The Saranac & Tupper Lake Highway was constructed about 1873 under the direction of Van Buren Miller, who paid much of the construction costs when the state failed to fund the project. 1 The road was blacktopped in 1920, 2 and a new, concrete-surfaced highway was completed in 1938. 3 It was designated as New York Route 3 in about 1930; previously it was designated as New York State Route 10.
The George LaPan Memorial Highway was built in 1958 to avoid the steep hill on Lake Street that had previously been the only route out of the village to the southwest. It connects River Street to the Saranac Lake-Tupper Lake Highway. It was named for the former president of the Adirondack National Bank, George LaPan, who died in an automobile accident two years earlier.
Tupper Lake Free Press, September 10, 1936
Wednesday morning Henry H. Collins, of Cranberry Lake, established headquarters at the New Holland House and started work to cut the right-of-way for the new five-and-a-half-mile stretch of state road from the federal hospital curve at Sunmount to the Wawbeek corner near the Upper Saranac Lake sector.
The Belmar Construction Co., of Troy, has been awarded the contract and work will be rushed for several months. Bad curves will be eliminated, hills cut down where practicable and, when completed, the road will be a credit to this sector. Mr. Collins, an experienced lumberman for a half century, has done similar work for the Belmar firm in past years.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 17, 1956
Expect Spring Start On New SL Highway Work
After 20 Years Group Approves Plan In Watertown Visit
The long-awaited construction of highway, connecting the Tupper Lake Route 3 approach with Route 86 at River and Main Streets in Saranac Lake, will begin in the spring of 1957, Robert Sweet, district engineer of the State Highway Department at Watertown told a group of eight local officials yesterday.
The local officials had been invited to Watertown to inspect the plans submitted by the highway department for the new road, which are designed to dispense with the inadequate Lake Street approach to the Village. The local group unanimously approved of the project as blueprinted by the highway department engineers.
The final plans, to be completed by December, according to Mr. Sweet, call for a highway slightly over a mile long which would connect at the intersection of Route 3 and Lake Street, swing easterly crossing Edgehill Road [sic: Edgewood Road], South Hope and Fairview Streets and continue past the north side of the high school and cut through School and Dorsey Streets over a bridge to the intersection of Main and River Streets.
The new road will be four lanes and 48 feet in width between South Hope and Main Streets, and two lanes wide — 24 feet in width — from South Hope Street to the Route 3 intersection.
A sidewalk four feet wide will run from South Hope Street on the south side of the highway to Dorsey Street, while a similar-in-width sidewalk will run on each side of the bridge to be constructed between Dorsey and Main Streets.
The new road will necessitate several changes in streets now in existence, contours of the hill and the razing of buildings.
The Seaver Miller residence on Main Street will be razed as well as several homes on Dorsey Terrace and School Street. Starting at School Street, a five-per cent grade will begin a gentle dip toward the bridge, requiring a cut into the hill which will sever Dorsey Street and a segment of Dorsey Terrace.
Both School and Dorsey Streets will become dead-ends with the south portion of School Street merging with the high school grounds. A turn-around will be provided on that street at the North end. The north segment of Dorsey Street will be provided with a turn-around, while the south end of the segment will be left as is, to serve the few homes on the block.
Dorsey Terrace will become a dead-end street near the highway with a new outlet to be constructed between that street and Leona Street with a five percent grade.
A wire covered cross-over will be built over the new road at Leona Street to permit school children safe access to the school.
A traffic light will be installed at the Main Street intersection, and traffic will be directed to a left turn lane by a series of arrows. The light will be equipped with a left turn signal.
To maintain the beauty of the approach, the highway will have a 200-foot right of way from Route 3 intersection to South Hope Street with a variation of width from that point to the bridge.
No access to the new municipal parking lot is possible, according to the engineers.
Sweet, who advised the group that he had asked them to approve the plans so that final preparations could be made, said that work would probably start in the spring, and that the project, which had been a controversial issue for about 20 years, would take about a year.
Attending the conference was George LaPan, Al Shortt and Jack Delehant, for the Joint Village and Town planning board; Mayor Alton B. Anderson and Village Manager Frank Buck for the Village; James LaPan, Harrietstown Supervisor for the County Board of supervisors, and Joseph Muno and Philip Wolff for the Chamber of Commerce.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 28, 1957
New S.L. Entrance on Route 3 Now Official
30-Year Effort Ends; Estimate Is $830,000
Bids To Be Advertised Next Week And Opened In Albany On June 27
A thirty-year effort to achieve a new entrance into Saranac Lake from Route 3 (the State Road to Tupper Lake) will reach a successful conclusion this week when the New York State Department of Public Works will advertise for bids on the project which is estimated at a cost of $830,000.
