In 1889, the Wawbeek Lodge, a five story structure on forty acres, with 200 guest rooms and cottages (later known as the Hotel Wawbeek) was opened on the southwest shore of Upper Saranac Lake, 1.5 miles north of the southern end of the lake, at the historic Sweeney Carry, a portage route to the Raquette River. Guests could choose between luxurious hotel rooms, cottages or carpeted platform tents along the shore. It was developed by J. Ben Hart, Richard F. Smith of Saranac Lake, and T. Edmund Krumholtz, formerly associated with the Saranac Inn, who for years also filled the role of manager of the Wawbeek.
Despite its scenic location and lavish appointments, it closed in 1913, a victim of high operating costs and a trend toward shorter hotel stays and increasing private camp and cottage ownership. It was torn down shortly thereafter.
Ferris Meigs rebuilt the Wawbeek as a smaller inn in 1922 (or 1930, depending on the source). In Summers on the Saranacs, page 95, Maitland DeSormo wrote: "Meigs hired one of the most experienced hotelmen in the East—Roy Baker, who had previously managed inns in Lake Placid, Maine and Florida. Incidentally, Baker also designed the new Wawbeek, using as his model the Chrysler estate main house on Sea Island, Georgia."
In 1952 the hotel was sold to Harry and Terry Purchase. The Purchases had stayed at the Inn on their first wedding anniversary some years earlier. They managed the Inn for 12 years. A Major Edwards operated the Wawbeek as a boy's camp for several years in the early 1960s before selling the inn to Judge John and Linda Lyon Van Voorhis of Rochester, who donated it to St. Lawrence University in 1975. The University leased the inn to Sports Illustrated for the 1980 Winter Olympics; the weekend after the magazine staff left, a fire destroyed the building. (See Wawbeek Hotel Fire.)
A third hotel complex was established using the buildings of the great camp adjacent to the hotel property: in September 1968 Wawbeek Inc. bought the adjoining seventy-acre Camp De Baun, designed by William Coulter for Moritz Walter and later operated as a children's summer camp. After the 1980 fire, this property became the Wawbeek Inn, operated by Norman and Nancy Howard.
In 2008 this third Wawbeek was bought by Rick Sittig to use as a private camp; the buildings were torn down and a large great camp style house built in their stead.12
A newer house now occupies the original Wawbeek site.
Margaret Thompson worked there as a cook.
- Jamieson, Paul and Morris, Donald, Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, Lake George, NY: Adirondack Mountain Club, 1987. ISBN 0-935272-43-7.
- Tolles, Bryant F., Jr., Resort Hotels of the Adirondacks, Lebanon NH: University Press of New England, 2003. ISBN 1-58465-096-6.
Plattsburgh Sentinel, August 2, 1889
The Saranac Improvement Company.
The Saranac Improvement company, limited, was Incorporated Monday with a capital of $30,000 with objects to erect buildings for hotel purposes and the keeping of hotels at "Sweeney Carry," on Upper Saranac Lake, Franklin county. Of the capital $22,000 is cash and $8,000 in land. The trustees are: Richard F. Smith, Eugene T. Stuart, of Saranac Lake; T. Edmund Krumholtz, formerly of Albany, of St. Armand, and E. M. Hoe of New York.
Wawbeek lodge, the new Adirondack hotel which has been in course of erection for several months, is nearly completed. It is located at Sweeney carry, near Saranac Lake.
New Era illustrated Magazine,
A camp which has been greatly enlarged during the past winter is that of Moritz Walter, which is particularly favored in its natural location near Wawbeek, on the Upper Saranac. The main lodge is on top of a considerable knoll and surrounded with giant trees. Nature left very little to be done in the way of landscape gardening, and there has been no attempt to change the rugged beauty of the camp site.
During the winter a second lodge nearly as large as the main camp was built. It contains a most artistic dining-room and overhead a billiard and game room finished in natural Adirondack woods. A launch-house and electric station have been added to the buildings on the lake front. Mr. Walter is fond of driving and keeps a stable of blooded horses. There are many beautiful drives—across country to Tupper, along the lake to Saranac; in fact, almost any point in this part of the woods can be reached.
