Baker's Store. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 11, 1963

Born: ~1803

Died: 1873

Hillel Baker was Colonel Milote Baker's brother. In 1856, when Milote built a store in on Pine Street and Main Street, Hillel, who was college-educated, made his collection of books available as an informal lending library, next door to his cobbler's shop on the second floor of the store.

In 1850 Hillel, with a worth of $600, was a boot maker in Grafton, Massachusetts living with the Austin Sherman family.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 11, 1963

First Post Office And Library of Saranac Lake Being Razed


Saranac Lake is losing its first post office and circulating library, a little from building at the junction of Main and Pine Streets, where it sets in a triangle with the railroad running in back.

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 he 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.