Address: 81 Church Street
Old Address: 9 Church Street
Other names: Robbin Cottage, Johnston Cottage, National Vaudeville Artists cottage
Year built: c. 1924
In 1924, through the efforts of Dr. Edgar Mayer, all tubercular members of National Vaudeville Artists (NVA) who were patients in Saranac Lake were were moved under one roof, at 9 Church Street; Mrs. Frances Robbin was made superintendent of the NVA cottage. The following year, the NVA began planning for a new institution, the National Vaudeville Artists Lodge, built on forty acres south of the village and finished in 1929. Later, it was renamed the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Robbin died in 1939 and Mrs. Robbin sold her interest in the NVA cottage, now the Northwood, to Thomas Day. 1
An article titled "Cottage Calls," about patients in Northwoods Sanatorium on Church Street, appeared in The Guild News in November 1942.
Elisabeth Widmer was living at what was then known as the Robbins Cottage when she met Beanie Barnet, who lived at the Johnson Cottage nearby on Academy Street. They were married in 1954, when she was 38; Beanie was 54.
Baseball great Larry Doyle lived there in 1958.
Northwoods was acquired by Paul Smith's College around 1966-67 as a dormitory; it burned February 27, 1974. 2
A fire at 9 Church Street that started at mid-morning was still burning at noon today and was gutting the building and blanketing the village with smoke.
The three-story frame building used as dormitories by Paul Smith's College housed 14 students. All of the students were out of the building at the time of the alarm. there was a brief period of panic when one of the 14 students could not be found, but it was learned within a few minutes that he had gone to a store to make a purchase.
Grant Kane, manager of the college's Hotel Saranac where the students have practical lessons in hotel management, said the fire is believed to have started at the base of a dumbwaiter.
At 11:30 a.m., firemen in the snorkel were pouring a stream of water on the flames that had burst through the roof. Other lines were trained through the windows. Most of the windows were broken and blackened as was the white siding of the building.
Firemen wetted down the old Trudeau Laboratory next door, but firemen said there was never any serious danger of the fire spreading.
From a press release by Albert I. Evans: August 14 [no year given]:
"Notables of theatrical world here today for ground breaking for Northwoods sanitarium [sic] at which will be treated theatre folk suffering from tuberculosis. Upon arrival here this morning in special cars they were breakfast guests of William Morris of New York at his camp at Colby pond. Later they went to White Pines camp at Osgood lake and were received by president. Luncheon followed at Paul Smith hotel. At three P.M. ground breaking and tree planting ceremonies took place at tract recently purchased on Lake Flower here where sanitarium is to be erected. Those taking part and organizations they represented were as follows— Daniel Frohman, Actors Fund of America— Charles Coburn, Players club— Colonel Reginald Barlow, Lambs club— S. Jay Kaufman, Green Room club— William Morris 2nd., Friars club— Brandon Tynan, Catholic Actors guild— Rev. Elmer P. Miller, Episcopal Actors guild— George Howard, Actors Equity guild— Miss Nellie Revell, New York Newspaper club— Walter K. Hill, Press Agents association— David Seymour, Theatre Manager associations— Henry Berlingholl, American federation of Musicians."
When Paul Smith's College operated the nearby Hotel Saranac, a dormitory for their hospitality and culinary arts students was built around 1984 on this lot — which included the Day Cottage on the rear of the lot — and that of the the former Jewish Community Center just south of it on Church Street.
2012-11-12 22:03:40 My father, Charles Schwartz, was the personal lawyer for and close friend of Al Jolson. Although Jolson is not mentioned in either of these articles as having been a patient there, my recollection is that my dad told me Jolson was. Also, in Jolson's will there is, among many charitable bequests, a $50,000 bequest to the Northwoods Sanitorium, which is one of the pre-Will Rogers names of the facility. We had for many years a summer home on Lake Placid, and I recall my dad visiting the Will Rogers Hospital to meet with its administrators more than once. Also, Fred Schwartz, mentioned at length above, as the head fund raiser there from 1971 on, was another friend and client of my dad, who had represented Fred's dad and the Century exhibition chain since its inception. Fred and my family became neighbors in the summer on Lake Placid, and we socialized almost daily for many summers, waterskiing together, usually behind his super fast Century inboard rather than our larger but good deal slower Chris Craft. Lastly, my dad was the corporate Secretary and General Counsel of Columbia Pictures, and Mr. Montague was its corporate Treasurer, and also a friend of ours. My main point is that, while I am looking now for my copy of Jolson's will, it is my distinct recollection that I was told by my dad that Jolson left money to Will Rogers Hospital not only because it was a movie industry haven, but because he had actually been there early in his career. Interestingly, although I have read several biographies of Jolson, and while I have met and talked about Jolson with members of the International Jolson Society, no one seems to be aware that he was, even if only for a few months, a patient there. Perhaps because it might have been construed as a reflection on Jolson's health, he never sought to mention it publicly. And yet, in 1949, when he and my dad drew his will, he chose to put it in. Ernie Schwartz, 11/11/2012 —18.104.22.168
1. Obituary of Mrs. Francis Robbin, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 12, 1962
2. Michael Kudish, Paul Smith's Flora II, p. 148.