immediately replaced by the building which is now partially dismantled by Harold Gilpin who owns the property. In 1862 William Martin secured the Post office and moved it to his hotel on Lower Saranac Lake.
Over the store were two little rooms, one filled with books and magazines and the other used as a cobbler's shop. The cobbler was Hillel Baker, a brother of the colonel. Hillet was a mildly eccentric old bachelor but highly intelligent and college educated who was perfectly content to cobble away his life in peaceful obscurity in Saranac Lake.
He lived with the Colonel in the hotel and got along famously with his brother and everyone else. His gentle acts and kindly ways endeared him to the raw but fast, growing community. He was much loved by the children of the village and it was for their benefit that he maintained at his own expense, a small circulating library in the little room next to the one he used as a cobbler's shop. Here the children could come and read or take home books with them.
Hillel was naturally interested in church work having been trained for ministry and he used to preach on Sundays in a union electing house erected back of the Baker store on what is now Pine Street. This building was long ago turned into a dwelling but a little belfry on the gable still survives to recall its once religious use. (Editors Note: This building could not be found and the information here was first published in Donaldson's History of the Adirondacks in 1921.)
Hillel died about 1873 and Colonel Baker died on November 2, 1874. After Colonel Baker's death the hotel and store were closed forever as such and the property passed into the possession of Orlando Blood and again on to others.
The Baker store and post office have been used as a home since that time. When the property was acquired by Harold Gilpin he attempted to give it to the village with the hope that the building would be moved up near the Stevenson Cottage at the end of the lane. Mr. Gilpin feels that the building has just as much historical value as the cottage itself and would like to see it restored with a cobblers shop, and circulating library in the upstairs rooms.
The structure is only partially dismantled and the original beams, floors, studding and square nails are visible along with the mark of the adze and axe on the main beams. Mr. Gilpin says there has been much interest shown in the little frame "store" since attention was called to it in the newspaper recently.
The information in this article was presented by Mrs. Worthington of the Library to the Enterprise and can be credited to Donaldson, chronicler of Adirondack History.
Mrs. Worthington was especially interested in the great names and famous people who came to the Baker Hotel and undoubtedly used the little store that is being torn down. They included Governor Seymour and his party and United States treasurer Francis Spinner.
Colonel Baker was at one time head of the commissary department at Sing Sing prison.
- Donaldson, Alfred L. A History of the Adirondacks, New York: The Century Co., 1921 (reprinted by Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, NY, 1992)