Hotel Saranac. Postcard courtesy of Nora Bouvier Hotel Saranac ballroom. Photograph by Winchester MacDowell, undated.
Courtesy of Marsha Morgan.
Hotel Saranac ballroom Hotel Saranac, 1929 Hotel Saranac postcard. Courtesy of Noreen OslanderHotel Saranac, 2009 Address: 100 Main Street

Old Address: 95 - 101 Main Street

Year built: 1927

Architect: Scopes and Feustmann

Other information:

The Hotel Saranac, designed by local architects Scopes and Feustmann, is listed as an Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is the only hotel building remaining of thirteen hotels that once served this community.

About the same time the new Harrietstown Town Hall was being built, William H. Scopes was selling bonds for his (then) latest project — the Hotel Saranac. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of these bonds were bought by virtually every business person in the community as well as many other individuals. When merchant Irving Altman bought one for $500, then Adirondack National Bank president John Freer told him, "This is the best investment going." Some time later, Altman ran into Scopes on the street and asked, "Well, Bill, how's it going?" The architect put his hand over his head as though holding a rope, grimaced, and replied, "I'll have a noose around my neck till the day I die." With six hotels and numerous rooming-houses already operating in the village, there was really no market for the 100 rooms at the Saranac, no matter how modern they may have been. The hotel was a financial flop from the beginning, and it deeply embarrassed and nearly ruined its promoter.

In 1961, the Saranac was taken over by the hotel management school of Paul Smith's College. With considerable efforts on the part of Paul Smith's College, John Freer's prediction was fulfilled. In 2006, the college sold the property to a private owner.

The hotel played a major role in the community over the years, its ballroom serving as the site of dances, wedding receptions, conferences, dinners, balls and other celebrations.

From a paper written by Philip L. Gallos for Historic Saranac Lake.


The Hotel Saranac was built in 1927 at a cost of approximately half a million dollars ($7 million in 2017 dollars). Maurice Feustmann was a Beaux-Arts trained architect. Design of the principal public rooms in the hotel was said to be influenced by the details of the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy.

The hotel was leased by Paul Smith's College in February of 1961 and purchased by the college in the fall of 1962. 1

In 2006, the college sold the hotel to Sewa Arora of Long Island for $770,000, and announced plans to move their hotel and culinary practicums to the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid.  The transition did not go smoothly, and relations between the Aroras and village residents soured quickly.

In October, 2013, Arora announced that he would stop taking reservations, pending sale of the property to Roedel Partners of Saranac for $1,850,000.  Over the next four years, the Roedel corporation put some $30 million into the property, completely renovating the property and building a two-level parking garage on the site of the former Odd Fellows Hall.  The hotel re-opened on January 18, 2018.

The Roedel corporation also acquired the former Paul Smiths College Residence Hall on Church Street and remodeled it to provide larger rooms and suites, as the original hotel had smaller rooms than are the rule today.

Phil's News Stand, Phil Perry, proprietor, was located in the Hotel Saranac Arcade according to an advertisement in the program for the St. Bernard's Club's Minstrel Review, circa 1930. It sold cigars, cigarettes, confectioneries, newspapers and magazines.Ad for Hotel Saranac on the Highway Map and Guide of New York


Malone Farmer, January 31, 1923

SARANAC LAKE'S NEW HOTEL, Will Have 157 Rooms and Probably Cost $400,000

F. H. Anderson, of the J. G. White Engineering Corporation, New York, which will build the new hotel at Saranac Lake if the local people subscribe $200,000 toward the project, was present at the annual meeting and banquet of the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce last week and stated that his firm was ready to place its money with that of the local people and that the company is not connected with failures. The hotel, if built, will have about 157 rooms and it is hoped that the cost will not exceed $400,000.

The hotel will be built so as to provide for three types of guests—the traveling man, the tourist-and visitor coming to Saranac Lake to be with sick relatives or friends. A floor of rooms, with running water and a common bath, the section being made to harp a club atmosphere, will provide for the traveling man. Rooms with bath will provide for the tourist, and rooms, three in one, with bath and Murphy bed that can be folded during the day to provide a sitting room, will give a home atmosphere for visitors remaining for an extended period.

Ad for Hotel Saranac on the Highway Map and Guide of New YorkOn the ground floor it is proposed to have as many stores as possible to provide revenue from rentals to meet overhead charges. The lobby will be typically Adirondack. There will be a coffee shop, drug store and candy store. A roof garden is also included in the plans, half of it enclosed in glass to make it usable both summer and winter. This will be for dancing and music parties and a men's club. The White Company will put up the balance of the funds needed above the $200,000 which Saranac Lake is asked to subscribe.