New York Times, July 3, 1904
AT SARANAC INN.
Special to The New York Times.
SARANAC INN, N, Y., July 2.—
The Hotel Wawbeek and cottages on the Upper Saranac Lake opened for the season Saturday last. Among the visitors to the Wawbeek at this time is Mrs. Stuyvesant Le Roy of New York, who is devoting much time to fishing.
Notable Ball at Wawbeek.
Special to The New York Times.
WAWBEEK, N. Y., Aug. 1.—The social season at the Wawbeek, on Upper Saranac Lake, was opened by a ball given in the parlors of the hotel.
A number of dinner parties preceded the ball. Mrs. Chapman Fiske of New York gave a dinner to Miss Runkle, Miss Louise D. Booth, Miss Fiske, Edward W. Cady, Jr., William L. Rich, Jr., and Samuel Adams. Mrs. Fiske and Miss Dorothy Fiske are spending the season at Wawbeek.
Commissioner of Public Service William R. Willcox, with Mrs. Willcox, has arrived at Wawbeek for the remainder of the Summer. They entertained Justice of the Supreme Court and Mrs. Alexander E. Blackmar and Commissioner and Mrs. William McCarroll at dinner.
New York Times, July 7, 1907
Norwood News, August 31, 1909
—Miss Mary Holland, a hotel waitress at an Upper Saranac Lake hotel, has been notified through a firm of lawyers in Boston that she is heiress to a legacy of $65,000, left her by a wealthy woman for whom she formerly worked for several years: Miss Holland was employed at J. Ben Hart's hotel. She left at once for Boston to receive the property left her, which was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise.
Malone Farmer, April 8, 1914
The Wawbeek Hotel is to be torn down. It has not been a financial success in recent yours, though in the past few years several thousand dollars have been spent upon it in an effort to gain favor with summer tourists. When the state board of health and state fire marshall ordered further costly improvements to the plant the decision to tear it down was made. The property is owned by the Upper Saranac Improvement Association, made up of the owners of nearby cottages and camps. The hotel property was originally opened and conducted by T. Edmund Krumholtz at a point of vantage on the Sweeney Carry, a main traveled route for boats and sportsmen before the building of the Adirondack railroads, and for a time enjoyed widespread popularity.
The entire contents of the Hotel Wawbeek and cottages on Upper Saranac Lake will be put on public sale on Thursday and Friday, August 6th and 7th. The entire list consists of furniture of all kinds and for all purposes, boats and launches, laundry machinery and room fixtures and ornaments. A. J. Ginsberg of this village having bought the buildings and furnishings at a sale recently held by the directors of the Hotel. The hotel and cottage are contracted in the sale to be torn down and removed from the premises as soon as possible.
Potsdam Courier and Freeman, August 5, 1914
WAWBEEK IS NO MORE.
Tupper Lake Man Buys Lumber in the Famous Hotel.
A. J. Ginsburg of Tupper Lake has just closed a deal for the purchase of the buildings, furnishings, boats and, equipment of the Wawbeek Hotel on Upper Saranac Lake.
In its palmy days the Wawbeek was; one of the best known hotels in the Adirondacks. Splendidly located, and with a commanding view of .the lake and mountains, it was the resort of people of wealth .and fashion. It had a checkered career, however, and several moderate fortunes were dropped into it by its successive managements.
With the exception of state lands the shore line of the Upper Saranac is owned by wealthy men who have elaborate camps, but there are four points of public entry which must remain public in perpetuity. The Wawbeek stands at one of these points. In the hotel office, behind the clerk's desk, there hangs a painting of the original Wawbeek. This was a log building of the early Adirondack type, before the days of sawn lumber in that section. The cracks between the logs were chinked with plaster and the roof was covered with shingles made by hand from cedars in the swamps nearby. In the picture are several Adirondack guides of the old type, full bearded and wearing checkered mackinaw shirts.
