Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton

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Discover the Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton, which was the brainchild of Morton Marshall and J.B. Scopes.

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Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1998, dates back to 1927.

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At the beginning of the 20th century, Saranac Lake was rapidly emerging as one of the Northeast’s most desirable vacation retreats. It has gained national attention due to the reputation of its favorable climate and remote setting. Hundreds of the afflicted flocked to Saranac Lake every year, with many hoping to find solace at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitorium. Indeed, Williams Scopes was one person who had made the trek north into upstate New York to go to the medical facility. Like many of his fellow patients, Scopes gradually saw his condition improve thanks to the region’s dry, cool climate. He subsequently decided to make the area his home and settled down. A trained architect, Scopes formed an engineering firm with Maurice M. Fuestmann as a way to support himself. While his architectural work provided a comfortable lifestyle for Scopes, he entertained an even greater dream of opening a luxurious boutique hotel near Saranac Lake. Scopes specifically hoped that such a business would thrive from the many vacationers that had consistently flocked to the location. In 1925, Scopes finally put his plan into action. He managed to create the Saranac Lake Hotel Corporation through a partnership he had formed with businessman Morton Marshall and a few others. Scopes and Marshall then proceeded to raise over $125,000 for the project through the sale of public stocks and bonds. With enough money in hand, the two men then began construction at the site of a former three-story, wood-frame high school building. (Interestingly, Scopes chose the place in part because of its proximity to the former home of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, the founder of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitorium.)

The work lasted two years and was incredibly extensive. Both Scopes and Marshall designed the building themselves, using the aesthetics of Colonial Revivalism to craft its stunning façade. But other architectural styles appeared throughout the hotel’s design, too, such as the Italian Renaissance motifs that debuted within its Grand Salon. (The layout for the room was mainly inspired by the 14th-century Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy.) The two spared no expense either, purchasing rare building materials like imported European marble and hand-crafted wrought iron railings. In fact, Scopes himself spent well over the budget, investing a grand total of $750,000! Needless to say, the new Hotel Saranac was a gorgeous sight when construction finally concluded in 1927. It stunned countless the guests, who were awe-struck by its brilliant guestrooms and meeting venues. In just five years after opening, the hotel had become a preferred venue for community meetings and events. It subsequently hosted such groups as the Franklin County League of Women Voters, ADK Council of Boy Scouts of America, and Northern New York headquarters of Women's Organization for the National Prohibition Reform. Hotel Saranac was even booked months in advance of the Winter Olympic games held at Lake Placid a year later. But despite its surging popularity, the finances needed to operate the business were hard on Scopes and Marshall. After a decade of instability, the Saranac Lake Hotel Corporation dissolved with Rita Marshall Snider—Morton Marshall’s widow—retaining control over the entire enterprise.

In 1962, Paul Smith's College officially purchased the hotel to complement its “Hotel, Resort, and Culinary Management” program. The school oversaw a series of major construction work done at the hotel, including the restoration of the hotel’s lobby ceiling a decade afterward. Hotel Saranac continued to host the Hotel, Resort, and Culinary Management program for decades until the Arora family acquired the business in 2006. They oversaw the installation of individual air-conditioning and heating units were installed in each guestroom, providing an upgraded experience for guests. Then in 2013, Roedel Companies—which has generation-spanning ties to Saranac Lake—purchased the building. Grueling renovations followed to restore Hotel Saranac, with the purpose of restoring the building to its historic splendor. The highlight of their work was the installation of a replica of the original Hotel Saranac sign three years later. Amid the ongoing construction, Roedel Companies struck an agreement to have the building join Hilton Hotel & Resorts’ renowned Curio Collection. The act was just another contingency measure that Roedel Companies undertook to guarantee that the building’s reputation remained firmly intact. After months of work, the historic hotel made its triumphant debut as the “Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton,” in 2018. Now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the revitalized Hotel Saranac has remained one of the best places to stay in the whole Adirondack Region. (Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton, was inducted into Historic Hotels of America right before the grand reopening in 2017.)

  • About the Location +

    Today, Saranac Lake is among the best places to vacation in the entire northeastern United States. Families come from across the region to experience the tranquility of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. Indeed, they thoroughly enjoy hiking along the many forested pathways, fishing in the numerous streams, or hunting deep into the wilderness. But this spectacular community has not always been a popular holiday destination. On the contrary, Saranac Lake and its environs were once just an isolated trading outpost. While scattered tribes of Native Americans—ranging from the Abenaki to the Iroquois—seasonally visited the area for generations, the first known permanent settlements appeared with the arrival of Euro-Americans at the start of the 19th century. In 1819, a trapper named Jacob Smith Moody established a lone farmstead near Saranac Lake, specifically near a place that would soon be known as “Moody Pond.” He was the only settler of European descent to inhabit the region, as many others had avoided it due to its rugged terrain. But he was eventually joined a decade later by Captain Pliny Miller, a veteran of the War of 1812. Purchasing around 300 acres near one of Saranac Lake’s tributaries, Miller subsequently constructed and operated a prosperous sawmill for years. (Interestingly, he had also dammed a portion of the river, forming a massive body of water that locals would eventually call “Flower Lake.”) From there two settlements would spawn the heart of a village, which specifically formed around the intersection of three local hinterland roads. Nevertheless, the village remained incredibly small, save for small groups of loggers who floated logs down toward Lake Champlain.

