Hotel Ampersand - 1907
The Ampersand Hotel opened in 1888. The main building burned to the ground the night of September 23, 1907, after which the property was operated as a cabin complex until the property was acquired by the State.
Adirondack Enterprise, June 3, 1989
"Lake of the Clustered Stars" was home to hotel with enigmatic name — Ampersand
SARANAC LAKE — Because of its many picturesque islands, Lower Saranac Lake was supposedly named "Lake of the Clustered Stars" by the Indians. Although probably bogus, the place has lived up to this nomenclature with no loss of esteem or romanticism. Over the ensuing years, the lake has witnessed a multitude of both physical and historical changes. Certainly, its familiar shoreline has changed little since being mapped by Colvin in, 1877, but its man-made, features have varied in ways directly related to the fluctuations in our social values.
Ampersand Hotel Stagecoach on Main Street in the village, driven by Tuffield Latour. In the background, from center to right, is the Seaver A. Miller Cottage, a glimpse of the Empire Hotel, and the first Harrietstown Town Hall (undated).
There is little doubt that man's first intrusion here came by bark canoe paddled by an aboriginal occupant, quickly followed by the bearded French trapper-hunter of the 1600s. Next came the avid sportsman with his intrepid Adirondack guide in a sleek craft, his passage dutifully recorded by the writers and artists of the 1800s. Together with the latter group, the famous Adirondack resort hotel came into being. Three of these structures, indigenous to our area, were erected at the eastern end of Lower Saranac Lake. Martin's and the Algonquin having been discussed in previous articles, the Ampersand remains to have its sad fate recalled.
Located at the extreme eastern tip of the lake, the building crowned an elevation of land and afforded a superb view southwesterly over the expanse of water and island to that distant mountain which shared its enigmatic name.
Superior in size and elegance to its two predecessors, the Ampersand was an imposing structure.
It was originally intended to capitalize on Saranac Lake's fame as a health resort, but it eventually emerged as a summer vacation tourist type hotel. It would accommodate 300 guests in luxurious surroundings. A toboggan slide was built which, together with skating and sulky races on the lake, was able to attract a considerable following.
The hotel's manager, Charles M. Eaton, soon realized that more people vacationed in the summer than winter. His advertisements of the late 1890s called the Ampersand "the Saratoga of Lower Saranac Lake." This hotel boasted a nine-hole golf course, and its own baseball team, which played neighboring teams from Malone, Lake Placid and AuSable Forks. Boating was popular and the fishermen could take pike from the lake or row up to Round Lake where abundant speckled trout hungrily awaited the angler's hook, and an occasional deer could be seen feeding in the lilypad shallows. From the south shore's sandy beach, a trail led to the summit of Ampersand Mountain, where a spectacular view awaited the climber.
Transient guests and local residents played on the golf course and attended the many concerts and dances. A fine orchestra was always on hand at the Ampersand. After closing his Saranac Lake house for the summer, Dr. Trudeau would often spend time at the hotel before moving on to St. Regis Lake. In August, 1896 a benefit ball at the hotel raised $900 for the doctor's sanitarium.
Lakeside Cottage Ad in Health and Pleasure on America's Greatest Railroad, 1895, New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, p.418 Arthur S. Knight, Adirondack Guide, Vacationland in Picture Story and History, Adirondack Resorts Press, Lake George, New York, 1947, p. 277. (Library of Congress) On Saturday, July 25, 1896, the Adirondack News reported that guests at the Ampersand witnessed a rare sight from the front piazza. A flotilla of guide boats bearing state commissioners swept up to the shore as the band played "Nearer My God to Thee." This was the famous group of state assemblymen touring the region for the purpose of reporting to the legislature on the feasibility of land acquisition within the state park. Captain James H. Pierce of Bloomingdale was chairman of the committee. Martin Van Huron Ives from Potsdam chronicled the tour in his book, Through the Adirondack in 18 Days.
Indoor activities at the Ampersand consisted of games of Whist, billiard competitions, recitals, plays and dances. The social reporter for the Adirondack News, Mrs. Caroline Washburn Rockwood, also a correspondent for several New York City and Boston newspapers, kept readers up to date oil comings and goings at the hotel. Seaver A. Miller, who served as Saranac Lake village mayor, clerk and justice of the peace, was the editor of the little weekly.
In the early 1900s, the golden era of Adirondack Hotels was on the wane and the Ampersand felt the crunch.
On the night of September 23, 1907, the Ampersand burned to the ground. The decline in the hotel industry lent credence to a pervading suspicion of arson. Long after the smoke had drifted away and the ashes turned stone cold, the issue lingered unsettled in the courts. The litigation between the hotel owners and the insurance company dragged on seven years before it was finally settled in 1914, with $100,000 being awarded to the Ampersand's owners. In 1920, Charles Eaton sold the property to Sam Matthews. Matthews sought to rebuild the Ampersand and the Algonquin and auction off some 250 building lots. The project fizzled.
The last commercial venture to operate on the site was a cottage complex owned by Walter and Ivy Little. With an ideal location, the Ampersand Cottages became a popular summer vacation resort and enjoyed many prosperous years. After Mr. Little's death, his widow ran the business until the sale of the property to the state Conservation Department. Currently, the state maintains a caretaker's dwelling and a boat launch site on the premises.
