The Saranac Club at Bartlett's Carry, between 1900 and 1920 Saranac Club, road to golf links and Ampersand Mountain, between 1900 and 1920 The Saranac Club was a group of New York City patrons of Bartlett's on the carry between Middle and Upper Saranac Lake from 1889 to 1913.

The similarly named Saranac Lake Club located in the Berkeley and Empire Hotels (and possibly also the Hotel Saranac) is sometimes confused with the Saranac Club.

From the Annual Report of the Forest Commission for the year 1893

It may be of interest to the travelers and sportsmen of the Adirondacks to know that there is one club whose elegant and commodious house is open to them and whose grounds are not posted with forbidding trespass signs.

This photo, simply captioned "Saranac Club," is from the Irving Wolins album.
Courtesy of James and Sandy Schechter
The large and handsome structure, erected by the members of the Saranac Club on the old Bartlett Carry, will compare favorably in all its appointments and comforts with the finest hotels in the Adirondacks. It has a charming situation and the architectural design is bold and pleasing. Best of all, the club members who own it are willing to share a good thing with the public, and its doors are open to the weary tourist or sportsman who may pass that way. The traveler may rest upon its broad and cool piazzas and refresh himself at its inviting table; furthermore, if unobjectionable or properly introduced, he can remain and enjoy all the comforts and privileges of this lovely spot by paying the rates usually paid for superior accommodations. Throughout the woods there is many a tourist sportsman and guide who cannot say enough in praise of the hospitable arrangements of the Saranac Club.

Among the first and best of Adirondack landlords was Virgil Bartlett, who established himself in 1854, on the "carry" since and still known by his name, as the "Bartlett Carry", a lovely slope of land at the headwaters of the Saranac River, where the outlet of the Upper Saranac Lake flows in a foaming torrent over its rocky bed to the Middle Saranac. Here for over thirty years, Bartlett kept a comfortable house and set his well spread table; and to every old habitue of the Northern Adirondacks no name more than his brings up pleasant recollections of the woods.

In 1889, soon after his death, the property passed into the hands of a number of gentlemen, mostly former visitors, who organized the Saranac Club as a summer woodland home for themselves, their families, and guests.

Bartlett's hotel was originally a log house, which had, as his customers increased, been enlarged and improved several times, until at last it contained about thirty rooms, affording accommodations to about fifty guests. Its new owners the, Saranac Club, in the spring of 1891, thoroughly refitted it, making it much more comfortable and greatly improving its external appearance. Most unfortunately, and from a cause never discovered, in July of that year, it took fire and burned to the ground.

The Llewellan landing at the Saranac Club, c. 1900-10. The Wawbeek Hotel can be seen on the far shore. (Detroit Publishing)

The present club house was completed in July, 1893. It is situated on a slight elevation, affording fine views, especially to the east, over the Saranac River, and the Middle Saranac Lake, and stands about 300 feet west of the hollow where the Bartlett House, or old club house, stood. Almost opposite, and a little east of the new club house, on the "Carry" road, stands a large cottage, built in 1891, by a few of the members as an annex to the old house. This is a substantial building with about twenty rooms conveniently fitted up, affording its occupants most comfortable quarters, with somewhat more privacy than the club house itself. It is known as the "Combination Cottage."

This locality is easily reached by the Delaware and Hudson railroad, and Chateaugay railroad route, which lands passengers at the village of Saranac Lake. From the latter point, the trip is made by "guide boat" through the Lower Saranac Lake, with its many picturesque islands; thence through the Saranac River into the Middle Saranac Lake, passing through it almost under the shadows of Ampersand Mountain which rises grandly from its southern shore, and landing at the boat-house at the foot of the lawn in front of "Bartlett's." In fair weather this is a delightful row of about three hours; but in rainy and stormy weather, the waters of the Middle Saranac Lake are rough and dangerous, if not impassable. Since 1892, the place is easily accessible from the Adirondack Division of the New York Central railroad. By this route passengers leave the train at Saranac Inn Station and go down the Upper Lake on a steamer, which, after a delightful ride of an hour or so, lands them at the club house dock.

