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Memories from Mr. Rice

November 7, 2008

This is the third column about that great camp, the Knollwood Club, which consists of six big cottages.

In previous weeks we covered the history of the club as written in the book "Great Camps of the Adirondacks" by Harvey Kaiser and in specific detail about the wonderful story written by William Edwards Rice, now in the archives of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. He recalled his job as a bell boy at the club when he and George Clark were hired for the summers of 1921, 1922 and 1923.

Layout of the facilities

Article Photos

A happy group of employees at the Knollwood Club. At least a couple of them are smiling, which was an unusual event in most old-time photos.
(Photo kc 3 page 9 — courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library)

The best part of local history for me is contained in personal pieces about life and work, as in this instance; almost eighty years agohere is Mr. Rice:

"A wing extended back from the Casino (a large building housing the dining area and social rooms serving all the families) in which, on the upper floor, were offices and bedrooms for the housekeeper, Mrs. Dickey and her assistant, Miss Hill. Also, the sleeping quarters for the cooks.

(Michele Tucker, curator at the Adirondack Room, who worked at the club for 22 summers, told me the sleeping quarters for other employees were on the third floor of each cottage.)

"On the lower floor, under the housekeeper's quarters, there was a room for serving trays, dishes, and all the silver used in the dining room. Directly in back of this, there was a large room for serving all meals to maids from the cottages, waitresses, housekeeper and her assistant, guides, bell boys and night watchmen. Each group was assigned a table and generous meals were served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"A separate building in the rear of the employees' dining room was the ice house. In winter when ice on Lower Saranac Lake was about 18" to 24" thick, large cakes were hand sawn, placed on a low sled and drawn by a team of horses to the ice house. With the help of a block and tackle (pulley blocks with rope for hoisting), the large cakes were placed in layers. Each layer was heavily coated with sawdust to protect it from the spring and summer heat. Meats, fruits and vegetables were kept fresh here, taken out as needed.

"Another building in back of the ice house was living quarters for the superintendent, John Hanchett, and his family, with the laundry on the lower floor and a sitting room for guides when they were off duty."

The Bellboys' work

"Our work began each summer as soon as we finished high school for summer vacation. It was the first experience for George and me away from our mothers' apron strings. Out first assignment was to open the six cottages and the Casino in preparation for the arrival of each cottage's owners and their guests. Opening meant getting all furniture in its proper place. The outside porch furniture was kept in the living room during the winter. Each cottage was cleaned thoroughly and cleaning began from the ceiling down. All bedding was thoroughly aired; carpets were hung outside and beaten with a wire carpet beater. When we had finished each cottage was 'really clean.' It was training which has been useful all my life.

"Each morning, George and I were required to be on duty by 8 a.m. Our first duty was to sweep the sidewalk, each side of the Casino, as far as the first cottage. The guides were responsible for each cottage access. When the main dining room was open at 9 a.m. for breakfast, we were on duty at the screen doors to the entrance for those arriving and departing. Also, each day one boy was on duty to respond to any calls from the cottages. The calls were registered on a bell call box. There was no one on duty after 9 p.m."

Random notes

"One or two guides (apparently there was a guide assigned to each of the six families) had Model T Fords. Willard Hanmer had a Model T Ford touring car. Once I asked Willard to loan me his car for an evening to go the village. To my surprise, he loaned it to me for a small fee of two or three dollars, plus a tank of gas."

Guests would arrive by getting on a sleeping car at the Grand Central Station in New York City in the evening, get a good nights sleep and all would awake about at Lake Clear. Their sleeping car had been disconnected at Utica and attached to the Adirondack Division which went as far as Montreal. At Lake Clear the sleeping car, or cars, were transferred to the Saranac Lake-Lake Placid track. Guests would then take a taxi directly to the Club or to the dock (located where the NYS boat launch is today), where most preferred to take the boat to the club. Captain Larson ran the boat."

"All luggage was brought to the club by a team of horses and a wagon. Mr. Felt was the driver. He made a daily trip to the village via the Forest Home Road, Ampersand Avenue to Broadway and then to Bloomingdale Avenue to the train station. Errands consisted of collecting all incoming trunks at the station in addition to bringing daily supplies from the Saranac Lake Supply Company."

E-mail from a homeboy

Jan Lynch, who grew up on William Street (across from the Quigley's on Neil Street) with his parents, who owned the Carnation Bakery, and his sister Nancy and brothers Dean and Tom occasionally gets in touch.

In an e-mail the other day he tells about being friends with Larry Van Cour whose dad was the caretaker at Knollwood and that he used to help Larry get the cottages ready for the summer. He says he has fond memories of those days and that he remembers that Larry married Esther Finnegan. Jan now lives in Palo Alto, Calif. (e-mail:



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