Lake Clear Lodge 1920s Copper
History

1920 - 2020: Celebrating 100 Years As An Adirondack Great Lodge Speakeasy

Published
December 12, 2019
original
December 12, 2019 12:46 AM

As the end of 2019 nears, the feeling blows in of “out with the old and in with the new.” It hits me often during the year too and I have come to call it an “entrepreneurs restless wind.” It seems as if you can’t become complacent, it’s not in your genes. You are always analyzing, contemplating.

Note From the Editor: Bob Brand is a neighbor of the Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat. He's enthusiastic about the multitude of outdoor opportunities available in the Lake Clear area. Bob wants to enlighten potential visitors to the hiking, paddling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing day trips that are easily accessed from here.

For example, this time of year you hear “tis the season,” or more specifically, “seasonal activities or menus.” I am not sure I could live in a more or less one season environment. One thing you hear often when an Adirondack'er is asked “Why do you live here?” the answer is “I like the change of the seasons.”

In the Adirondacks, a change of the seasons is also a change in life. It’s almost like you moved to another part of the world, even a different planet! The air is not even the same. In the winter it is cold, thin and brisk. In the summer it can feel hot, dense and still. Certainly, the vegetation is different and of course what you can do and can’t is immeasurably different for humans and animals alike.

In one of those moments of analyzing, I got to thinking I was using too narrow a definition of “seasons.” It wasn’t just the weather, but a whole different way of life. In the summer you can paddle or hike to places and in the winter those same destinations are only accessible by skis…or not at all.

So we started looking at the seasons differently and Voila! We came up with different “themed experiences” celebrating all of this.

Black and white photo of the 1886 Main Lodge in the 1800s.
The Main Lodge in the 1800s.

Much of the Adirondack economy in the early days thrived in the summer. You could get around via land and water routes, the weather was pleasant and game plentiful. The Adirondacks to this day thrive as a successful summer tourist destination and winters while popular, are not as traveled. Back then it was even more so and many a guide, hotel owner and service personnel were either unemployed, had to find other work, or be darn creative with their enterprise to make it viable year-round.

It still is a hard nut to crack today and the seasonal nature of our economy is as evident as the clear, winter wind.

We can only imagine what our family members must have been thinking when Prohibition came around in the 1920s. As an Adirondack Great Lodge, food and drink were an important part of the income stream. Well, the latter froze up during Prohibition and when winter came they must have been wondering how they were going to make it through. Talk about an entrepreneurs restless wind! From our family records, it appears they ratcheted up the food to grow their culinary reputation, added music, and winter activities. A notorious Speakeasy…well…you’ll have to determine that yourself when you visit…but beware we may be raided by a 1920’s copper!

What we can tell you is the Lodge was in midst of what historically was known as the “Great Adirondack Connector,” a hub of waterway, land and railroad connections. These back-country routes became the favorites for Canadian rum runners and Adirondack bootleggers. In addition, the Lodge was surrounded by famous Great Camps and Hotels such as Paul Smith’s and Saranac Inn. The latter being the largest resort built in the Adirondacks accommodating nearly 1,000 guests and visited by 5 Presidents. Lake Clear was this quiet center point, where one could be famous or infamous and probably not be recognized. A great place to locate a Speakeasy…and there were a few in the neighborhood, along with a distiller or two…

The Lodge in addition to a stagecoach inn, post-office and trading post, also became a livery and we wouldn’t be surprised if sleigh rides were added as the horses and wagons were already here as that was still a dominant form of travel in the winter. The old cars didn’t work so well on those pioneering roads with piles of snow or slush.

Celebrating with our Speakeasy, Stay, & Sleigh Experiences

Writer's Cabin Bedroom with Snow Outside the Window
The Winter View from Writer's Cabin

This year will be our 100-year celebration of the life and times of the Prohibition days in the Adirondacks and the Lodge’s illustrious role in it: 1920 – 2020! 

We have rekindled our 1920’s menu as inspiration for our Speakeasy Great Camp dinners with a special tasting on New Year’s Eve. For in addition to the Prohibition days, the 1920s were also highlighted by the emerging Adirondack Grand Hotels and Great Camps as well as the Cure Cottage days. The Lodge and its sprawling cottages on Lake Clear were active in it all!

It is a great opportunity to celebrate this way of Adirondack life in one of the last of the original Great Lodges open to the public and now the oldest one, 133 years, about to be 134! Lantern-lit sleigh rides once again go through our woods to the lake operated by a local farm as it was during the livery days. In addition, foods from this illustrious era are there for the tasting and learning, cooking demos, History of Beer Workshops, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing rekindle life as it was back then, in the very same original walls.

We hope you join us as above all, the Lodge for over 133 years was a place where generations of guests could relax and reset their own internal restless clock, and perhaps have a libation, or at least get into the spirit(s), of this Adirondack way of life!