The derivation of the word Ampersand is as much a mystery as the origin of the word Saranac. Both have been denied any Indian relationship. Colvin suggested the appellation of "amber-sand" for the color of the sandy shores of Ampersand Pond. Van Dyke offers the alphabetical symbol, ampersand, (&) as the source, due to the winding and twisting course of Ampersand Brook.
In our community today, the name lives on in Ampersand Bay and Ampersand Avenue, but the Ampersand Hotel and its past glories live on only in our memories.
Malone Palladium, April 3, 1890.
A Saranac Lake dispatch to the New York Times says: "The 200 acres of land adjoining the Saranac Lake Hotel Company's property have been purchased by parties interested in the Hotel Ampersand, thus giving it a large lake frontage, many beautiful cottage sites, and a farm which will be run in connection with the house. This additional land will add greatly to the pleasure of the many guests already booked for the coming season, as the wooded section will be laid out in a small park, with many different walks and resting places."
On May 22, 1891, the Plattsburgh Sentinel reported that "Verplanck Colvin is surveying the Ampersand premises and putting in permanent posts that will not be disturbed for generations to come, probably." 1
Malone Gazette, July 22, 1892
The Adirondack hotels are rapidly filling with guests and by August 1st the season will be at its height. Hotel Ampersand, at Saranac Lake, now has 200 guests and more are coming...
New York Times, June 27, 1897 (A pdf of the full article is here)
ON MOUNTAINS AND LAKES
The Numerous Adirondack Resorts Now Ready to Receive the Summer Visitor.
Very little that is new is offered in the vicinity of the village of Saranac Lake this season. This old village is on the Saranac branch of the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad. Persons going there from New York leave the Grand Central Station on the regular Adirondack trains, and change cars at Lake Clear. Saranac Lake village is the largest settlement in the Adirondack region. It has a population of about 1,200.
The fashionable Ampersand Hotel stands on an advantageous site on lower Saranac Lake and is about two miles from the village. This is one of the most, sumptuous hotels in the woods, and is conducted by Charles Eaton of New York. Since last season the Ampersand Company has obtained control of the Miller property, on the opposite side of the lake, where the old Saranac Lake House was located before it fell a victim to fire. Some of the old buildings were not destroyed, and they will be used hereafter as an annex to the Ampersand. Some excellent golf links have been established in connection with the Ampersand.
Plan of the Ampersand from the 1899 Sanborn map. The 1895 map is essentially identical.
New York Times, August 27, 1899
The excessive heat of the early part of the week, which, by the way, was an impossibility according to all the guide books— or was it one of those exceptions which prove the rule: that "it is never warm in the Adirondacks"— followed by the rain of the week's end, has not been conducive to outdoor sports. Nevertheless, the Ampersand golf grounds have been filled with people in broiling sun and drenching rain, and baseball and tennis have been played whenever the grounds permitted.
On Wednesday evening an interesting and enjoyable concert was given as a testimonial to the Ampersand Orchestra. The guests contributed liberally, and made the affair an artistic and financial success. Miss Ruby C. Cutter of Boston especially pleased the audience. She sang a song by Arditti, "Se Saran Rose," and Chaminade's " Summer." Henry K. Hadley, the leader, played a Chopin nocturne, and his brother, Arthur D. Hadley, gave a number of selections by Popper on the 'cello. The other soloists were Alfred P. De Veto and Henry Burck. The orchestra rendered a number of Wagner selections.
The Plattsburgh Sentinel, October 4, 1907
Ampersand Property Will Now Be Run As a Club.
Officers of the Hotel Ampersand corporation announced this week following news of the burning of the hotel at Saranac Lake, that it will be rebuilt as a casino. The casino will the social center of a colony that has been planned for some time, and will be organized next month.
William B. Ellison of New York, former corporation counsel, who is legal adviser for the company, and is nominally its president, explained that the club idea had been carefully worked out.
There will be two hundred shares issued at $1,000 par value. With the $200,000 thus raised the club organization will erect a casino and take charge of the beautifying of five hundred acres of land.
Each club member will have a cottage of his own, and altogether it will be a large colony.
"For many years," said Mr. Ellison, "the same persons have patronized the hotel, and it was in effect a club. It was for this reason that the club colony was projected. Although there is a loss involved by the fire, the hotel would have been replaced anyway by a clubhouse."
Charles M. Eaton, a broker with the firm of Raymond, Pynchon & Co. of Co. of No. 111 Broadway, New York is the treasurer and majority stockholder in the hotel corporation. Among those interested in the club plan are many well known New Yorkers.
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Sackett, honeymooning at the Ampersand Hotel, are said to have driven the first car to come to Saranac Lake.
Ampersand Hotel Display by Karina Jackson, Shown at History Day 2008. Click on the image to enlarge the display Ampersand Hotel & Cottages map, c. 1930 Ampersand Hotel (Seneca Ray Stoddard, c. 1890) Ampersand Hotel ad. Courtesy of John Van Anden. An 1888 map of the road to Ampersand Hotel, by I. Vosburgh. It seems to show a planned re-route of an earlier road from Forest Home, at top, and Ampersand Avenue, at right. The width shown is probably the full right-of-way, not the actual width of the road. Courtesy of Mary Hotaling.