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McCollum’s Hotel destroyed by fire

Several men and women asleep in the hotel leap into the snow in their night clothes

August 18, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Thus was the headline in the Adirondack Enterprise on March 22, 1906 when the beautiful old hotel burned to the ground. Following is The Enterprise story saved for posterity in the E. L. scrapbook in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library.

"The principal buildings of the famous McCollum's Hotel, located seven miles from Paul Smith's, located near the Osgood River and commanding a surpassing vista of the Adirondack country, were reduced to ruins early last Thursday morning by flames which had their origin around the furnace in the cellar. A three story frame building, a connecting structure of hewn timbers and a shed were destroyed, together with their contents and the wearing apparel and other personal effects of all within the house. The barns, stables and stock were saved.

"The property was owned by C. A. McArthur, supervisor of the Town of Brighton, an accomplished hotelman and woodsman whose acquaintance and reputation extend through many states where reside the people with whom he has come in contact and whom Mr. McArthur has entertained at his sportsman's retreat.

Article Photos

(Photo from Geraldine Collins’ book, “The Brighton Story”)

"At the time of the fire rooms were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. McArthur, Mrs. Walter Hutchins, mother of Mrs. McArthur, and Earl McArthur, the son. Game Protector Selkirk of Duane, Mrs. Saxy Whitten and child of Malone, and several men employed by Mr. McArthur including a man named Lamb. Mr. and Mrs. McArthur had apartments on the first floor; their son, Earl, Mrs. Hutchins, Mr. Selkirk, Mrs. Whitten and child were sleeping on the second floor; Mr. Lamb was on the third floor and the employees of Mr. McArthur had rooms in the old part of the house."


Saranac Lake boom years

Many times I am asked what Saranac Lake was like in the 1940's and 1950's because people are always interested in history ... of their families, their hometown and their country.

Now some things never change because we found a story about Milo B. Miller being interviewed by a reporter from the Adirondack Enterprise in 1905 of what the village was like thirty or forty years before. Milo was the son of Pliny Miller, who, with Jacob Moody, was the pioneers of Saranac Lake. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

"The greatest boom Saranac Lake has ever known was the Murray Rush some thirty years ago. [This would have been in the late 1800s when Rev. W. H. H. Murray wrote many volumes of Adirondack Tales about this region.] This was until then a country of lumbering operations. There were great drives of logs every spring down the Saranac River. The boys went away as soon as the ice went out and they followed the drive into Plattsburg where they arrived about the first of July. C. F. Norton of Plattsburg took out about 100,000 standards every year.

"When Rev. Murray began to write about the woods and the lakes and the trout and the deer and how consumption could be cured in these mountains it started people this way with a rush and we have always called it Murray's Rush.

"There was a line of stages from Port Kent via Keeseville and AuSable Forks and for a number of years they met at noon at Franklin Falls for an exchange of horses. To one in good health a journey into the mountains on one of those four horse coaches was a trip of a lifetime, but to one who was not of rugged health it was a severe trial and many did die on the way at the time of the Murray Rush.

"The leading hotel in this locality was the Saranac Lake House on what is now Ampersand Bay. This hotel was built in 1849 by William F. Martin and it was often called the Martin Hotel. The hotel could not accommodate one third of the people who came here at the time of the Murray boom. We had to build shacks and put up tents. Many who had consumption died before they reached here and others died in Saranac Lake because they were not strong enough to stand the trip. But the country agreed with the health of most everyone who would come, the same as it does now and when the people found this out they came here from all over the world and the place grew rapidly. It was a boom that never stopped for Dr. Trudeau found a way to treat the sick people and cure them, and I guess the town will never stop growing."

I think it's pretty neat to hear a prominent citizen in 1905 telling what Saranac Lake "used to be like" ... as much as I like doing the same thing now.

The story went on to say that Mr. Miller had always been the largest property owner in Saranac Lake "and today has 400 building lots together with 1000 acres of land in Lake Kiwassa." [In that Enterprise story Kiwassa was spelled "Kiawassa."



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