img_1308bThe Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York have long been recognized for their rugged wilderness and unspoiled natural wonder.  There’s a peaceful sense of timelessness here – a feeling of quiet isolation that hearkens back to those early rustic days when frontiersmen settled here and built their cabins from the fabric of the land itself.  Today, more than 200 years since those early pioneers set up camp, that same feeling can be felt whispering through the pines and crackling in the fire at a place as deeply rooted in local lore as the trees themselves, Lake Placid Lodge.

For millions of years, the Adirondack region was inhabited only by ancient flora and fauna, surrounded by pristine lakes, verdant forests, and towering mountains shaped by the whim of Mother Nature.  For centuries Native Americans populated the region, and later, as Colonial Americans began exploring the region in the early 1800s, small hunting and fishing camps began dotting the land as word spread of this wonderland of boundless beauty, just a few hundred miles from the major East Coast hubs of Boston, New York, and even Philadelphia.

As the region’s popularity continued to grow, many of the iconic industrialists of the Gilded Age became enamored with the natural escape that the Adirondacks provided.  And it wouldn’t be long before familiar names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, and others all owned large lakeside summer homes in the Adirondacks, homes that would later become known as Great Camps.


One of the earliest camps in the region, Schroeder Camp, was built by a family of German immigrants on the southwest corner of Lake Placid in 1882.  Over the next several decades, the camp would change hands roughly every generation, with each subsequent owner adding their own signature to the property, and often changing its name.  In 1896, it became Camp Coosa; in 1916, it became Camp Charlcote; and in 1946, when the property was purchased by Theodore and Mae Frankel, it became known as Lake Placid Manor.


The Frankels owned and operated the property as an inn and restaurant for nearly 50 years, until 1993, when it was sold to David and Christie Garrett, founders of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, and at the time, owners of another historic property on nearby Upper Saranac Lake.  The Garretts had purchased that property – William A. Rockefeller’s Camp Wonundra – several years earlier, and converted it into a small, and very successful, boutique hotel called The Point.


“The Point was one of the first Relais & Châteaux properties in the United States and had been among the leading small hotels in the country for many years,” says Stephen Castelhano, local historian and Food & Beverage Manager at Lake Placid Lodge, “But The Point only 11 has rooms, and it was constantly booked out.  So the Garretts started looking for another local hospitality property with which they could do something similar.”


In the mid-1990s, the Garretts purchased Lake Placid Manor, along with its 17 lakeside cabins, and upon changing the name to Lake Placid Lodge, they immediately set out to restore the property back to its original Adirondack Craftsman roots. They endeavored to fill the space with period art and antiques, as well as textiles and furnishings made by some of the region’s most talented local artisans, but in those early days, funds were tight, so the Garretts came up with a unique arrangement – a sort of hotel/art gallery co-op.

They reached out to local craftspeople, asking if they’d be open to furnishing their pieces in the lodge’s rooms while simultaneously making them available for sale if a guest was interested in buying them, a symbiotic relationship that proved to be beneficial to all parties involved – the Lodge, the artist, and the guests.

Over the next decade, the Lodge continued to flourish, becoming the Garrett’s second Relais & Châteaux Global Fellowship property, as well as routinely being rated as one of the top small hotels in the country by Zagat and Conde Nast Traveler, among others.  But sadly, there were dark days ahead.


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On December 15, 2005, a fire originated in the kitchen and quickly spread throughout the main lodge, and within hours, the main lodge along with all of its irreplaceable contents had burned to the ground.  The loss was heartbreaking, as the main building had stood on the property for over 120 years, and the Garretts had spent the last ten years returning it such iconic status, but fortunately – and most importantly – no one was injured.


As devastating as the fire was, the Garretts saw the unfortunate incident as an opportunity, and they quickly set out to re-imagine the Lodge experience from the ground up.  They partnered with a team local artisans, architects and tradesmen, and came up with a new design that paid homage to many of the original camp’s best characteristics, while also taking the opportunity to modernize the building’s substructure and incorporate all of today’s modern amenities.  And in 2008, a new Lake Placid Lodge (above) emerged from the ashes.


“Traditionally, estates were built and later turned into hotels,” says Castelhano, “but with this property, we were able to build a hotel and make it feel like an estate.  One of the qualifications we had when we rebuilt was that we didn’t want this brand new building to feel brand new, the craftsmanship had to be of a different era.”

The Beer & Nuts Throne, built by Barry Gregson

By working with so many individual talented local artisans, the resulting structure and its furnishing look and feel as if they’ve always been there.  “The whole concept for the rebuild was to pay homage to the original lodge,” Castelhano says.  “There are a lot of little things that we did to hint at the original, but we didn’t want to just recreate the original lodge in its entirety.”


Maggie’s Pub – The traditional Adirondack Game Room at The Lodge

Artisans like Barry Gregson, who hand built over 200 chairs for The Lodge, each one unique; Wayne Ignatuk, who built dozens of tables and other fine furniture; and PJ LaBarge, whose amazing lifelike bronze sculptures bring the wildlife indoors; are among the many craftspeople whose work is prominently featured throughout the property.


Handcrafted covered walkways connect the Main Lodge with the 17 Lakeside Cabins

“We really wanted there to be a unique feel in every single space,” Castelhano says.  “Every guest room only has three things in common:  a hand-crafted king-sized bed, a laid-stone wood-burning fireplace, and a deep soaking European tub.  No two rugs match, no two chairs match, no two coffee tables match.

“While the main lodge was rebuilt in the mid 2000s, the 17 lakeside cabins weren’t damaged in the fire, so while they were also updated during the restoration, they remain true to their original 1920s rustic charm, and because they’re all individual stand-alone cabins, they’re basically pin-drop quiet.


Eagle’s Eyre, One of the 17 Lakeside Cabins

“Our rooms are all so characteristically different because people are so characteristically different,” Castelhano continues.  “We have guests who’ve been coming here for years, and they’ve never stayed in the same room twice, and then we have other guests who stay in the same room every time they come.  It really is your own personal preference, and that’s one of the best things about The Lodge.”


The view overlooking Lake Placid from inside Eagle’s Eyre

Another great thing about staying at The Lodge are the complimentary boat tours offered every afternoon aboard the Lodge’s very own custom-built Hackercraft, the Christie.  This classic 35′ triple-cockpit mahogany motorboat can accommodate approximately a dozen people for an hour-plus private tour of Lake Placid, affording an opportunity to view many of the historic camps and beautiful homes that dot the lakeshore.  On the tour, you’ll get the full history of the lake and the Lodge, as well as good dose of local lore…

The Garretts remained the owners of the Lodge through the restoration, but following the downturn in the economy in 2008-2009, they felt it was best to part ways.  Today, the Lodge is operated by the family-owned Ocean Properties Ltd Company, as part of their Opal Collection, which also includes The Sagamore Resort, located just a couple hours away on Lake George.


With all of the unique and unforgettable experiences available at Lake Placid Lodge, it is without a doubt, one of most beautiful and well-appointed hotels that I’ve ever had the good fortune to have stayed at.  I had an amazing time there, and I hope to return again someday down the road, and hopefully you will too!

Many thanks to Thomas Huling, Kevin Pastore, and Stephen Castelhano at Lake Placid Lodge for their warm hospitality during my stay.  All images, unless otherwise noted were taken by David Kramer Photography.

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 For more information about Lake Placid Lodge, or to book reservations, please visit:Blank Space 10x800


144 Lodge Way
Lake Placid, NY 12946
Direct Phone: (518) 523-2700
Reservations (Toll-Free): 877.301.8485

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