This was learned this morning when The Enterprise queried the Department offices in Albany. The bids will be opened on June 27 and construction will start shortly thereafter.
No estimate was given as to the target date for completing the project.
The plan calls for a new section of 1.08 miles of Route 3 "in and near" Saranac Lake. It will start at the corner of Lake Street at the State Road where the stop sign is now located. It will then run northeast and east on a new location describing an arc around the high school, to Main Street at the corner of River Street.
The project will include a new three-span, four-lane bridge 186 feet long over the Saranac River. The bridge is described as "pre-stressed concrete beam."
There will also be a prestressed concrete pedestrian bridge over the new highway near Leona Street. This bridge will be "five feet wide and 120 feet long. The original pedestrian bridge was taken down on August 31, 2012 and a new pedestrian bridge opened in June 2013.
The new section of the highway will be two lane from Lake Street to Hope Street, and four-lane from Hope to Main Street.
To Remove Buildings
It is understood that the project will require the removal of several buildings on Main Street, all those from Seaver A. Miller's house at 24 Main Street through the Novelty Shop at 18 Main Street.
This includes the building in which Mrs. Marian Brogan has her antique shop, the offices of Distin and Wareham, architects, and two floors of apartments over the Novelty Shop. The location of the antique shop is owned by Mr. Miller, for many years Saranac Lake's mayor, and the Novelty Shop property is owned by Alfred W. Currier.
The Currier Press, which recently bought out the Commercial Press on Broadway, will build a new building behind the present location of Commercial Press. Distin and Wareham will move to the offices at 64 Main Street now occupied by Leonard Houghton, C.P.A., who is moving upstairs in the same building. That will bring all the Saranac Lake architects together, since William Scopes occupies part of the Main Street office to which Distin and Wareham will move.
Few present Saranac Lakers can remember the details of how and-when the project got started some 30 years ago, but most citizens recall the various episodes along the way.
At one time the new entrance seemed assured but at that time the Board of Education made certain objections and the project was temporarily dropped. At the public hearing held on the road last November 28 in the Town Hall by Robert W. Sweet, district engineer of the Public Works Department, Dr. Warriner Woodruff, president of the Board of Education, denied that the Board had ever been against the new road as such, but merely questioned certain aspects of the plan then put forward and which have been changed to take care of the objections.
As long as there seemed to be differences of opinion in the village, the Department was reluctant to go ahead with the project. However, in October 1954, me planning board of the Town of Harrietstown and the Village of Saranac Lake traveled to Watertown to assure Mr. Sweet that the community was united in favoring the project. There had been some question of whether a new entrance should come along Ampersand Avenue and across Broadway at Bloomingdale Avenue.
By and large support for the new entrance, originally inspired by the number of accidents caused by the abrupt stop at the end of a through highway, was completely bi-partisan.
However, the matter almost became a political issue when, on October 5, 1954, just before the gubernatorial elections of that year, State Sen. Robert C. Mc-Ewen of Ogdensburg announced to a luncheon meeting of Franklin County Republicans at the Elks Club here that the funds for the project had been set aside and that construction- would "definitely begin sometime next year."
The next day Joseph Drutz, then Franklin County Democratic chairman, issued a statement highly critical of the fact that the announcement had been made at a political meeting.
An additional element of dispute came early this year when Mr. Sweet wrote former Mayor Alton B. Anderson that his Department's Division of Construction had "raised the objection that it is illegal for this Department to build new sidewalks in an incorporated village." This would have meant a charge of over $7,000 to the village. This point of view was vigorously disputed by Thomas B. Cantwell. A week later, the Public Works Department agreed to put sidewalks on the bridge but asked the Village to put sidewalks along the new road from Dorsey Street to South Hope.
The new highway will have a maximum grade of 5 per cent as compared with about 14 per cent on the present hill. #
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 16, 1957
State Starts To Buy Homes On New Route
Contracts will be made during this week and next for the purchase of land by the State for the new Route 3 right-of-way into Saranac Lake. The job will cost about $800,000 and must be completed by December 1, 1958.
Milton Hall, senior land and claims adjuster for the State, this morning said that about thirty properties must be acquired by the State for the new road, which will curve from the corner of State and Lake streets to the corner of Main and River Sts. running behind the high school.
The objective is to be “fair and reasonable” in negotiations for each property, Mr, Hall said. He has worked seven years for the State in such negotiations, having done a good deal along the New York State Thruway. He says that in the great majority of cases sales prices are worked out amicably and “very seldom do we have to go to the courts.”