On the site of this log building was built the new Wawbeek, a splendid Summer hotel, with a number of private cottages. It is said that $100,000 was invested in it. But it was not a financial success. It was sold under the hammer several times and latterly bought by a company composed of wealthy camp owners about the lake. They installed a manager to run it, but owning a summer hotel seemed to be too much of a luxury even for them, and two years ago they kept it closed. At the end of that season there were reports that they had missed it greatly as a place to dine out, hear music and as public assembly and meeting place. Last season they leased it to W. H. Reardon who had been a successful hotel man on Long Lake. He was said to have had a fairly successful season, but some kind of a hoodoo seemed to hang over the Wawbeek. This time it was in the form of an inspection by the state fire marshal's office. This inspection showed that it was not up to the modern requirements for fire protection. Recommendations, which were really mandatory, with regard to the lighting system, were made, and as compliance with them involved considerable expense a difference arose between the owners and the lessee. No adjustment of the difficulty was made, and the Wawbeek did not open the season. Then came rumors that the buildings would be sold and this has now been consummated. It is understood that the hotel building will be removed and the land sold for camp sites or a cottage colony built up.
Potsdam Courier and Freeman, March 26, 1930
WAWBEEK CLUB AFIRE
Tupper Lake Department Sends Aid To Save Building
The Wawbeek Club House, on Upper Saranac Lake was badly damaged by fire last week. Earl Vosburg, state conservation commission warden, happened to be in the Wawbeek sector watching for fishing violators and discovered the fire as [ ] of the hotel. Vosburgh, who is also a member of the Tupper Lake fire department, gave the alarm.
The club house, located near the former site of the erstwhile famous Wawbeek Hotel, is owned by Ferris J. Megis of Bronxville, and a group of wealthy New Yorkers.
The place is operated as a summer hotel and is in charge of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lary, who were in Tupper Lake when the fire, broke out, which is supposed to have been caused by defective light wires.
The loss, is estimated at $2,000 with part insurance. [sic] The Tupper Lake fire truck responded to the call.
Tupper Lake Herald and Adirondack Mountain Press, July 10, 1930.
Announcement has been made the Wawbeek hotel will be partly open for guests by Friday, under ownership of R. A. Baker, Florida hotel man, who recently purchased the property from the Deer Island corporation, of which Ferris J. Meigs is a principal stockholder.
The main building which was partly destroyed by fire last winter, is being rebuilt. When completed it will be about double its former size. The cottages on the property are nearly ready for occupancy and the main dining room will be opened within a few days.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 11, 1975
Wawbeek Inn given to St. Lawrence U.
CANTON — St. Lawrence University has acquired the Wawbeek Inn on Upper Saranac Lake as a gift from Judge and Mrs. John Van Voorhis of Rochester. The 57-acre property has 2500 feet of lake frontage and consists of a main lodge and 11 cabins for guests. It will continue in operation as a commercial business. The Wawbeek is located on Route 30, eight miles from the university's Saranac conference center.
Judge and Mrs. Van Voorhis became acquainted in recent years with St. Lawrence's management of its conference center. "We were impressed with the university's concern for the preservation of the lake, the surrounding woods and plant and animal life," said the donors of Wawbeek.
President Frank P. Piskor said today that "we are deeply gratefull to Judge and Mrs. Van Voorhis for giving St. Lawrence this excellent asset.
The Wawbeek property also includes a lodge for summer staff, a recreation building, five utility buildings and the caretaker's home. There are two beach areas, a marina and two tennis courts. Several of the cabins can be used in winter, although Wawbeek has been operated for vacationers only during July and August.
According to Town of Harrietstown Tax Assessor Gerald Primeau, the Wawbeek's assessed valuation is approximately $60,000 and the town taxes on the property last year came to $2,234.63. These figures, however, apply to 77 acres, as listed on the town's tax rolls, which indicates that Van Voorhis has retained 20 acres.
School taxes for this year on the total Wawbeek holdings amount to $5,804.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 12, 1983
Developer plans Wawbeek subdivision
By PETER RACETTE, UPPER SARANAC LAKE
A Florida developer is buying the Wawbeek Inn property on Upper Saranac Lake and hopes to develop both single and multiple family units on it.
The developer, Brian Mantis of Mankow Properties in Hallandale, Fla., is in the process of closing the purchase with St. Lawrence University's University Inn Corporation, current owner of the property. The purchase price is reportedly $400,000.
