Lake Clear Inn and its boathouse. The Casino is just visible at left. (undated) The Lake Clear Inn was built by Isaac Rice in 1850 on the north shore of Lake Clear as Rice's Hotel, also known as Big Clear Pond Lodge.  In 1912, after the death of Ida H. Rice it, was purchased by Charles H. Wardner who expanded it with cabins moved over the ice of Upper Saranac Lake from the former Rustic Lodge.

For more, see Ruth W. Freeman's personal history of working at the hotel.

Lake Clear Inn, lower right, with Whiteface, Moose and McKenzie Mountain. Note the cabins to the left of the inn. (undated) Plattsburgh Sentinel, May 16, 1902

Lee Jandro left Monday morning for Lake Clear, where he has accepted a position as telegraph operator in Rice's Hotel.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 6, 1957

History Told Of Lake Clear Inn


A pleasant vacation spot in the heart of the mountains, Rustic Lodge was a most unpretentious looking place – built long and low of squared chinked logs with plaster." There on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake was a hotel that radiated a spirit of good cheer and woodsy brotherhood.

An aerial view of the inn property, c 1944.  Photograph courtesy of M. Moschette. Lake Clear Inn, nestling close to the lake from which it derives its name, and some 18 miles north and east of the old lodge, carries on in the same friendly tradition, 107 years after its founding. Much of the attraction of Lake Clear Inn today is owed to a colorful past that includes a President and a song-writer and a host of vacationers who know and love this small, exclusive, yet famous resort.

The original Rustic Lodge was built by Jesse Corey in 1850. It was the most modest, yet, perhaps the most loved hotel in the Adirondacks, according to Donaldson's History of the Adirondacks.

During the late 1800's, Corey not only ran the hotel, but, he and others carried guide boats, canoes, baggage and camping parties over the old Indian Carry from Axton on the Raquette River to the shores of Upper Saranac. The trip, covering a distance of, three miles, cost the traveler $.75!

Lake Clear Inn and Cabins (c. 1935) In 1897, wealthy New Yorkers, E. P. and S. A. Swenson bought the property from Mr. Corey, who leased it and the Rustic Lodge to Charles H. Wardner. Mr. Wardner ran the hotel for 17 years, and finally in 1911, after considering many sites, bought the Rice Hotel on beautiful Lake Clear. Years earlier, sometime in the 1850's or later, a log cabin hotel called the Big Clear Pond Lodge was built. It later became the S.F. Bunker Hotel, and finally was purchased by Rice who later sold to Mr. Wardner. Logs which were part of the original hotel remain today in the foundation of a portion of the present Inn.

Lake Clear Inn's Casino (undated) Cleveland A Guest

An old ledger was found several years ago which recorded visitors to the S.F. Bunker Hotel from 1887 to 1891. In it the distinguished past U. S. President Grover Cleveland was registered as a visitor at the hotel August 7, 1890. Another guest amusingly registered on July 22, 1891, and after his name .wrote: "1 trout in the forenoon; 1 small fish, 1 bull pout, 1 leech; saw 7 mink; had no gun. x+***!"

William H. Wardner at the front desk of the Lake Clear Inn, 1944.
Photograph courtesy of M. Moschette.
In 1911 after his purchase of the Rice Hotel, Mr. Wardner changed the name to Lake Clear Inn. During the winter of 1911, eight of the cottages at the old Rustic Lodge were divided into sections, loaded on sleighs and brought to Lake Clear across the frozen waters of Upper Saranac and Lake Clear. These cottages, modernized, yet retaining their rustic decor, remain today.

The Inn was first opened for business the summer of 1912. Mr. Wardner and his son William ran the hotel together for many years.

Lake Clear Inn Cabins After Charles Wardner's death in 1932, William and his wife, the former Eva Freeman of Coreys, owned and managed the resort.