The club has excellent accommodations for about one hundred persons, and as its membership is not large it can usually accommodate a few others, friends of members, or strangers properly introduced. There are twenty four members. The officers are President, Jonathan J. Broome, 377 Broadway, New York; vice president, Washington Wilson, 33 East Seventeenth street, New York; treasurer, S. Hedding Fitch, 120 Broadway, New York; secretary, R. D. Douglass, 314 Broadway, New York. The club owns but little land, the members doing most of their hunting and fishing on the State Forest Preserve, a large tract of which is in the immediate vicinity. The club owns 267 acres, in fee, it being the land on which its buildings have been erected. This land is known as Lot 19, Township 23, Macomb's Purchase, and is situated in Franklin County in the town of Harrietstown.


State of New York, Annual Report of the Forest Commission for the year 1893, Albany:James B. Lyon, 1894. Full text at Google books

New York Times, July 7, 1907

…There has been considerable new building at the Saranac Club, including the construction of a new electric light plant and a new boathouse…

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 29, 1992

The rise and fall of the Saranac Club at Bartett's Carry


Once upon a time there existed two Saranac Clubs, one in the Hotel Saranac and the other at Bartlett's Carry. 1 The former was an organization formed by local businessmen who wished to maintain a little privacy while enjoying fraternal games of cards, billiards, and business-related conversations. Their club rooms were located off the former arcade which led through the hotel from Academy Street to the main entrance on Main Street. Next door to the club was Phil Perry's smoke shop.

It is, however, the latter club which will receive our attention. As mentioned in an earlier Weekender, the middle to late 1800s witnessed the formation of many private clubs seeking to ensure good hunting and fishing privileges through the purchase of wilderness tracts. Bartlett's Carry had long been a favorite gathering place for the sportsmen and their guides as well as occupying a vital link in the water transportation along the Saranac chain of lakes.

The photograph from which the detail above was taken.

In 1854 Virge Bartlett had purchased 267 acres surrounding the rapids cascading out of Upper Saranac Lake and forming the headwaters of the Saranac River. He operated the carry until his death in 1884 and his widow continued to run the place for another five years prior to her decision to sell out. The rapids, which necessitated the boat carry, were reported by many of the early writers as being the best trout waters to be found in the entire area. Of the many sportsmen who frequented Bartlett's over a period of some 35 years one certain group of individuals decided to join in an effort to purchase the property.

On Feb. 25, 1889, the group met at the Merchants Club in New York City to discuss the possibility of forming a club with the express purpose of acquiring Bartlett's Carry. They learned that Mrs. Bartlett had made a deal with a Mr. Fowler, which apparently consisted of a lease combined with an option to purchase for the sum of $15,000. The terms of the lease to Fowler were not quite clear, so two of the group, Charles Alford and William Riker, were appointed to travel to Bartlett's to ascertain whether a deal could be reached. As it turned out. Fowler was willing to relinquish his lease providing that he and his wife would be retained as club managers. The terms were agreeable.

On March 25, 1889, nine former patrons of Bartlett's met to formally organize the club and prepare an agenda. Generally, the founders were from the metropolitan areas of New York City and Orange, NJ. In addition to Alford and Ricker those present were: Robert D. Douglas, Jonathon Broome, Charles Reed, Theodore Fitch, S. Hedding Fitch, Edwin A. Cruickshank and Warren Cruickshank.

These charter members formed the "Saranac Club" and promptly set forth a constitution by which the club would be governed. Under Article I, Section 2, it stated that the purpose of the club was: "The Club is organized to promote social intercourse and recreation, and for the other objectives expressed in its Certificate of Incorporation." Article II, Section 1, limited the membership to 25. Further articles went on to cover the usual affairs relative to rules, by-laws, committees, election of officers, and meeting schedules. The rules committee set the various charges for usage of the club property and operation of facilities. Some of the rules were:

•No charge for club members to use the carry;

•Guide and light boat a 25-cent fee;

•Club guests $3 per day, $17.50 per week;

•Dinner $1, breakfast or supper 75 cents;

•Guide meals 25 cents, rooms $1; and

•Member rate $2 per day.

