St. Moritz Hotel sold at auction: Jan. 23, 1964

That famous Lake Placid landmark, the St. Moritz Hotel, built in 1926, has a great history in that village. If the cars in the parking lot are any indication, it is a bustling business today, hosting the tourists who jam the streets of Lake Placid.

Christmas week, the crowds in town looked more like the sidewalks of New York City — pedestrians jostling for space as shoppers would leave a store, then stop to visit, completely blocking the sidewalk. Would every town in the North Country love to have that problem?

The St. Moritz was never a more popular spot than when it was owned and operated my friends, entrepreneurs Glen Cameron and Jim Lafountain. They purchased the hotel in 1986 and operated it for many years.

But this story is about that Adirondack icon, auctioneer and man-about-town Charles Vosburgh. I got to know him quite well through my Enterprise colleague Bill McLaughlin, who was his good friend. We never missed a chance to attend his auctions.

The photo of Mr. Vosburgh and his pals was taken at the Saranac Lake village board meeting on Dec. 2, 1963, when the village of Saranac Lake had taken ownership of the Hotel Alpine. Mr. Vosburgh was like a good rabbit dog; he could pick up the scent of a property going south before the owners knew it was happening.

One month after the village acquired the Hotel Alpine, Mr. Vosburgh was selling the Hotel St. Moritz on Jan. 23, 1964. The Enterprise story about the Alpine Hotel said this:

“Auctioneer Charles Vosburgh also appeared at last night’s meeting to inquire about the hotel (Alpine). At first, he tentatively offered to sell the hotel for the village on Jan. 23, when he is selling the St. Moritz Hotel in Lake Placid. He later said that the sale might be difficult until the chattel mortgages had been cleared up.”

St. Moritz history

Excerpts from an Enterprise story about the impending sale:

“Mr. Vosburgh purchased the hotel and two ski lodges on the 125 by 400 block from William Rascoe of Lake Placid who operated the hotel since 1956 after acquiring the title following the death of famed hotel man Goodman Kelleher.

“According to Mr. Vosburgh, the property will be subdivided to a certain extent. The ski lodges contain 25 rooms each. There is also a large garage at the back which will be sold as a separate entity.

“The Hotel St. Mortiz has an interesting sports background and members of foreign Olympic teams were billeted there in 1932.

“The hotel featured a lively ski rendezvous, cocktail lounge, numerous fire places, ski packages and Diner Card carte Blanche under the successful ownership of Bill Rascoe and his wife Joan.

“Mr. Vosburgh has handled the auction sales of the Saranac Inn, the Lake Clear Inn, the Palmer camp, the Star Lake Inn and many other Adirondack properties.”

St. Moritz sale

I have a copy of a bright orange auction brochure covered with notes about the sale. I don’t know who wrote the notes, but in the margin is this figure: total $51,650. The same figure is written in under the headline in the Enterprise story about the sale.

Since Mr. Vosburgh said the property would be somewhat subdivided, the brochure claims that a quantity of personal items would be sold first, “followed by four parcels of real estate.”

“Selling at auction as an operating hotel, year round operation, 65 or 100 rooms, Otis elevator, three fireplaces, famous Swiss Room Bar and Rumpus Rooms, three convention and banquet rooms, complete sprinkler system, all bedrooms with baths, three zone heat system, dining room for 235, a most modern well equipped kitchen and bakery … we feel, truly, in excellent operating condition with best equipped kitchen we have ever sold with a hotel, 22 rooms newly carpeted.”

The brochure went on in detail about the other three parcels. Following are the notes written in ink in the margins of the brochure.

“Robert Rice, hotel selling at auction, $34,000. William Hurley, 26 rooms, Pine Lodges $9,250.00. Rob Wykoff (sp?) large capacity garage, $5,100.” Then written in, opposite Charles Vosburgh, is “2 cottages and tennis courts $3,300.” Those figures add up to the total written in at the top of the brochure, $51,650.

Other details listed on the brochure had Jack Wilkins as the Realtor involved.

“Thirty percent down day of auction. Possession on closing on or before 60 days. Former owner will continue to operate until closing and will be willing to cooperate.”