Founded in 1980, Historic Saranac Lake is a not-for-profit architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from its center in the Saranac Laboratory Museum. The organization offers professional knowledge and experience to the public in support of historic preservation, architectural and historical research, and education. Historic Saranac Lake is located at 89 Church Street, the site of the Saranac Laboratory founded by Dr. Edward L. Trudeau.
Historic Saranac Lake has successfully nominated over 170 properties to the National Register of Historic Places, and has joined with other organizations to administer preservation projects such as the restorations of the Union Depot and the Bartók Cabin, and producing publications, articles and curricula that highlight the lives and architecture unique to our region. They offer educational events that feature these sites and stories through their Summer Music Series, History Day, walking tours, and lectures, all offering a heritage tourism experience filled with outdoor, fresh-air history.
In 1998, Historic Saranac Lake assumed ownership of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau's Saranac Laboratory, built in 1894, which was founded for the study of tuberculosis. The building is a tangible reminder of the possibility and optimism Trudeau sustained despite the struggle and loss of so many to this debilitating disease. Historic Saranac Lake opened the Saranac Laboratory Museum in the summer of 2009, with two exhibits, The Great War: World War I in Saranac Lake, and 125 Years of Science in the main laboratory space.
For more information, visit HSL's website: historicsaranaclake.org.
Historic Properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of Historic Saranac Lake include:
- Berkeley Square Historic District (South Main Street, and South Broadway)
- Church Street Historic District (57 through 118 Church Street and North Main
- Cottage Row Historic District (61 Park Avenue through 185 Park Avenue)
- Highland Park Historic District (281 Park Avenue through 490 Park Avenue)
- Trudeau Sanatorium Historic District
- Individual Cure Cottages (Helen Hill, French Hill, Glenwood, Rockledge)
- Paul Smith's Electric Light and Power and Railroad Company Complex
Other National Register properties in the Saranac Lake region:
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 8, 1985
SL historic group progresses
By LINDA LUMSDKN
SARANAC LAKE – Historic Saranac Lake, Inc. hopes to create a bit of history itself in coming months.
The historic-preservation association this month plans to begin renovating a Charles Street house into a home for a low-income buyer; it is awaiting official word due in the spring placing nearly 200 local structures on the National Register of Historic Places, and this summer it will publish an illustrated history of the village's cure-cottage industry compiled by writer Phil Gallos.
Should expected developments materialize, 1985 will be a banner year for an organization which began in reaction to a sidewalk-widening project. Director Mary Hotaling says talk of establishing a "theme" for downtown buildings during the pre-Olympics sidewalk project worried citizens who feared the village would lose the unique historical and architectural legacy of its now-defunct cure-cottage industry. They banded together to increase awareness and pride in that heritage, so that the buildings would survive in their original form.
"Our point was we had an identity already," says Hotaling. She adds that the peculiar cure-cottage industry — the only one of its kind in the United States — should be a source of great pride to the village.
As Gallos has written, "...the village was a place of hope, unlike any other place, the antithesis of a world of fear and rejection, a community of people, both healthy and ill, in which a man or woman with tuberculosis would not be shunned as a carrier of contagion but would be accepted as a human being".
Hotaling became interested in local history after her family bought a former cure cottage. As she learned more about her home and neighborhood, she became convinced the fascinating information she gleaned should be more readily available to the public.
One of the first projects Historic Saranac Lake tackled was to apply for the National Register of Historic Places designation. The long, drawn-out process last year came within a step of reality when some 185 buildings passed the preliminary review by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Now only final approval from Washington, D.C., is awaited.
Historic Saranac Lake looked at 2,000 village buildings before completing its list of possible historic buildings, according to Hotaling. The group counted some 700 former cure cottages among its tally.
Hotaling adds that numerous historic buildings failed to pass preliminary National Register reviews for various reasons, such as extensive renovations that changed a building's character. Other rejections were more arbitrary. The building which houses The Blue Gentian Cafe, for instance, was rejected by the state because it is not contiguous to the Main Street area which would become the Berkeley Square Historic District.
Inclusion in the National Register does not mean a building cannot be altered or demolished, according to Hotaling, although governmental projects must consider their effect on the historic value of any National Register building. Historic Saranac Lake is seeking no zoning restrictions on property within the proposed historic districts, she added.
One of the greatest benefits of the designation is a 25 percent federal income tax credit for owners who renovate buildings, she says, adding that credit is threatened by the Reagan administration. Historic-district homeowners also may qualify for larger home-improvement loans or matching grants for renovations.