Mr. Wardner recently recalled many pleasant summers and some of the guests who had visited there. The summer of 1913, Oley Speaks, who wrote the music to "On the Road to Mandalay" set the beautiful words of "Sylvia" to music. It is no wonder that he found inspiration here for the view from the veranda of the Inn can not adequately be described. It is unique. Stretching for a mile in front of the eye and lapping the rise on which the Inn is situated are the clear and sparkling waters of Big or Lake Clear. Beyond this the lower hills roll away toward the highest mountains in the Adirondacks: Whiteface, Moose Pond Mt., McKenzie; a vast panorama of the "high peak area" — the Cascades, Big Range, Gothics, Dix Mt. and Marcy, the highest of all; McIntire, Sawtooth Range, Ampersand, Stony Creek and the Sewards; and then the smaller peaks of St. Regis, Roger, Boot Bay and Baker. From no one location. except atop one of these peaks can so many mountains be viewed at one time and in such grandure.

Bather's Paradise

The sandy shores of Lake Clear and the shallow waters which lie off them make it a bather's paradise. Native to the lake are trout— lake, brook. rainbow, and a few brown. In recent years according to information released by the Conservation Department, they have stocked the lake with rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon.

Some of the Lake Clear Inn's Cabins (undated) For those interested in other sports, there is a fine nine hole golf course, tennis courts, a putting green, and facilities available for swimming, diving and water skiing.

Host and Hostess are Mr. and Mrs. John K. Roosa, Jr.. Mr. Roosa tells a story much like that which can be told by many transplanted "natives" to Saranac Lake and the area. Jack, as he is known to the guests, came here when he was a young man with his parents from New York City. He fell in love with the mountains, and more particularly with Lake Clear and the Inn. After managing the Inn for four years with Mr. Wardner, he purchased it in 1952. The Roosas and their two children, Maryjika and Robert, are permanent residents here now but they radiate the enthusiasm of "first-time" visitors.

For 4 years before coming to desire to Lake Clear in 1949, he was manager of the Sulgrace Hotel in N.Y.C.


Lake Clear Inn (undated) Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 6, 1963

In September; Properties To Be Parceled


Lake Clear Inn, an Adirondack landmark since the 1880's will go under the auctioneer's hammer in mid September according to John K. Roosa, Jr. the owner.

The Inn properties comprise a land parcel of 100 acres, with 2300 feet of lake frontage on Lake Clear. There are 33 buildings, furnishings and equipment accommodating a maximum of 250 persons.

The hotel will be sold as a unit and the lots and cottages separately, by Charles Vosburgh Auctioneers who have recently been involved with the sale of Saranac Inn and other outstanding mountain vacation properties.

The approach to Lake Clear Inn, 1912. (Photo courtesy of George Carley) Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 28, 1989 The 30 cottages range in size from one double bedroom, living room and bath to three double bedrooms, living room and two baths.

The main hotel is a frame construction four stories high with a balcony fronting on the lake. It contains a dining room seating 125 persons. There is a staff dining room with a capacity of 40 persons, a cocktail lounge which can be easily converted to a snack bar soda bar, a large bright and airy lobby with fire place, a large well equipped commercial kitchen pantry, deepfreeze, bakery and 2 walk-in coolers.

Lake Clear Inn Staff, 1944The main building has 40 guest rooms, nine with private bath, all completely furnished. The 100 acre grounds include 2300 feet of desirable lake frontage with more to be added following some shoreline alterations adjacent to the golf course. The nine hole course is 2,342 yards long.

There is a limitless supply of Health Department approved water with modern pressure system.

The records of the Inn date back to S. F. Bunker who operated the hotel when President Grover Cle [sic] The Hotel was founded 113 years ago as near as can be determined. It has enjoyed its share of fame not only through the presence of Cleveland but also from the high clientele of vacationers who carried word of its appeal to all corners of the world.

Undated The original Rustic Lodge was built by Jesse Corey in 1850. It was the most modest and yet the most loved hotel in the Adirondacks according to Donaldson's History of the Adirondacks. During the late 1800's Corey not only ran the hotel but he and others like him carried guide boats, canoes, baggage and camping parties over the old Indian Carry from Axton on the Rqquette River to the shore of Upper Saranac Lake. The trip cost the traveler 75 cents.