Madelyn Mooney, public information officer at the Adirondack Park Agency, said today the agency has received an application from Mantis for subdividing the 57.2 acre property into 21 lots. The application was received by the park agency on April 27.
Mooney said the application calls for single family dwellings to be constructed on 17 of the lots, a four unit dwelling on one lot, a six unit dwelling on one lot and an eight unit dwelling on one lot. The application does not call for development of the final lot, which currently holds cottages and outbuildings from the former Wawbeek Hotel, she said.
Mooney said the park agency must notify Mantis today whether or not the application is complete. If the application is complete to the park agency's satisfaction it has 90 days to consider the proposal and either approve it or convene a public hearing to receive input on it.
A portion of the development is also subject to approval by the Town of Harrietstown. Since the property is zoned for single family dwellings Mantis would need a variance from the town zoning board to install the multiple unit structures.
The main lodge of the historic inn burned in March, 1980 when a small fire in a deep fat fryer escaped into a flue and traveled up a wall into the attic. Despite the efforts of four local fire companies the lodge was totally destroyed by the blaze.
The inn was given to St Lawrence University in 1975 by its owner, Judge John Van Voorhis of Rochester. During the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid the college leased the property to Sports Illustrated magazine. The magazine renovated and winterized the main lodge and used it to house staff and guests during the games.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 22, 1988
Wawbeek Inn put on market
TUPPER LAKE - Citing costly investments of time and money, the owners of the Wawbeek Inn on Upper Saranac Lake have put the property up for sale.
Florida developers Brian and Diane Mantis are listing the 40-acre property, located off Route 30, with local real estate agencies.
"These buildings were built in 1907. It's a tremendous upkeep. We were just looking for a vacation home on the lake. We don't need to live on 40 acres," Diane Mantis said Thursday. Attempts to sell the property began in October, but were suspended during the winter and spring.
"This is the season," Mantis said of the renewed efforts to sell what she called the last piece of developable property on Upper Saranac Lake. The property could be sold as a whole or in lots.
Running the Wawbeek's restaurant and cabins during the summer is a lot of work, she said, adding that it is difficult to split time living in the Adirondacks and Florida. She said the restaurant and cabins would continue to operate through this summer.
A controversial plan to develop three multi-unit townhouses at the site remains suspended, Mantis said. She refused to comment further on the project, which has prompted an outcry from other Upper Saranac Lake property owners.
"There's a lot of options available if we don't list it," she said.
The Mantises bought the Wawbeek in 1982 from St. Lawrence University. The inn had been given to the school in 1975 by its former owner, Judge John Van Voorhis of Rochester. The main lodge of the inn burned in a spectacular blaze in March 1980.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 29, 1994
Wawbeek announces new managers
SARANAC LAKE - The Wawbeek announced today the forthcoming arrival of Norman and Nancy Howard to take on the managerial post at the popular small resort complex on Upper Saranac Lake.
Charles Ritchie, spokesman for the owners, announced that the long search for the right management combination had ended with a very well qualified and enthusiastic husband and wife team scheduled to move to The Wawbeek early this week. “The Howards will become part owners, as well,” Ritchie stated, “and Robert Rynkar will continue his ownership interest which dates back to the 1980s.”
The Wawbeek is a historic “Great Camp” built around the turn of the century by Moritz Walter. After some 45 years in the Walter family, it changed hands several times and during the 1970s was operated as an annex to the old Wawbeek Hotel which stood nearby. Both properties were used during the 1980 Olympics as a red carpet hospitality center operated by Sports Illustrated. The old Hotel was destroyed by a chimney fire at an Olympic closing party. The present Wawbeek consists of some fifteen buildings offering a variety of lodging accommodations as well as a very popular Restaurant in the old family dining “cabin” overlooking the Upper Saranac Lake. It covers some 40 acres which boast wooded trails, stunning views, beaches and more than a quarter mile of pristine lake front.
Nancy Howard has had first hand experience in the “country inn” business, while Norman Howard has held executive posts in the travel and hospitality industry, most recently that of Senior Vice President of Cunard Lines at which time he was responsible for the operations of the world famous flagship Queen Elizabeth 2, better known as the QE 2.
