Signs of life at Tupper’s Northwood Cabins

Northwood Cabins co-owner Brian Burns, left, and John Vella, owner of Utica Sign and Graphics, stand in front of the motel’s newly refurbished neon sign Tuesday.
(Enterprise photo — Ben Gocker)

Northwood Cabins co-owner Brian Burns, left, and John Vella, owner of Utica Sign and Graphics, stand in front of the motel’s newly refurbished neon sign Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Ben Gocker)

TUPPER LAKE — With its bright red, keystone-shaped neon sign freshly refurbished and reinstalled, Northwood Cabins on state Route 30 is one step closer to opening for business.

Owners Brian and Renee Burns, who bought the property last year and ran it on a limited basis, plan to open on June 24. They’ve already booked a team of Tinman triathletes from Brooklyn for the weekend.

“We have almost as many reservations now as we had bookings all last year,” Brian Burns said. “And we did alright last year for having no advertising, just word of mouth, and lighting that sign.”

The sign, a vintage piece of grandfathered-in neon, was restored to its 1950s lustre by Utica Sign and Graphics. Workers from the company lowered it onto a stone pediment in the front yard Tuesday afternoon. Brian Burns stood by overseeing the installation.

“Last year, we wanted the sign lit,” he said. Well, no one does neon in the (Adirondack) Park. So we started Googling, and there’s a guy down in Utica who does neon, and he came up and just loved the sign and said it’s not gonna last.”

Watching the sign dangle from a crane, Burns said, “It’s all aluminum. This will last another 70 years. That was our intention. I mean, it sounds kind of cliched: We own it, but we feel more like caretakers, and we want to do things that enhance that. You could never build this anymore.”

Burns, who is not from Tupper Lake but has roots in the North Country, used to vacation at Fish Creek and Rollins Pond as a kid. He’s been driving past the Northwood Cabins for more than 50 years.

“We felt that Northwood Cabins was such a part of midcentury history of the Adirondacks that it would have been a shame to see it become apartments or, worse, just decay,” Burns wrote in an email. “This has been affirmed repeatedly since we purchased the property by both guests at the motel as well as locals who stop by to thank us for taking on this task.”

Though visitors to the motel may not see a noticeable difference in many of the cabins just yet, that’s only because Burns and his wife have been busy updating the unseen components of the property.

“There has not been a lot of work done in the cabins, so people are going to say, you know, ‘What are they doing over there?'” Burns said. “Well, what they’re doing is you got to stabilize the property. Roofs, water, electric were our first priority.”

On his long list of improvements, Burns includes new roofs on all the cabins, a new commercial-grade water treatment system, new high-definition TVs in every room, Wi-Fi throughout the grounds and a totally revamped main house where guests can gather for coffee, breakfast and games.

Future plans include “stay and play” type packages.

“I have my New York state guide’s license,” Burns said. “So we would like to offer moderate day hikes to families as well as partnering with the Wild Center and Adirondack (Experience).”

Burns and his wife have a lot to look forward to in the near term, too.

“Already this year we have a family reunion, a book club and a wedding party who have booked the entire property for a weekend,” he said. “We are offering the book club an ‘American Tragedy’ weekend.” “An American Tragedy,” a 1925 novel by Theodore Dreiser, was based on the real-life 1906 murder of Ruth Brown by Chester Gilette on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks.

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