A Letter to the Editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on October 9, 2012, reminisced about the Hotel Saranac: "I remember the civil defense tower on top, where we Boy Scouts waited to alert for Russian bombers. I remember Mr. Meyer giving my brother and me our first jobs washing pots and pans, bell-hopping and operating the elevator while trying to stop with the floor level, busing tables in the restaurant. I remember what fun we had as Mrs. Ryan's cigar store gang. The 'secret' passages underneath. Bussing tables for my Junior Prom." Jude Richardson, Cogan Station, Pa.


Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 31, 1962

Hotel Saranac table card, with wine ordering suggestions on one fold and a comments section on the other.
Grant Cane served as Resident Manager after 1963, and
Dr. Buxton served as President of the college until 1976.
Courtesy of the Adirondack Experience
HOTEL COURSE UNIQUE SYSTEM

On February 1, 1961, the board of trustees of Paul Smith's College of Arts and Sciences at Paul Smiths, at the suggestion of college president, Dr. Chester L. Buxton, embarked upon a unique program for the school when it approved leasing, with an option to purchase, one of Northern New York's largest and most modern hotels, the Hotel Saranac, situated in the heart of the business district of Saranac Lake. The six-story, brick hotel contains 96 rooms, each with bath, a hotel-operated [restaurant?] and coffee shop and ten sub-rented stores. One of the outstanding features of the structure is its beautiful second floor lobby, which extends practically the full length of the building and is copied after a salon in the famed Davanzanti Palace in Florence, Italy.

Two important factors prompted Dr. Buxton's consideration of the hotel as a college unit. One was the continual growth of the college's  hotel department. The structure has four floors of rooms above the second-floor lobby and ballroom with twenty-four rooms on each floor. In assuming the management and operation of the hotel, one floor would be made available as a dormitory to house them with the practical phases of students of the rapidly growing hotel and resort management department. Students could be housed two to a room which would enable the college to increase its student capacity in the hotel department.

Lake Placid News, July 23, 1937The other potential was the opportunity to use the hotel as laboratory in which the students could obtain important "on the job" training which would provide hotel operation to supplement academic studies.

In keeping with this plan, last September fifty second-year students took up residence on the third floor of the hotel where they remained for a period of eight weeks,. During their stay, the students studied management, menu planning, purchasing, hotel practice and other professional subjects. Meanwhile, academic courses required in the curriculum continued to be taught at the college campus at Lower St. Regis Lake about ten miles north of Saranac Lake.

After eight weeks, another group of fifty students took up residence while the first group returned to the campus. Freshmen get their first taste of practical hotel operation during the summer between first and second year with half the class working in rotation at the hotel.

As for the personnel of the hotel, it is operated by Paul Smith's College with professional crews supplemented by a rotation of students from the college hotel courses. The hotel department students are under the direction of department head Harry Purchase. While at the hotel, they are under the guidance of Richard E. Basile, administrative dean of the college and managing of the hotel. Robert McKillip is resident manager and carries out the established aspects of hotel operation. Mrs. Georgina Carson, of the college faculty, assists in the coordination of students and the professional staff.

This program, unique in college schools, finds the students' studies supplemented by actual participation in the daily operation and problems of a commercial hotel. They observe "on the spot" the operations and the fundamentals of good management and how it is applied to daily situations which are subject to continual change. It is the belief of the hotel faculty that the experience of the students "on the firing line," so to speak, will find them prepared for better adaptation to situations in which they will undoubtedly find themselves once out in the field.

During their stay, the students are rotated through various  positions in the hotel and the schedule calls for training in the front office; uniformed service; kitchen; dining room; housekeeping; bar, maintenance and receiving departments. All in all, there are thirty-six positions in which the students must complete full-time work and upon which they must report their reactions, comments and suggestions.

The hotel also provides an opportunity for some students to earn money to help pay their educational expenses, both during the semesters and the vacation periods.

The status of the student while at the hotel is that of "student guests" and they are advised that their responsibilities will include taking care of and improving the property with ideas and suggestions. They are warned also that paying guests do not expect the "atmosphere" to be that of a college dormitory.

Student reports indicate that hotel student operation is extremely popular both in training it makes available and in the added social amenities it provides students situated as it is in the center of the village. The college operation has also proved an inestimable boon to the village in resurrecting one of the state's finest hotels and housing in it a fine group of young men and women who add perceptibly to the village social and cultural activity.

