The second St. Bernard's Church, built in 1911. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 23, 2005 The first St. Bernard's Church, built in 1894. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 1, 2000 The first St. Bernard's Church, after the fire Address: 23 St. Bernard Street

Old Address: 21 St. Bernard Street

Years built: 1894, 1911, c. 1968

The first recorded Mass in the area was on Lower Saranac Lake at the Straus Camp, then occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Solomon. The first Mass celebrated in the village of Saranac Lake was later in that same year of 1886 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Morgan. "During the summer of 1887 Saranac Lake was fortunate enough to have a priest in residence. A Father Walsh from Plattsburgh stayed here at the Linwood Cottage and celebrated Mass there weekly for the forty or so Catholics within easy range of the village."

The founder of St. Bernard's Parish was Father John J. Waters, a Roman Catholic priest who was ordained by the bishop of Ogdensburg in 1890. Around 1891, he was sent to Saranac Lake to start St. Bernard's Church. The first regular Catholic services held in Saranac Lake were held in the Spaulding block, where Father Waters, as a young priest, conducted the services which soon grew into a flourishing parish. He remained as pastor of St. Bernard's for 31 years until his death at age 61. 1

The first St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church was a wood-framed structure ready for occupancy in July 1892. It burned on St. Patrick's Day in 1909.

For its replacement, "Father Waters engaged the services of Coulter and Westhoff, a local architect's firm, to design a new church of stone. Mr. Westhoff worked on a plan with his young assistant, Mr. William G. Distin, and soon after sailed off to Europe, leaving his new junior partner in charge of construction. The general contractors were McCormick and Duffin, and the foundation was by Branch and Callanan." The cornerstone was laid June 14, 1910. The church was completed in 1912 at a cost of $125,000. It was 144 feet long, with a seating capacity of 800; the steeple was 91 feet high. It was destroyed by fire on December 5, 1967. 2

The current church (2010) was built in a modern style to replace the stone church, after the fire.


• "St. Agnes, Lake Placid, New York, 1894-1984: An informal history of the Catholic community of the Olympic village."

• St. Bernard's Church, Saranac Lake, N.Y., probable author Rev. Msgr. V. Noel Zimmerman, pamphlet catalogued as Z761 pam in the Adirondack Collection, Saranac Lake Free Library.

• "Business Landmark Bought by Al Shortt," unidentified newspaper clipping dated September 2, 1942, from Scrapbook 13.0, courtesy of the Adirondack Collection, Saranac Lake Free Library.

Chateaugay Record and Franklin County Democrat, March 19, 1909

St Bernard's Catholic church at Saranac Lake was entirely destroyed by fire on Tuesday evening about 10 o'clock, shortly after the departure of the congregation from a St. Patrick's Eve service. So rapidly did the conflagration spread that it seemed as though the entire building had burst into flames at once and neither the structure nor any of its contents could be saved. The pastor's residence, which stood close by, was not burned. Father Waters, the regular pastor, is absent and the parish is in charge of Father Duffy, the assistant, therefore it is not known what plans there will be for the future. That a larger and finer edifice will be erected there is little doubt.

Adirondack News, March 20, 1909

St. Bernard's Catholic church at Saranac Lake, was burned to the ground last Tuesday evening. Many other buildings in the vicinity caught fire, but all were saved except the church. It Is thought the fire started from the furnace. Plans are already under way for the erection of a larger and finer structure than the one destroyed.

Ticonderoga Sentinel, Thursday May 12, 1910

New Saranac Lake Church.

Peter Wolff of Syracuse, a former resident of Saranac Lake, has been engaged by McCormick & Duffin to take charge of building the new St Bernard's church in that village. It is expected that the edifice will be ready for occupancy before the end of the year.

St. Bernards Catholic Church - 1915 St. Bernards Catholic Church - 2011 Bela Bartok Choir at St. Bernards Church. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 13, 1972.

Ticonderoga Sentinel, Thursday June 16, 1910

The laying of the corner-stone of the new St. Bernard's church at Saranac Lake took place Tuesday afternoon. Seventy-two priests participated in the ceremonies, and were assisted by a large choir.

