Hotel Saranac is worth the wait

The Hotel Saranac ballroom is seen Nov. 28 with new chandeliers, restored oak wall paneling and — revealed underneath the old carpeting — a herringbone-pattern wood floor.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

The Hotel Saranac ballroom is seen Nov. 28 with new chandeliers, restored oak wall paneling and — revealed underneath the old carpeting — a herringbone-pattern wood floor. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Our guided tour of the Hotel Saranac last week was documented in Friday’s paper, in photos and a news article by Staff Writer Glynis Hart. Managing Editor Peter Crowley was on the tour as well, but his opinions about what he saw were not in the article. They are reserved for this editorial.

In short, the place looks great.

It largely looks like a modern city hotel, but in a way that pairs well with the original 1927 elements. The Hotel Saranac was never over the top aesthetically, as some Art Deco hotels were, which allows a fluid transition to its new interior architecture and decor: clean, minimalist lines, light colors, distinctive lighting fixtures and interesting uses of wood.

The owners’ massive financial investment is clearly evident. This renovation took much longer than locals would have liked, but when we saw the results, we felt like it was worth the wait.

We think Saranac Lakers and guests will, on the whole, be relieved and refreshed when they visit: relieved that it is still the Hotel Saranac, with the details and spirit people remember, but refreshed since that spirit has been enhanced with a strong breath of new life.

Beyond the architecture, the management seems quite capable, full of vision and high standards as well as solid common sense.

All told, the owners’ expectation that the hotel will be a tourist destination on its own is starting to seem quite credible.

One question we had going in was whether its built-in amenities — restaurant, bar, gift shop, hair and nail salon and a spa complex in the basement — we so extensive that they would negate guests’ need to leave the building and visit other Saranac Lake businesses. We came away satisfied they would not. Yes, guests will put those amenities to good use — so will locals, we expect — but there are several reasons why most guests will want to venture out:

¯ Restlessness: After a day or so sampling food, drinks and gifts within hotel walls, guests will naturally want to try other options, of which there are many within walking distance.

¯ Small bedrooms: The hotel mostly still has the same size guest rooms it always did. They look better than ever and will have modern amenities, but the snugness will nudge a typical Adirondack visitor to get out and look around, not spend the whole time in his or her room.

¯ Exploration theme: This is central to the hotel’s marketing strategy, according to General Manager Michael Salyers. While part of that theme is obviously outdoor recreation, much of it also revolves around exploring the surrounding community. Every bedroom has a stylized “Saranac Lake” poster in it, and staff will be trained on things to do outside the hotel, Salyers said.

¯ Windows: Despite all our many years of visiting the Hotel Saranac in the past, we were struck this time by the panes that face out from every room, overlooking the village in all directions. Light pours delightfully into the south-facing ones, but we found ourselves repeatedly drawn to the north-facing ones, too. This central location gives a unique perspective on Saranac Lake, and we think it will have a psychological effect on visitors, making them want to get out into the village unfolding all around them.

Roedel Companies took on a big risk in buying the then-closed Hotel Saranac four years ago. Up to now, the company’s experience lay in modern hotels, but this was a labor of love for a family that has roots in Saranac Lake going back to the 1800s.

They did it right.

We were nervous at first about the state pledging $5 million toward this overhaul, which was originally estimated to cost $18 million but may now be significantly more than that, but this project has earned it. This historic landmark in the heart of downtown would otherwise have crumbled and dragged everything down; now it shines and will lift its surroundings. To accomplish this, the Roedels extended themselves financially to a point that not many businesspeople would — and they didn’t cut corners. Just as the original hotel was built to last, now it’s been restored to last.

The public helped make this happen and, we believe, got its money’s worth.

We wish the Hotel Saranac much success, and we wish the same to the rest of Saranac Lake as it capitalizes on this boon.

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