Operating hotels is synonymous with the name of Paul Smiths, for the man after whom the college is named was the owner and operator of one of the leading resort hotels in the country at the turn of the century, the famed Paul Smith's Hotel in the Adirondacks, upon the grounds of which the college campus is now situated. A part of this once world-renowned hotel still stands and houses the administration offices of the college as well as a hotel unit and dining room.

Phelps Smith, the hotel founder's son who died in 1937, left the entire Paul Smith's properties to found a college to be named after his father. The college opened in 1946 and had a student body of approximately 600 during the 1961-1962 college year.


Ticonderoga Sentinel, March 4, 1926

TO BEGIN NEW HOTEL

Erection of the steel for Saranac Lake's new $500,000 hotel will begin April 1st, it was announced recently by William H. Scopes, head of the Saranac Lake Hotel Corporation


Lake Placid News, July 9, 1926

Get Contract for New Saranac Lake Hotel

Branch & Callanan of Saranac Lake have been awarded the contract for the general construction work on the Saranac Lake hotel. The steel framework was finished recently, and the work on the rest of the building will be started immediately.

Plans call for the completion of the hotel by the summer season of 1927. The hotel, when finished, will have 100 rooms with private baths and will accommodate 160 guests. Stores will occupy the first floor. The new hotel will be six stories in height.


Lake Placid News, October 29, 1926

RUSHING WORK ON SARANAC LAKE'S NEW HOTEL

Workmen on Saranac Lake's new hotel are rushing construction in order that the hostelry may be enclosed for the winter months when work will continue on the interior.

It is planned to open the new hotel to the public early next summer.


Adirondack Record-Elizabethtown Post, December 2, 1926

Hotel Saranac Is To Be Name of Hostelry

Hotel Saranac will be the name of Saranac Lake's community hotel. This decision was announced last week in behalf of the directors of the Saranac Lake Corporation, formed by William H. Scopes and M. B. Marshall last year to carry out the project of a modern, fireproof hostelry on the old Main street school site.

 

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Other historic properties

Comments


2011-01-13 17:30:13   does anyone have details about this hotel being haunted?

i've heard rumors about ghosts, a fire that destroyed the previous building and spooky stories.... —70.89.52.185


2011-01-14 10:33:27   You may have seen this post, here, apparently written by a student at Paul Smiths:

"Well, I know the history quite well. Her name is Lydia Martin Smith. She is the wife of Apollos Smith, who in turn is the creator of Paul Smiths College. His wife used to run the Hotel until it burnt down. She also helped to run the old TB clinic that was in the Hotel Saranac. Her grave is said to be somewhere near the dorm that she is said to haunt. And I have seen her at the Hotel Saranac at least once. I have had several guests come up to me and mention someone sitting in the ballroom which was her favorite room. I went to look and no one was there. When I asked the guests to explain what the lady looked like, they said she was her hair pulled tight, and a long dark dress. I would direct them to her portrait and they would tell me the lady looked somewhat like the woman in the portrait. Now out here at the college, she is said to haunt the dorm which bears her name. The dorm, is also shaped like a cross. She is said to walk up and down the halls, as she is discouraged by the fact that men and woman share the same dorm. Her spirit is said to not like that because its not proper. I have heard people tell me that they have seen her. As to their credibility, I don't know. I do know for a fact though, that my campus is haunted, as well as every level in the Hotel. I have felt and seen things there. Some odd things too, that I can't even describe. I can't see most of the spirits, but some I just know are there. I can feel them around me. Since I finished my internship, I haven't felt as many on campus, but there are at least three that I'm positive of, maybe a fourth..."

There are a number of points here that are incorrect. Apollos Smith created Paul Smith's Hotel, not Paul Smith's College, which was created by his son's will. Although Saranac Lake was famous for it's tuberculosis sanatoria, the Hotel Saranac did not house a TB clinic.

Lydia Martin Smith died 36 years before the Hotel Saranac was built, and ten miles distant— it would seem unlikely that a spirit would haunt a space to which it had no connection. The site of the Hotel Saranac previously held a high school (that Lydia Martin did not attend) that was moved before the Hotel Saranac was built.

Don't believe everything you see in print! Even here.

Mwanner


2012-10-01 21:34:23   When my daughter and I stayed there we heard a woman humming in the hallway on the 6th floor, but there was no one there. —66.251.36.62

Footnotes

1. Michael Kudish, Paul Smith's Flora II, p. 148.