    The area’s relative isolation began to come to an end around the middle of the century, when upper-class families began to actively seek out the serenity of New York’s untouched Adirondacks. Perhaps the greatest group of urbanites to start frequenting the area of Saranac Lake were intellectuals, who found its peaceful environment conducive to pursuing their work. (In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson and nine other notable scholars went out to neighboring Follensby Pond for some rest and relaxation in 1858.) The region’s few residents began to cater to these vacationers, too, offering their services as guides and fishing charters. Some even erected their own rural hotels, with Captain Miller, William F. Martin, and Milote Baker building the first. But the transformation of Saranac Lake’s village into a leading resort town transpired in the wake of the American Civil War. In 1879, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau of New York City traveled to the area in search of a climate that would help his ongoing bouts of tuberculosis. After spending a few weeks in the area, Trudeau noticed that his health had improved significantly. Trudeau subsequently founded a medical facility for those exclusively suffering from tuberculosis called the “Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium.” Originally consisting of just a one-room cottage, the sanitorium gradually grew in size as word of its effectiveness spread. Indeed, hundreds of tuberculosis patients traveled to the facility, including author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1887. (The success of the sanitorium also galvanized Trudeau to develop his own independent medical research center. It still exists in the present as the highly renowned “Trudeau Institute.”)

    The village around Lake Saranac expanded, especially once private real estate developers started building rental homes to deal with the overflow of the tuberculosis patients and their families. But news about Saranac Lake’s peaceful atmosphere soon reached many other Americans, which led them to sojourn to the area, too. Over the next several decades, those newer tourists proceeded to build their own seasonal mansions and expansive “Great Camps” around the lake. Many more hotels also debuted at the same time as well, constructed by local business leaders who saw great economic potential in Saranac Lake’s evolving tourism industry. This reputation remained strong well into the 20th century, even as war and economic plight ravaged New York. Some of the world’s most famous luminaries decided to visit, too. One memorable guest was the great scientist Albert Einstein, who frequently traveled to Saranac Lake starting in the 1930s. An avid boatsmen, Einstein was often spotted rowing out with family onto the lake itself, despite not knowing how to swim. He and his family would continue to vacation in Saranac Lake for many years thereafter. In fact, Einstein was visiting Saranac Lake when the first atomic bomb he helped invent fell on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Saranac Lake has since preserved its status as a prominent wilderness retreat, continuing to host thousands of people every year. Cultural heritage travelers in particular enjoy staying at Saranac Lake due to its fascinating history and beautiful natural landmarks. Lake Placid is just a short distance to the east as well, while Lake Champlain is slightly over an hour away. Few places are as exciting for a rewarding trip than Saranac Lake.


  • About the Architecture +

    Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton, stands today as a wonderful interpretation of Colonial Revival architecture. Colonial Revival architecture itself is perhaps the most widely used building form in the entire United States today. It reached its zenith at the height of the Gilded Age, where countless Americans turned to the aesthetic to celebrate what they feared was America’s disappearing past. The movement came about in the aftermath of the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, in which people from across the country traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the American Revolution. Many of the exhibitors chose to display cultural representations of 18th-century America, encouraging millions of people across the country to preserve the nation’s history. Architects were among those inspired, who looked to revitalize the design principles of colonial English and Dutch homes. This gradually gave way to a larger embrace of Georgian and Federal-style architecture, which focused exclusively on the country’s formative years.  As such, structures built in the style of Colonial Revival architecture featured such components as pilasters, brickwork, and modest, double-hung windows. Symmetrical designs defined Colonial Revival-style façades, anchored by a central, pedimented front door and simplistic portico. Gable roofs typically topped the buildings, although hipped and gambrel forms were used, as well. This form remained immensely popular for years until largely petering out in the late 20th century. Nevertheless, architects today still rely upon Colonial Revival architecture, using the form to construct all kinds of residential buildings and commercial complexes. Many buildings constructed with Colonial Revival-style architecture are even identified as historical landmarks at the state level, and the U.S. Department of the Interior has even listed a few of them in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

    But the Hotel Saranac also showcase elements of Italian Renaissance Revival style architecture, primarily in its magnificent Great Hall. Italian Renaissance Revival architecture itself is a subset of a much large group of styles known simply as “Renaissance Revival,” which is among the most ubiquitous in America. Sometimes referred to as “Neo-Renaissance,” Renaissance Revival architecture is a group of architecture revival styles that originally date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. Those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings, with the characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord in France. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. Yet, the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe and North America. Many architects left their own mark upon any structure designed with Renaissance Revival-style design aesthetics, including Walter W. Ahlschlager. Historians, thus, often find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement, yet acknowledge its inherent beauty, nonetheless.


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