A rare Adirondack booklet entitled "The Sagamore on Lake George, A Gateway to the Adirondacks," brought vacationers to the Adirondacks in the 1880s. The southern Adirondacks had become renowned for their scenic beauty and recreational pleasures and were attracting the rich and famous from New York and Philadelphia as well as travelers from other states and abroad. The first Sagamore Hotel was built on the 70-acre Green Island in Lake George in 1883 and burned down on Easter Sunday in 1914. It was reopened in an existing building and rebuilt in 1923 and again in 1930. In the 1940s, it was purchased by Louis Brandt, movie mogul, which explains why I got to view the controversial movie "Peyton Place" at the in-hotel theater at a 1950s school conference.
The original Sagamore booklet, published when T. Edmund Krumholz ran the hotel, offered a long list of recreational and other activities enjoyed by their guests. They offered bowling, tennis, golf, billiards, croquet and baseball, along with bathing, rowing, fishing, sailing, shooting, driving and riding. Sagamore, in that day, was considered accessible: "Lake George is a journey of only seven hours from New York City, via the New York Central RR, or the Hudson River Steamers, and the D&H RR." It takes a little more from Boston using the Boston and Maine or Boston and Albany and the D&H RR. "The fine steamers of the Lake George Steamboat Co. meet all the trains at Caldwell (now Lake George village)." Some visitors came from Baldwin at the northern end of the lake. And, a new state road from Saratoga "will make automobiling very desirable."
Back in my public education days schools were mandated (nothing new) to have a New York state certified adult education director on the school staff if they wanted to offer classes for adults and to acquire the allowed state aid. The state provided six hours per year training toward the required 18 hours and the sessions were held at the Sagamore on Lake George. Therefore, I, and the other area school administrators, got to attend the sessions in a grand Adirondack hotel. A real treat for a country boy from Northville. In subsequent years I attended other conferences at the same site when it became under new ownership.
Recently, I had the opportunity to make a return to the Sagamore to tell Adirondack tales during one of their special weekends. I found that it had been upgraded and expanded since my first visit and truly is a luxurious and first-rate resort. In keeping with an Adirondack tradition I was happy to find, they offer nightly campfires for the guests and teach the city-folk how to toast a marshmallow and make a s'more.
When it comes to Adirondack hospitality, in my estimation, it is the people on the staff who determine the success or failure of the venture. The friendly, efficient staff at the Sagamore is typical of what I have found throughout the Adirondacks. Little wonder that Adirondack visitors come back year after year. At one time when we were vacationing in another state, we encountered a grouch while checking in to our accommodations. I, in as friendly way as possible, asked the worker what the trouble might be. The answer came back, emphatically, "It has been a long season and I do not care if I see another tourist." We never went back.
Charles H. Possons included the Sagamore in his well-written "Possons' Guide to Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Adirondacks" in 1889. He writes: "The 70-acre Green Island was originally covered with a thick forest, but, fortunately, it fell into the hands of those who knew what to cast out and what to save, and is today the most charming bit of semi-wilderness, imaginable." It is still in good hands today.
DON WILLIAMS was born and raised
in the Adirondacks. He is a retired Gloversville school principal and magazine author. He lives in Gloversville.