Excerpt from Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 18, 2017

"More about the loss of St. Bernard's Church" by Howard Riley

. . . no one could come up with the name of the Italian who set the altar stone. He was called Jim and he later worked at Ryan's greenhouse [then located at the corner of Ampersand Avenue and Broadway] and everyone remembered him but not his name. This morning, however, it was learned that he was Faravonti Saroni [sic: Fioravonti Cirroni] who came to this country to set the three altars at St. Bernard's and never left.

A dozen names were mentioned for the contractors and masons. Most believed it was Barney McCormick, ancestor of the well-known McCormick masons still carrying on that trade. . . .

Tupper Lake Herald, December 8, 1911


Knights of Columbus From Tupper Lake Attend in a Body—3,500 Persons in Attendance.

The formal opening of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church and the initiation of fifty-two candidates into the Knights of Columbus took place last Sunday at Saranac Lake, with visitors from Malone, Chateaugay, Plattsburg, Ogdensburg, Watertown, and about 55 Brother Knights attending in a body from Tupper Lake, chartering a special train which left here at 1 o'clock p.m. and returned about 11 o'clock Sunday night. The first services in the $85,000 marble structure included three masses, and it is estimated that 3,500 persons were in attendance.

Upwards of 400 Knights of Columbus were there from the various towns and cities in Northern New York. Two special trains were run to accommodate the visitors. The third degree was worked at 3 o'clock in the afternoon in the Town Hall, after which the Knights attended the benedictory services in the new church. Later a banquet was served in the Town Hall by the members of the Altar Guild of the church.

Rev. J. J. Waters and Rev. J. E. Duffy celebrated the masses. At the 10:30 o'clock service Rosewig's "Mass in G" was sung by a choir of fifty voices under the direction of Miss Jennie Morgan, the church choir leader.

The new church is said to be the finest structure of its kind in Northern New York, east of Ogdensburg. It is of Vermont marble, has a seating capacity of about 1,200 persons, add the tower rises to a height of ninety-eight feet. It has been two years in building. It is expected that by the time the Carrara marble altar, now being made in Italy, and the organ and other furnishings are paid for the cost will run close to $100,000. Rev. J. J. Waters, who has been priest of the parish for fifteen years, has laid out for his life work the task of paying off the church debt.

The Adirondack Recorder - Elizabethtown Post, Thursday December 7, 1967


St. Bernard's Catholic Church of Saranac Lake, built in 1912 at a cost of $127,000.00 was completely destroyed by fire Tuesday night. Fire was believed to have been caused by an explosion which followed a 5:15 P. M. Mass but after the church was emptied just prior to 6:00 P. M.

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Noel Zimmerman, pastor, estimated it would cost an estimated million dollars to replace the structure. The host was retrieved from the tabernacle by the pastor despite dense smoke and fire.

All available fire fighting equipment from Saranac Lake and Lake Placid Fire Departments were on hand to control the fire with the Bloomingdale department standing by at the Saranac Lake station.

Flames seriously threatened the church rectory next door, but firemen said they believed this structure and several other nearby buildings would be saved. The rectory, a new structure, was completed in 1965.

Firemen said they were not hampered by weather conditions. The temperature was said to be somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees, with no wind.

One of the largest North Country Roman Catholic Churches, it could accommodate about 800 persons.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 11, 1968


Plans are being made by the non-Catholic community of Saranac Lake to give a $15,000 organ to St. Bernard's Parish for their new church.

A committee of representatives of other churches and the Jewish Community Center met Friday afternoon to discuss the gift, the latest development in an ecumenical effort to help the parish since its church was totally destroyed by fire on Dec. 5.

Dr. Richard Bellaire was elected chairman of the group, and it was decided that those present would present the plan to their respective churches and then meet again in three weeks.

Individuals interested in the effort may send checks to Dr. Bellaire in care of the "The Committee of the Non-Catholic Community."

Since the fire, gifts and other aid have been offered by members of the other denominations in the village. Daily masses, weddings and funerals are being held in the Methodist Church and the Pontiac Theater.

Insurance on the old church allowed the parish to retire all its debts and left $300,000 to be applied to the new church. Bishop Donnellan announced in January that a new church, costing about $550,000 exclusive of furniture, would be built and a drive is now going on to raise the difference. Yesterday Msgr. Noel Zimmerman, pastor announced to St. Bernard's parishioners that over $100,000 had already been raised in the advance gift phase of the drive.