About half of the local National Register nominations are clustered in five areas: the Berkeley Square Historic District, Church Street Historic District, Cottage Row Historic District and Highland Park historic districts on upper Park Avenue and the site of the former Trudeau Sanatorium at what is now the American Management Association.
About a third were nominated thematically as cure cottages, including buildings scattered throughout the village. The remaining dozen sites were nominated for their individual historic value, including the Hathaway Boat Shop at 7 Algonquin Avenue, the Niagara Mohawk Light and Power Building at 2 Main St., the North Elba Town Hall and Keough Marine at 33 Lake Flower Avenue.
"The general value of the nominations is to raise the consciousness of people and make them proud of their history and homes," Hotaling says.
She notes some property owners have taken pains to preserve their buildings' special features. The National Army Store, for instance, recently renovated its brick facade to reveal third-floor windows. The Harrietstown Town Hall also underwent a $250,000 overhaul. And Dr. E. L. Trudeau's former home at 5 Church Street is well maintained by Medical Associates of Saranac Lake, which practices there.
Far down the road, Hotaling would like to erect plaques on buildings stating their historic significance. The group has erected one such sign on Dr. Trudeau's former Church Street laboratory, now a Paul Smith's College dormitory. 1
Gallos is delving further into local history with research for his upcoming book on the cure cottages. 2 The book will be illustrated with vintage photos from the Saranac Lake Free Library's collection. Local photographer Barbara Parnass is making the prints from the original glass plates.
No price has yet been set for the book, which Hotaling warns will be fairly expensive to offset the cost for high-quality photographic reproduction.
Gallos' research has shed light on a unique era, described in part in a 1982 series in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. The story of one building is indicative of the history within the walls of the former cure cottages, many now converted to private homes and apartments:
Because the emotional state of TB patients was considered crucial to their recovery, new arrivals "taking the cure" were interviewed to place them in cure cottages that would best suit their age, interests, and emotional and intellectual levels. They spent their days reclining in special cure chairs on open-air porches to inhale the fresh Adirondack air.
At 5 Franklin Ave., the Mary Prescott Reception Hospital was a clearing house for the seriously ill. From it, patients often were sent to private sanatoriums clustered on nearby Helen Hill, with the greatest concentration of private cure cottages. Now a private dormitory for women students of North Country Community College, 5 Franklin Ave. also was once the site of the Saranac Lake Study and Craft Guild. Out of that guild grew NCCC's X-ray school. The building was named Prescott House in honor of its founder, a former TB patient who originally opened it as a cure cottage at Dr. Trudeau's request.
Following the publication of Gallos' book this summer, Hotaling says Historic Saranac Lake will largely have met its historic-preservation charge. Now it is moving into the realm of housing. Last year it sponsored a two-day housing rehabilitation workshop for building professionals and created a "parts warehouse" at the railroad depot. Home renovators can buy scrap materials there that otherwise would be carted to the landfill.
Historic Saranac Lake last year also bought its own house, a Charles Street structure 3 obtained for the price of back taxes with part of a $10,000 grant from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Hotaling says the structure is sturdy, although the former owner used the basement as a bathroom. The sewage was cleaned up and Camp Adirondack inmates and volunteers emptied the interior, she says.
No further work was done on the vacant building for months, although Historic Saranac Lake is advertising for a contractor to do work on the recently completed specifications. Hotaling says work may begin as early as mid-March.
The group will seek additional funds to complete the renovations, which she estimates will cost from $20,000 to $25,000. She expects the house will be on the market for a low-income buyer by late summer. Historic Saranac Lake is looking at other similar buildings to buy in what it hopes will be an ongoing program to save old buildings and help ease local housing problems.
Historic Saranac Lake also plans to continue past programs, such as its small lending library on historic housing topics and the production of various brochures, including one that describes a walking tour of the village's historic buildings.
Most of the group's funds come from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. In addition to the $10,000 Rural Area Revitalization Program grant for the Charles Street house, this year it awarded the organization a $32,403 administrative grant, which must be matched a third by in-kind services. The state Council on the Arts also awarded it $4,110 to help fund the cure cottage history. The organization also sponsors fund-raising efforts, such as the sale of notecards and mums.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 31, 1984
Historic inventory done
[NOTE: The following is not an accurate list of those properties which were finally listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one step in a process, which in a number of cases was never completed.]
