Born: October 13, 1908

Married: Willard Gillmett

Children: Nonie Webb, Jerry Gillmett, Martha Rose

Chiefly known for:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 3, 2002

Presence of Saranac Inn changed life, work in Lake Clear area


I recently had a delightful conversation with Irene Gillmett, finding out some more about the Lake Clear area. Irene Primeau was born in Ontario on Oct. 13, 1908.

Along with her mother, father, two brothers, and five sisters, they came to Malone right after World War I in 1919. Living in Malone, Irene graduated from St. Joe's Academy and then went to Adirondack Commercial, which was a two-year business school. From there, Irene worked in the Office of the Modern Dry Cleaning business.

Her sister, Peg, had come to work at Saranac Inn and she told Irene to come here and she would get her a blind date. So Irene did and that blind date lasted 60 years.

In 1930, Irene came to work in the office at Saranac Inn. As did most of the employees at that time, she stayed at what was called the Guide House. That building and several others were where the employees would live while working at Saranac Inn. Irene said there were two to a room. Everyone got along real well.

On Oct. 5, 1932 Willard Gillmett and Irene were married at the Notre Dame Church in Malone. They lived with Willard's parents in the large house hear the outlet in Lake Clear. Willard's parents had built that house in 1923.

Then in 1939 Willard and Irene built their own house in Lake Clear and raised their family of daughter Nonie Webb, son Jerry Gillmett and daughter Martha Rose.

Willard worked as the chief electrician at Saranac Inn until the Inn closed in the late 1960s. After that he went into business for himself and eventually retired. Sadly for Irene, her beloved Willard passed, away in July of 1992.

Irene remembers the Saranac Inn as a beautiful place. It was open from June to October with the annex open in November. The entire inn was heated from a central heating plant.

Most everyone in the area worked at the Inn, with people corning from Malone to worlk. The brown cottages and white cottages were rented along with the rooms at the four-story inn. At the cottages, their meals were brought to them. At Saranac Inn, meals were served in the dining room. The waitresses were not allowed to write down any orders for the meal but had to remember what people ordered.

Included in the Saranac Inn complex were a doctor's office building, post office (where daughter Nonie worked until she graduated from high school), grocery store, ice cream parlor, beauty parlor (very important), chapel and casino. Dances were held often.

There was a tennis court, horses to ride, drivers for a boat trip, and famous 18-hole Saranac Inn Golf Course. The beautiful beach in front of the Inn was for swimming pleasure. If you were an employee, you were only allowed to swim at the back bay beach.

While staying at the Inn, you paid one rate of $5 a day which included all meals and private bath. So the ad says.

Some people would arrive at the Inn with their beautiful, chauffeur driven cars. Irene said that some nights, some of the local people would, take a ride to Saranac Inn just to look at the beautiful cars and the chauffeurs in their uniforms,

Some people came by train. The Saranac Inn burned down on June 19, 1978. So ended an elegant way to spend a vacation.

Irene said that she has seen many changes in Lake Clear, more houses being built over the years, more families moving in.