The old church was started in 1909 and replaced a frame structure which also had been destroyed by fire. It was 144 feet in length, had a 91-foot steeple and seated about 900 persons. The new church, which will seat about 850, is being designed by the architectural firm of Finnegan, Lyon and Colburn of Syracuse.

Pastors at St. Bernard's:3 Fr. Joseph G. Bailey (1943-1943) Fr. Timothy J. Chambers (1976-1980)
Fr. John J. Waters (1890-1921) Fr. John F. Wiley (1945-1949) Fr. Victor A. Lamore (1980-1980)
Fr. Joseph Creedon (1922-1932) Fr. Henry W. McFadden (1948-1950) Fr. Stephen G. Leehy (1980-1981)
Msgr. Clarence A. Kitts (1932-1949) Fr. Vernon L. Doe (1949-1957) Fr. John R. Yonkovig (1980-1986)
Msgr. James R. McClure (1950-1957) Fr. Peter Ambrose Ward (1950-1954) Fr. Theodore Gillette (1981-1983)
Msgr. V. Noel Zimmerman (1957-1972) Fr. Earl Nichols (1954-1955) Fr. Raymond J. Wertman (1983-1984)
Msgr. C. John McAvoy (1972-1986) Fr. John Michael Wyzykowski (1955-1957) Fr. Francis J. Coryer (1984-1987)
Fr. Douglas G. Comstock (1986-1993) Fr. Peter R. Riani (1957-1959) Fr. David E. Wisniewski (1986-1990)
Fr. Timothy Soucy (1993-2002) Fr. John M. Crable (1958-1961) Fr. Raymond J. Moreau (1987-1988)
Fr. Thomas E. Kornmeyer (2002-2010) Fr. Leo A. Wiley (1959-1959) Fr. John M. Demo (1988-1990)
Fr. Mark R. Reilly (2010-2013) Fr. Louis C. Gardner (1959-1962) Fr. Michael Toth (1990-1991)
  Fr. Thomas Francis Driscoll (1961-1962) Fr. Thomas E. Kornmeyer (1990-1993)
Assistant Pastors at St. Bernard's: Fr. Phillip T. Allen (1962-1965) Fr. Jude Belisle (1991-1991)
Fr. James E. Duffy (1906-1912) Fr. Lucien LeDuc (1962-1964) Fr. Guy Edwards (1993-1994)
Fr. Joseph A. Creedon (1912-1913) Fr. Clyde A. Lewis (1965-1968) Fr. Christopher Carrara (1995-1997)
Fr. William R. Bourbeau (1916-1917) Fr. John B. Darcy (1964- 1965) Fr. E. John Silver (1994-1995)
Fr. Edgar Gallagher (1918-1927) Fr. James Smith (1965-1966) Fr. Mark R. Reilly (1997-1999)
Fr. Bartholomew O'Connell (1927-1932) Fr. John J. Looby (1966-1968) Fr. James Michael Larche (1999-2000)
Fr. James T. Lyng (1932-1936) Fr. Thomas S. Tucker (1968-1971) Fr. Joseph P. Wheelock (2000-2001)
Fr. Ross A. Garnsey (1935-1940) Fr. Peter N. Butler (1968-1972) Fr. Shane M. Lynch (2001-2002)
Fr. Wilfred Allen Nugent (1936-1939) Fr. Roland V. Menard (1971-1974) Fr. Kevin D. McEwan (2002-2005)
Fr. Frederick P. Shue (1939-1940) Fr. James P. Kane (1972-1975) Fr. Bryan D. Stitt (2003-2003)
Fr. William J. Argy (1940-1945) Fr. Robert M. Shurtleff (1974-1975) Fr. Jeffrey Hubbard (2005-2008)
Fr. Patrick J. O'Connor (1941-1948) Fr. Thomas Francis Driscoll (1974-1981) Fr. Paul J. Kelly (2008-2012)

Church budget, 1930, from a scrapbook kept by John G. Coogan



1. St. Agnes, Lake Placid, New York, 1894-1984: An informal history of the Catholic community of the Olympic village"
2. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 6, 1967
3. Thanks to Michele Tucker for compiling this list.