In addition to boats at the club boats would also be kept handy at other locations such as Ampersand Pond and Deer Pond for members' use. All boats, buildings, and grounds were to be maintained by Fowler, and many former residents of Saranac Lake found employment at the club. The most noted of this latter group was Herb Clark, who rowed the freight and mail boat daily between the club and Ampersand Bay for a round trip of some 24 miles. While at the Saranac Club Herb met and married his wife, the former Mary Dowdell, a co-worker at the club.

The Mill dam, Saranac Club, c. 1909, at the outlet of the lake into the Saranac River. Note the electric wires leading from the dam. (Detroit Publishing)

Certainly not on a par with some of the more affluent and much larger clubs that have flourished throughout the Adirondacks, the Saranac Club, nevertheless, enjoyed a site prominent in local history. Over years a host of famous writers, artists, philosophers, and their equally famous guides passed over the carry in both directions. The reign of Virge Bartlett had established an estimable reputation which the Saranac Club was determined to maintain as well as control.

To open the season in the spring of 1891 the new owners rejuvenated the old lodge only to have the building burn down in July of that same year. In 1893 the members elected to build a new clubhouse but rather than replacing the lodge at its former site, next to the river below the falls, they chose a higher ground on the hill above the bridge. The new house was a multi-gabled, three story frame structure with surrounding porches. The membership had increased to 24 and several private cottages had been added to the complex to form a tiny but exclusive community.

To maintain the level of good fishing in the immediate, waters a stocking program was initiated by the club. Over 60,000 brook trout were planted in Round Lake, while 6,000 were placed in the rapids. Above the river, in Upper Saranac Lake, they stocked 50,000 lake trout. To further enhance their holdings the membership decided to install electric service which could be powered by the adjacent waterfalls. Specifications were prepared by the house committee and a bid of $6,000 was received from the Adirondack Hardware Co. of Saranac Lake. The proposal was accepted by the membership during August, of 1906. A hydrogenerating plant was installed to provide a direct current system which was adequate to supply the electric lighting capacity requirements of the club as well as the private cottages. The little DC plant continued to operate for many years and actually outlived the club itself.

Despite all of the improvements, or perhaps because of the upgrading itself, a general decline in membership was taking place. Could be that all the amenities detracted from the rustic charm that formerly pervaded the older lodge. In any event, for a while, attrition kept things going as new members replaced those retiring from the club but eventually the numbers would diminish to a few remaining diehards. With the final passing of the Saranac Club the property became solely owned by the Yardley family.

During the Virge Bartlett era practically 100 percent of the travel was by guideboat — currently the traffic is nearly 100 percent by canoe. There are two obvious reasons for this shift in popularity. Canoes can be mass-produced in both fiberglass and aluminum, while the hand-built guideboat is much harder to come by. The other reason being that with established and well-marked routes (by the DEC), guides are no longer a necessity and the trails often resemble cow paths. At each landing one can find a wooden sign nailed to a tree which directs the tourist to the next body of water. For example, should you approach the Bartlett landing from downstream the directions would read "Canoe Carry to Upper Saranac." Signs of the time?

See also, Alfred L. Donaldson's A History of the Adirondacks, p. 317, online here

External link: Fran Yardley, a professional storyteller and author, has lived near the remote site of the hotel for more than forty years. She's our guide as Curiously Adirondack takes a look at a place renowned for its warm welcomes, delicious meals, cozy rooms, and pet otter. Video produced by Josh Clement and Ed Kanze. 


1. In fact, the club located in the village of Saranac Lake was called "The Saranac Lake Club", and it occupied space in the Berkeley and the Empire Hotel and the Hotel Saranac at different times.