A cluster of hotels
I walked all the streets of Saranac Lake as a newsboy starting in the 1940s, when we moved into the village from our farm on Norman Ridge, which we lost during the depression. Then, from the big Oseetah Diary farm in Ray Brook (80 registered Holsteins), which my father had managed. We settled in a great house my parents purchased at 5 Pine St.
That is when dad went to work at Trudeau Sanatarium as a jack-of-all-trades, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. He said it was the easiest job he ever had … and if anyone knows anything about farm life back then, he was not kidding.
Back to the hotels that used to exist in the village. I had given a presentation, using photos on a flash drive, at Historic Saranac Lake and Will Rogers, about old Saranac Lake hotels. One appeared to be a beautiful hotel at the intersection of the Forest Home Road and Ampersand Avenue.
Some of what I remember
I loved the “St. Regis Corner,” which was at the intersection of Broadway and Bloomingdale Avenue. To me, as a kid, that was the happening place, not Berkeley Square; although the Hotel Saranac, the Berkeley Hotel (which housed WNBZ Radio Station) and the big, beautiful Pontiac Theater dominated that area.
The Hotel St. Regis, 1 Bloomingdale Ave., was then owned by Bill McLaughlin’s aunt and uncle, a Mr. and Mrs. English, a handsome white-haired couple. Catty-corner to the St. Regis at 81 Broadway was the Arlington Hotel, but listed in the telephone book as “The Potter Block,” owned by a Mr. Potter, with an unusual first name which I can’t remember, but I remember him. Then opposite the St. Regis, at 84 Broadway, was the seven-story Alpine Hotel. Only the first four stories were finished. It was managed by a Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis, who lived in the hotel. They were the in-laws of Bob Roberts, who was a big shot at the Saranac Lake Savings and Loan at that time.
Why was that location so vibrant?
Now remember these are the recollections of a 12-year-old Enterprise newsboy and then of a 16-year-old bellhop at the Alpine.
I’m going to stick pretty much to that small area. Don’s Melody Lounge at 90 Broadway with live music (later owned by Jack Lawless, now the Back Door) was next to the Alpine. The Alpine had a bar on the street level and a lounge downstairs. It was a dorm for the first class at Paul Smith’s College in 1946. I have said before, my heroes, the WWII veterans, made up half of that first class attending college on the GI bill and were housed at the Alpine. The hotel featured hot and cold running chambermaids and parties almost every night in the unfinished floors above.
Fun place to work at age 16.
The Hotel Alpine was opened for business July 24, 1928 and demolished in November 1977.
The Potter Block had the Top Hat Bar in the basement level. In the back section of the building Carl Puccini had a shoe repair shop. His son, Bob, was a Marine hero of WWII.
The St. Regis bar was called the Green Room, where I have published a picture of Jack Dempsey posing with the bartenders. The St. Regis was also the Trailways and Greyhound bus terminals, with many buses coming and going each day. That, by itself, created a lot of pedestrian traffic on that corner. Tight to the St. Regis at 73 Broadway was the Oxford Market operated by the Effenbach family.
The Drutz Super Market was at 4 Bloomingdale Ave., owned and operated by Sol and Joe Drutz, which was next to McClay’s Bowling Alley. The Altamont Ice Cream bar occupied the end of the bowling alley building. The Rainbow Bar & Grill was next at 14 Bloomingdale Ave. There were fights every Friday night at the Rainbow, as the saying goes, and that was before television.
Reiss’s Drug Store was at 3 Bloomingdale Ave. — milkshakes, 15 cents — later owned by Howard Hoffman. In that same building was Leis’s Music Store and Mike D’Ambrisi’s Barber Shop.
Right next door was the Miss Saranac Diner at 7 Bloomingdale Ave. and next to that was Shorty McCormick’s Garage.
Well, that is sort of a bird’s eye view when things were really jumping in that tiny area of the village. Never a dull moment, and remember the train station, right around the corner on Depot Street. Trains coming and going all hours of the day and night.