Losing Their Homes
Those who will have to surrender their homes or houses they own for the new road are: Mr. and Mrs. Ives Turner, 199 Lake St.; Arthur Garwood, 75 Margaret; Mr. and Mrs. Alex Hammond, 2 School St.; a home belonging to Mrs. Virginia Lintern, Mrs. Bertha Thomas, and Mrs. Elizabeth Morris, sisters, on School Street; Mr. and Mrs. Dan Sullivan at 4 School St.; Mr. and Mrs. Ralph VanCour, 5 Dorsey Terrace; Mr. and Mrs. James Thornton; Donat Gendron; Mr. and Mrs. Victor Kenyon, 8 Dorsey Terrace; Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Christian, 47 Dorsey; Mr. Seaver Miller, 24 Main St., and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Currier, 12 Main St. Clearing brush and trees has already begun towards the State St. end. It is hoped to get the bridge abutments in by this Fall.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 29, 1957
'BATTLE SMOKE' IS ONLY BRUSH
The smoke of battle seemed to be drifting over downtown Saranac Lake this morning. It was actually the smoke of burning brush and small trees which have been cut and bulldozed down between the Saranac river and up the hill between Dorsey st, and Dorsey Terrace and in back of the high school.
This is being done for the right of way for the new route 3 entrance to the village, an entrance costing the state $850,000.
Michael Di Cesare of Whitehall, superintendent for the Torrington Construction company, is in charge of the road job and he was walking over the broken ground with blueprints checking on the progress of the work. He arrived in Saranac Lake last Monday and will be here til the job is com- pleted.
Ted Desmarais of Tupper Lake the foreman for the Wilfred Decheine company which is clearing... the trees and brush. Roland Desmarais, Bertand and Conrad Lussier and Filias Tessier, all of Tupper Lake, Roy Dupraw of Clayburg and Lawrence LaBrake of Vermontville were among the men working around Dorsey St., this morning.
Although the trees and brush which they cut was green, it burned, with the help of kerosene.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 17, 2003
You Know What...
By Howard Riley
...Looking back causes a lot of second-guessing. If I had to vote today to build that new four-lane highway as an entrance to the village I would vote against it. In my opinion it ruined part of Main Street, took out a beautiful home next to the town hall (…), business establishments were torn down and Dorsey Street used to connect to Dorsey Terrace which better served the village. School Street used to actually lead to the school, and in all at least 11 buildings were taken down with a loss of tax base never to be replaced, But hey, that's progress.
There is something I did vote for back in the 60s,that I am no longer convinced was the right thing to do. It was a long time in the doing but starting with Mayor John Campion, myself, Mayor Charles Keough and a number of Boards of Trustees along the way, all worked to bring about the “revitalization” of River Street. It opened up the. view of Lake Flower (named after former New York State Governor Flower) but it took out the Mainline Garage, Gero's Upholstery Shop, Keough's Marina, Hoyt's Chrysler Garage and the beautiful old Armory which was built originally as the Saranac Lake Boy's Club. It contained an indoor track, a basketball court, bowling alley, a big room with a regulation size pool table, later a television set and administrative offices. There were also private homes, service stations (Charlie Lavery's, Howard Benham's and Herb Overbaugh's across the street), the Beardsley Apartments which provided nice affordable apartments, the Lakeview Restaurant owned by Don Fina's family and later by Jimmy Brearton, the Municipal Beach, Thomas' Boat Livery and Tyson's Diner.
The Mainline, Keough's, the Chrysler Garage and the Armory were relocated but everything else was gone forever including the taxes they paid. So in hindsight maybe we could have opened up. the view of the lake in spots without the loss of all those properties. In my opinion the village would have been better off if they had purchased the property from the state where the boat launch is located. The Armory was owned by the state, it was given to North Country Community College and the college sold the property back to the state. A couple of years ago during a meeting with DEC officials I suggested that the state give the property to the village. One gentleman at the meeting replied “over my dead body”. and I refrained from voicing the obvious rebuttal. I think in both instances, with the Lapan Highway and the River Street project, we simply took our small village and made it smaller.
From 1938 or 1939 until 1963, Martha Reben and Fred and Kate Rice lived in a cottage on Route 3 at the edge of town [last house on the right going toward Tupper Lake] which Martha's father bought. After Martha's death, her brother evicted Fred from the cottage. (from Betsy Tisdale letter, April 1, 2003)
1. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 12, 2005
2. Malone Farmer, December 8, 1920
3. Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, September 8, 1938