SARANAC LAKE - Historic Saranac Lake has completed its presentations of buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. Fifty-eight individual cure cottages and the site of the Winter Carnival Ice Palace were reviewed and accepted in April. At the May 18 meeting of the Committee on the Register, the following buildings were accepted: Baldwin School, North Elba Town House, the homes of taxidermists Charles L. Dickert and Herbert Miner and William W. Rice, the Freeman Baker Boat Landing, the Gutzon Borglum statue of Dr. E.L. Trudeau, and the Tousley House. Five additional cure cottages accepted were: the Colbath Cottage and home of guide Hosea Colbath; the Stevenson Cottage; the Friary; Hillside Lodge; and the Ledger Cottage. Two new historic districts were created: Cottage Row and Highland Park, both sections of Park Avenue.
These study reviews were based on forms submitted by building owners in a village-wide canvass. Additional research was also done by Philip L. Gallos, author of By Foot in the Adirondacks. Black and white prints and color slides of each house were taken by Gallos and by Barbara Parnass, photographer and H.S.L. president.
Previously nominated were the Union Depot, Prescott House, the Power and Light building, and three historic districts: Church Street, Berkeley Square, and the old Trudeau Sanatorium, now the American Management Association. The Will Rogers Hospital has already achieved listing on the National Register.
Before the final listing on the Register, letters will be sent to the owners of each building by the State Historic Preservation Office asking for comments. A public information meeting will also be held here in the fall.
August 11-17, 2006
Historic Saranac Lake to host third annual house tour
SARANAC LAKE – Seven historic sites will be featured in Historic. Saranac Lake's Third Annual House Tour on Wednesday, August 16. Buildings will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. To begin the self-guided tour, participants are asked to register at the Saranac Laboratory, 89 Church Street, between 2:45 and 5:45 p.m. The cost is $20.
The Porcupine, at 350 Park Avenue, was built in 1902 by Branch and Callanan on a design, by well-known Adirondack architect William L. Coulter. The owner was C. F. Aldrich, a tuberculosis patient who died in 1904. His father, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, once editor of the Atlantic Monthly, called the home "The Porcupine" "because it had so many good points, and because it was occupied by a quill-driver [writer]." It was later the combined home and office of Dr. Ippoly and later still of Dr. Forbes. One of the largest single-family houses in the village it is currently operated as a bed-and-breakfast.
The Sloan Cottage, 31 View Street, was built in 1907 and served as a rather elaborate cure cottage for wealthy patients. There is a first-floor "sitting out" porch add a second-floor sleeping porch, both with a view of Baker and MacKenzie Mountains. After outliving its curing function, this house was used as a private school before being restored to use as, a single family home.
The Jakobe House, 383 Park Avenue is a Dutch Colonial Revival-style residence built before 1917. Its fascinating architecture includes a full facade first story porch with paired Doric columns, bay windows and a rectangular balustrade. It was the home of Dr. Carl Merkel, a T.B. surgeon; his son, the current Dr. David Merkel, lived there as a boy.
Plans for the Vault at Pine Ridge Cemetery were adopted in 1925 to create a place for winter storage for up to twenty bodies because the deep frost presented an obstacle for the opening of graves during the winter. The cemetery is the final resting place of many founding families, doctors find their patients and includes the Moody family cemetery (also known as the Old Protestant Cemetery,) the old St. Bernard's, (Catholic) Cemetery; and the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery. Special memorials are present for 15 Norwegian seamen who were at sea when Hitler invaded Norway and who later succumbed to tuberculosis and for 25 relatives of the Ring family of Lake Placid who were killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Members of the Masonic Lodge celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Masonic Temple in 2004. It is worth the climb to see their elaborate meeting room on the third floor of the building.
The Iffert House, 179 Kiwassa Road, is reputed to be the oldest house in town. The Saranac Laboratory was built in 1894 for Dr. E.L. Trudeau and was the first laboratory in the United States built for research on tuberculosis.
In its 25-year history, Historic Saranac Lake has made major contributions to the preservation of local history and to the education of the public about the unique contribution of Saranac Lake in health history. From the late 1800's to the mid-20th Century, Saranac Lake was the premier place in the Western Hemisphere for research and treatment of tuberculosis.
In addition to saving the Bartok Cabin from demolition, Historic Saranac Lake played a key role in the restoration of the Union Depot, which was reopened to the public in the summer of 1999, after over 30 years of disuse. HSL currently is renovating the Saranac Laboratory where Dr. E. L. Trudeau and his colleagues conducted important research on the treatment and cure of tuberculosis. Other activities of Historic Saranac Lake include sponsoring speakers, giving tours, assisting researchers, and producing videos and books.
For more information about the organization, go to Historic Saranac Lake