In 1897 E. P. and S. A. Swenson bought the property from Corey and then leased it to Charles H. Wardner who ran the hotel for 7 years. In 1911 after considering several sites, Wardner bought the Rice Hotel on Lake Clear. Years earlier, something in the 1850's or thereabouts, a log cabin hotel called the Big Clear Pond Lodge was built. It later became the S. F. Bunker Hotel. Logs which were a part of the original hotel remain today in a portion of the foundation of the present Inn. President Cleveland had registered there on August 7, 1890.

Lake Clear Inn under that name was first opened for business in the summer of 1912. During the winter of 1911 eight of the cottages at the old Rustic Lodge were cut into sections and loaded on sleighs, then brought to Lake Clear across the frozen waters of Upper Saranac and Lake. Clear. These cottages, modernized, yet retained their rustic decor, remain today.

Undated Mr. Roosa purchased the hotel and property in 1952 and it has functioned as an integral part of the local economy since that time. The acreage also includes a tennis court and a sugar bush with sugar house, gathering tank, sap buckets, spiles and dray. The wood shed includes a large firewood splitting machine and a Bellsaw sawmill capable of supplying all lumber required.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 23, 1963

Lake Clear Inn Is Sold

Morgans Buy Big Cottage

The Lake Clear Inn properties were sold at auction Saturday for an estimated $100,000.

"The sale included over 30 buildings 78 lots of property as well as furnishings. Auctioneers were Charles Vosburgh & Son, of Cortland.

A crowd of over 1,000 swarmed over the Lake Clear site for the auction which ran all day.

Lake Clear Inn from the golf course, c. 1930
Alfred W. Santway Photograph Collection
Courtesy of the Adirondack Experience

The highest price paid for any lot was $8,000 for the Inn itself. It was bought by Robert Farley of Marlboro, Connecticut. Mr. Farley said he hopes to open the Inn again but made no definite commitment. He said he had not expected to be able to buy but had done so when the building went for the price it did. Mr. Farley said he got his start in the hotel business in Lake Placid as a bellhop at the Lake Placid Club.

The other bidder on the hotel was Dew Drop Morgan, Saranac, Lake restauranteur. Mr. Morgan paid top price for a lake front cottage as he bought the large white cottage next to the Inn for $4,000. Lots with houses and shore frontage ran from $1200 to $4,000. Empty lots, many of them parts of the golf course, sold for amounts ranging from $200 to $500. The golf course was broken up among several buyers.

Jack Roosa, former owner and manager of the Lake Clear inn, said this morning that he was "quite satisfied"' with the results of the auction. Commenting on the huge crowd, Mr. Roosa said "This indicates there is a vast segment of our population which has a great desire to own a piece of property, especially in a beautiful area like this one."

Mr. Roosa has no definite plans at the moment, but he said he intends to continue in the hotel business.

Auctioneer Vosburgh, who also sold the Saranac Inn properties, has said that the sale of hotel properties forecast and new era for the Adirondacks. He contends that now the individual property owner with a small summer cottage will replace the' large estates and great hotels of the past.

The Inn itself is constructed around a log core which was put up around 1850. It has 40 bedrooms. Most of the cottages do not have kitchen facilities and had relied on the Inn's dining room in the past.

The Lake Clear Inn properties, exclusive of the Roosa home which was not up for sale, have an assessed valuation of $30,000. The taxes will be pro-rated among the new property owners.

The only stipulations in the contracts forbade trailers, tents and commercialism except for the hotel itself. In essence, the cottages were sold as part of a. residential community.

Cars jammed the lawn leading down to the Inn and were strung out along the road all day Saturday. License plates indicated visitors from ail over the North Country and from New York City and Connecticut.

Most of the people gathered under a tent where they were regaled by the auctioneers. In selling a piano, Mr. Vosburgh had Jet Johnson play a few numbers which received applause from the crowd. Lots of furnishings were quickly sold at the auctions bellowed out the bids in their practically incomprehensible accents.

The auction had the atmosphere of a great outing for most people and the hot dog van was crowded all afternoon.

The exact amount paid for the property sold and the breakdown of how much will go to the auctioneers and how much to the former owner was not available at press time, and will probably not be made public.