The historic Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake, NY has been in the news more frequently lately, since it was announced this past summer that the aging hotel was to be purchased by an investor and restored to its former glory. I stayed at the Hotel Saranac in the fall of 2012 when I was researching the Trudeau Sanitarium in Saranac for my graduate research, Romanticism and Ruralism. I became intimately familiar with the history of the Saranac region, particularly the architectural and natural formations that characterized this nineteenth-century healing hot-spot. I thought it might be appropriate to post a blog about the historic hotel now, in the midst of its renovation (and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to stay there after the restoration is complete and blog about it again!)
First, a brief history of the Hotel Saranac. Located at 100 Main Street in downtown Saranac Lake, the hotel was constructed first in 1927 by Adirondack architects Scopes and Feustmann. They designed many more notable buildings in Saranac, along with some of the cure cottages located within the Sanitarium – which you can read more about here. The hotel went into an economic downfall after the stock market crash. The hotel’s ownership was assumed by Paul Smith’s college in 1961, was sold to a private owner in 2006, and is now in the hands of the private investor who is coordinating the restoration.
When I stayed there a year ago, the hotel was nice – but in an obvious state of economic depression. Much of the ground level was closed off (the restaurant, small store and ball room area). The grandeur of the architecture was apparent, but downplayed by the inability to maintain its upkeep. The current renovations hope to bring back the vibrancy of the original hotel. The article below describes the renovator’s attention to historic detail.
“Roedel Companies has outlined the first few details of historic preservation that it has planned for the Hotel Saranac. The company purchased the iconic downtown building in December and has researched the early architectural elements that date to its first design. Corporate partner Fred Roedel III traces his family’s roots in Saranac Lake back to his great-grandfather, who worked for hotelier Paul Smith.
He also is tracing the hotel’s roots, working from original plans from construction 80 years ago. “… the goal is to retain as much of the original architecture, flooring and fabric as possible,” Roedel said in a news release. “We are also focusing our efforts on preserving the layout and character of the building.”
Toward that goal, Roedel and his company, ROK Builders, hired an historical consultant, Kimberly Alvarez of Landmark Consulting in Albany, to prioritize elements of the restoration. Storefront facades, an arcade, the terrace, second-floor lobby and the dining room are key points, according to historic details that Roedel shared.
The entryway to the building once was an arcade reserved for shops and commercial interests. The plan, Roedel said, is to restore the limestone walls and glass on the first-floor level. “The project will emphasize and reinstate the urban, commercial function that historically contributed to the vitality of the village and Main Street,” he said.
An arcade in the original building connected the front doors on Main Street to Academy Street. The passageway, with glassed-in storefronts, was closed off when the building was retrofit in 1977 for use by Paul Smith’s College. “Roedel Companies is exploring ways to bring back the original arcade,” Roedel said. “The renovation will center on the arcade’s original architectural features that remain intact, including marble terrazzo floors, bronze and plate-glass storefronts and decorative plaster walls and ceilings.”
One of the most popular and scenic spots in the hotel is the open-air terrace overlooking Berkeley Green and the mountains around Saranac Lake. “The area will serve as a sidewalk café and offer guests views of the mountains and lakes, while also being part of the hustle and bustle along the village streets,” the company said.
THE UPPER LOBBY
Just inside the terrace doors, the lobby on the second floor has a storied architectural history, Roedel has found. “The second-floor lobby was originally modeled after a Renaissance-era Italian palazzo, the Davanzati Palace, which was fully restored just a few years before the Hotel Saranac was constructed,” he said. “As part of the renovation, Roedel Companies will conserve the ornamental beams on scroll brackets, marble staircase, decorative ceiling painting, fireplace and original chandeliers.”
THE DINING ROOM
A similar restoration is in the works for the dining room, adjoining the second-floor lobby. “The formal dining or ballroom is significant to social history as the venue for countless Winter Carnival balls, New Year’s Eve parties, social galas, weddings and a variety of special occasions,” Roedel said. “The room’s oak-paneled walls, crystal chandeliers, decorative plaster ceilings, arched topped windows and French doors will be elegantly restored to once again offer a premier event venue in the region.”
Key elements of restoration will be enhanced by upgrades that Roedel said will bring modern standards to the property “but not detract from the overall historic character of the building.” The 80 guest rooms rising four floors above the second-floor lobby will be renovated, gaining new bathrooms, furnishings and interior décor. A parking structure is also planned for the property. The tall “Hotel Saranac” sign on the building’s roof will remain intact.
The historic preservation specialist is preparing paperwork to have the hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Amy Catania, executive director of Historic Saranac Lake. Catania walked through the building with Roedel last month and has published a report in support of the restoration plan. The Hotel Saranac is closed for construction with plans to reopen in 2015. Flooding in the building from a broken water pipe during a cold snap has not impeded the construction plan, Roedel said.
SEE THE CHANGES
Once the work at the Hotel Saranac building begins, Roedel Companies will place web cameras inside for live views of ongoing restoration. The images will be online at the Hotel Saranac’s new website, http://www.hotelsaranac.com, and on the hotel’s new Facebook page, facebook.com/HotelSaranac, where anyone with old photos of the building, inside or out, is invited to post and share their memories.”
Read the full article here.