This article is a continuation of  The Sagamore Hotel, Part I: The History Of The Iconic Resort On New York’s Lake George, which covered the hotel’s first 30 years (1883-1914).  This article picks up from there and takes you through the 20th Century and right up to today…

sagamore-ii-color-postcard-d-ebayThe Sagamore II, prior to the 1914 fire (courtesy Library of Congress)

In Part I of the History of The Sagamore Hotel, we left off in 1914 when on April 12, seven weeks before the season’s official opening, the Sagamore II, and all of its contents, burned to the ground.  The cause of the blaze was never officially determined, but due to the fact that it was the off-season and that there were relatively few people on the property at the time, arson was suspected.

Rumors swirled those next few years, and with outbreak of World War I, the prospects of building another grand hotel on Green Island were slow to materialize.  But following the War, several ideas were proposed for the site, and in 1922 those plans finally turned into action


Under the guidance of Ernest Van Rensselaer Stires, and with the full backing of the Green Island Improvement Company, plans for a “new” Sagamore were hatched in early 1922.  The design would be of a Colonial vernacular, drawing inspiration from the Mount Vernon residence of George Washington, with a three-story central “house” flanked by two-story wings on each end (above).  On the lake-facing side, a colonaded covered terrace (below) afforded generous views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Lake-facing side of Sagamore III, circa 1923, courtesy The Sagamore Resort

On June 15, 1923, The Sagamore III opened its doors, and while its grand re-opening was highly anticipated, it would take several seasons for consistent summer guests to return en masse.  This can likely be attributed to the fact that for nearly 10 years, there simply had been no Sagamore Hotel, and people had grown accustomed to spending their summers elsewhere.  But that would soon change…

Prior to the 1928 season, the hotel stockholders went out on a limb and endeavored to recruit well-respected hotelier Karl P. Abbott to manage the property.  At first, Abbott scoffed at the idea, but upon further consideration, he came up with a brilliant proposition.  “I said I’d run the club for one season on a bet,” Abbott was quoted as saying, “and if we make as much in that season as it had lost the season before, you will have to build me a two-hundred-room hotel!”

the-new-sagamore-iii-croppedThe Sagamore after the 1930 expansion

Having nothing to lose, the stockholders agreed, and the wager was on.  Upon visiting the property, Abbott determined that the revenue generated from the hotel’s rooms alone would not be enough to enable him to win the bet, so, being the savvy businessman that he was, he hired a French chef and started a catering side-business.


By the conclusion of the 1929 summer season, with the income from the hotel, along with that from the catering business, Abbott had achieved his goal, and on October 1, 1929, they broke ground on the expansion of the hotel.

Unfortunately, just four weeks later, the 1929 Stock Market Crash occurred and construction stalled, but only briefly.   William H. Bixby, a wealthy  St. Louis industrialist and part-time resident of nearby Bolton Landing, stepped in to support his friend – and Sagamore stock holder – Dr. William G. Beckers, and the project was able to continue through the spring of 1930.  Amazingly, on the opening day of the 1930 summer season, the hotel had 164 guests, and occupancy remained at or near capacity for the remainder of the year.


As the country weathered the Great Depression, The Sagamore persevered, as loyal guests returned over the years to spend their summers as they always had, enjoying what the hotel and Lake George had to offer in the warm Adirondack sun.  It was during this period that The Sagamore Golf course on nearby Federal Hill, that had originally been built in 1928, was acquired by the hotel.

Karl Abbott continued to run the Sagamore for the next 15 years until 1946, when the hotel was sold to the Brandt Brothers, owners of a chain of movie theaters that operated up and down the East Coast.  Louis Brandt saw an opportunity to expand and diversify the hotel’s clientele, and in doing so, numerous improvements to the property were made.  Upgrades to the guest rooms, the construction of both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a nightclub were among the additions that were made to the grounds.

sagamore-nixon-1954In 1954, The Sagamore was chosen to host the 46th Annual United States Governors’ Conference and the eyes of the nation were focused on Lake George and the Adirondack region. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was scheduled to be in attendance, but due to the death of his sister-in-law, he was unable to attend, so Vice President Richard Nixon (seen at left with New York Governor Thomas Dewey) gave the keynote address in Eisenhower’s stead.

It was in this speech, given in front of all 48 state governors (Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states at the time), that Nixon laid out Eisenhower’s plan for a $50 billion federal government investment in the creation of the National Interstate Highway System.

Through the 1960s and mid-1970s, The Sagamore continued to prosper under the direction of Louis Brandt.  But as the 1970s came to a close, the continued growth of the region as a getaway destination meant that there were more and more vacation options available, and business at the hotel subsequently began to taper off.

sagamore-from-the-air-thesagamore-comThe Sagamore today

Following the 1980 season, Louis Brandt sold The Sagamore, and over the next few years it remained closed while a $75 million restoration project was completed.  The Sagamore Resort that triumphantly emerged from this hiatus, as a Nationally Registered Historic Place, is the grand hotel that sits on the property today.

The Sagamore Clubhouse Dining RoomThe restored Clubhouse Dining Room at The Sagamore Golf Course

Throughout its 130+ year history and multiple incarnations, The Sagamore has remained the gold standard among luxury resorts in the Adirondack region.  Since 2008, The Sagamore has been operated by the family-owned Ocean Properties Ltd Company, as part of their Opal Collection, and numerous upgrades have been made to the amenities and grounds that carry the resort into the 21st Century.

I was fortunate to have spent time at The Sagamore as a young boy in the mid 1980s, and again this past winter, and I can say from firsthand experience, that it truly is a magnificent hotel.  One that has a timeless quality to it, and is as perfect for a family vacation, as it is for a romantic getaway.  So if you have an opportunity, I would highly recommend a visit.

And tell them The Craftsman Bungalow sent you!!


Me at The Sagamore on a freeezing cold, single-digit day in March 2017

For more information about The Sagamore, or to book a stay at the hotel, please visit:Blank Space 10x800
110 Sagamore Road
Bolton Landing, NY 12814
Hotel Direct: 518.644.9400
Reservations (Toll-Free): 866.384.1944
Group Sales: 855.700.OPAL

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Special thanks to Jennifer Forte Cuomo, Kenzie Maloney, and Matthew Shelton at The Sagamore for their generous hospitality during my stay and for gifting me a copy of William Preston Gates’ wonderfully informative book History of The Sagamore Hotel, an indispensable resource for researching for this article.

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