Dan Kaestle and Ritchie agreed that the hospitality and marketing background which the Howards bring to the operation will take The Wawbeek to new levels of excellence.
From an unidentified clipping in a scrapbook kept by Alfred L. Donaldson, marked "News –- Aug. 1914 — "
When Wawbeek Hotel Was The Sweeney Carry House
Former President and Governor, Grover Cleveland, and Other Noted Men Stopped There—O.A. Covill Clinched Title to It for C. F. Norton
Wawbeek Hotel which with its outbuildings, equipment and furniture is being auctioned off this week, was the successor of a big log cabin known as the Sweeney Carry house from a squatter who used to haul boats back and forth between Upper Saranac Lake and the Raquette River. The house was of the early Adirondack type, with the timbers unpeeled and chinked with plaster. The shingles for the roof were hand-made out of cedar taken from the neighboring swamps.
The opening of the house as a hotel was a fine illustration of the old adage "Possession is nine points of the law." James H. Pierce of the Bloomingdale-Vermontville section, a farmer who was active in politics and had business interests wherever he saw an opportunity of success, and C. F. Norton, the prominent Plattsburgh lumberman, both claimed ownership of the house and land known as The Carry. Pierce said he had acquired it from the state which sold it for unpaid taxes.
Norton kept in touch with the situation more intimately than his rival, however, and one fine day dispatched O. A. Covill, a guide at Paul Smith's, to take possession of Sweeney end of the Carry, and Oliver Trombley of Lake Clear to settle at the other end. Pierce's aspirations ceased forthwith.
Mr. and Mrs. Covill did not expect to remain in the cabin more than a few months. C. F. Norton had merely hired them to take possession and make good his title to the property. Sweeney was recompensed also, it is understood, upon his consent to withdraw, although he had no real claim to Carry or cabin.
It was in March, 1878, when they first occupied the cabin. The Adirondacks were then just coming into popularity. The Carry was the only passage except Indian Carry between the Upper Lake and the Raquette River for parties of canoeists and fishermen as well as hunters. Indian Carry was a more roundabout route and much less frequented.
At first the Covills merely drew boats back end forth over the trail which ran for three miles through the woods over practically the same route as at present. At the height of the
pleased at these summer receptions at the Carry and the Covills didn't like it either.
Frederick Woodruff, of Orange, N. J., was one of the first to build a camp in the vicinity. He located on Birch island only half a mile from the Carry house and his camp was a notable one for that time. Dr. Herter purchased it later. William P Elery, a New York broker, was another.
George Sharp, reputed to have secured the first franchise in New York for a horse car line, put up a camp later in Gilpin Bay. Sharp was accused later of fraud and spent a term behind prison bars.
The Morgan camp in the narrow was one of the most beautiful in the neighborhood and represented another step in the tendency toward increasingly greater luxury and comfort.
All of these camps were erected while the Covills were at the Carry, but it was not until after their departure in 1891 that the Upper Saranac was built up into a large camp colony.
The construction of these fine camps and the class of patronage that the Carry house enjoyed induced Krumholtz and Smith to put up the present Wawbeek Hotel. C. Edmund Krumholtz was the moving spirit and Smith withdrew two or three years later, dying finally at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium for tuberculosis.
The hotel cost about a hundred thousand dollars and was a huge mistake from the beginning. Mrs. Covill tells how after its erection some of her old patrons used to come and tell her how sorry they were the old cabin had been torn down. The Carry house seemed to be a part with the wild, primeval beauty of the woods and lake. Although the woods were allowed to remain as before when the house was removed and the clear space was not much enlarged.
Beside the hotel were built several cottages of a type in keeping with the main building. There was every convenience and comfort, and the hotel was a popular rallying point for campers along the lake in the vicinity, but hardly a single season was successful.
1. ''Press Republican'', "Changes planned at Wawbeek property", February 22, 2008
2. This article appeared originally on "Wikipedia" as Wawbeek Hotel; its edit history there reflects its authorship. It is licensed under the GDFL.