Artist's rendering of the Boys' Club after it had become the State Armory. The original Curling Club is at left. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 2, 1995
The Boys Club, built in 1914 on Pontiac Bay at 109 River Street, served as the Armory from before World War I until it was moved to the LaPan Highway. A large wooden structure designed by William G. Distin and built by Branch and Callanan,
"The Boys Club building was a huge wooden structure three stories high with a basketball court on the second floor surrounded with a spectators' balcony well above the playing surface. The third floor provided a cathedral ceiling for ball clearance. On the ground floor there was a two-land bowling alley, meeting rooms, and a full-size gymnasium with equipment donated by Mrs. C. R. Henderson in memory of her son." 1
It also had an indoor track and a pool table 2, as well as a curling rink, a skating rink, and a toboggan slide. The land was donated by Walter Cluett, who also paid for part of the structure; the rest was donated by the family of Charles R. Henderson, in his memory. It was also used for large dances, including an annual masquerade ball in the 1920s. 3
The Boys' Club building was in bad shape in 1955. 4
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 2, 1995
Early boys Club was center of SL youth activities
SARANAC LAKE - The Boys Club here opened in 1914 thanks to Mr. Walter H. Cluett who donated the building to youths of the village. Located on River Street, the structure was next door to the Saranac Lake Curling Club, another gift to the village by Cluett, who also sponsored the Pines Club on Moody Pond.
Although there was no baseball "Little League" as such, the Boys Club managed to field a very respectable team, one team that reached its zenith in the season of 1919. Every so often a community seems to come up with a rare assemblage of outstanding athletes who excel in any given sport. This particular team, which was photographed for posterity, filled the bill in that category. The ranks of those old enough to recognize these players is getting a might thin, but there should be many still around who can remember the names.
Boys' Club baseball team of 1919. Front row from left: Harold Kraus, Bob Dewey, Bob Herron (Captain), Dick Lytle, John Morgan; Back row, Dick O'Brien, Phil Walton, Ed Duprey, Harry Goldman, Walt Mulflur. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 2, 1995
Training and experience gained at the Boys Club proved to be providential for Bob Herron, who went on to become one of the most outstanding athletes in the annals of Saranac Lake High School. Graduating in 1926, Bob received the following kudos in the Canaras, the school's year book.
"Robert Herron, 24 Broadway, Football (2, 3, 4) Captain (3, 4); Basketball, (2, 3, 4) Captain (4); Baseball (1, 2, 3,4) Captain (3, 4); Athletic committee (4); Christmas Entertainment (4). Bob is '26 greatest athlete as his record shows."
The Boys Club building was a huge wooden structure three stories high with a basketball court on the second floor surrounded with a spectators' balcony well above the playing surface. The third floor provided a cathedral ceiling for ball clearance. On the ground floor there was a two-lane bowling alley, meeting rooms, and a full-size gymnasium with equipment donated by Mrs. C. R. Henderson in memory of her son. During the early 1900s, it was not unusual to have philanthropists such as Mr. Cluette and Mrs. Henderson in our midst because of a family member being involved in the tubercular cure program at Trudeau San or in one of the many private cottages throughout the village.
The Boys Club was just one of those expressions of outgoing concern demonstrated by individuals who were probably visiting in Saranac Lake during trying times in their own personal affairs. Such generosity bears the hallmark of sincere benevolence.
Over a period of many years the Boys Club, the Curling Club, and the Pontiac Skating Rink formed a close-knit complex of winter sports. Basketball games, curling matches, and skating races were common events enjoyed by participants and spectators alike. The grandstand for the Pontiac Rink was backed up to the Curling Club and was only an alleyway from the Boys Club. At the height of the winter season the complex was the center of activity. It would seem that such a favorable arrangement would endure forever but unfortunately, one by one, the three attractions passed into oblivion.
The village's public skating rink was relocated to the Petrova High School Field and the Curling Club, due to lack of funds, was converted to commercial ventures. The Boys Club was taken over by the state to serve as an armory for the training of guard units. During the summer of 1926, Gov. Al Smith came to inspect the building while enroute to visit President Calvin Coolidge who was in his Summer White House on Osgood Pond at Paul Smiths.
When the River Street highway rebuild took place, all structures between the road and Lake Flower were demolished and the famous old triplex has been replaced by the present day's boat launch site.
Such is progress!
Lake Placid News, March 18, 1976
From An Explanation of River Street Plans
by Howard Riley
The NCCC gym was built for and known as The Saranac Lake Boys Club in the 1920s. It is an architectural gem with huge wooden beams and a copper roof probably worth $2000. And here there is a strange twist in ownership. The state had previously owned the building (when it was an armory) and sold it to the village for one dollar. The village sold the building to the College for one dollar and now the College has sold it back to the state for more than $50,000. Now the final irony would be the village having to buy back that portion not needed for the highway, but that is not the case. That piece is being deeded back to the village by the college.
Lake Placid News, January 2, 1914
New Memberships, Boys' Club
The Boys' Club has instituted an innovation in the shape of associate or sustaining memberships. The latter will be a1lowed full privileges such as the use of the gymnasium apparatus, billiard and pool tables. on Tuesday nights. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9 to 1 and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1 to 3:30. Residents of the village 25 years old or more are eligible. Such members can not vote or hold office.
The Board of Governors wishes to reduce the deficit and provide funds for the current expenses. The building and equipment of the new gym and club house cost $15,276, according to a recent statement of Treasurer C. M. Palmer. Of this $15000 has been paid, leaving a deficit of $176. Special needs mentioned by Mr. Palmer are: Funds for purchasing extra land; billiard and bowling; running track, kitchen equipment, library furniture, five hundred chairs, ladies rooms, directors' room; total $4310.
Lake Placid News, January 16, 1914
Boys' Club opening
The opening of the new gym and club-house of the Boys' Club on River street is being planned for the 20th. W. H. Cluett of the Board of Directors said that all of the equipment that had not already arrived was on the way — billiard and pool tables etc., furniture for the bowling alley and so on. Mr. Cluett said the doors of the new structure would be thrown open to the public so that Saranac Lakers might see with their own eyes the facilities now available.
The program for the day is not yet determined and it is possible that the opening may be deferred until Wednesday, on the evening of which the first game of basket ball will be played with the town team of Castleton, Vt. The principal job remaining to complete the work on the building, according to Branch & Callanan, is the painting. A little concrete work around the lockers and a small piece of flooring to be laid are also yet to be done. Most of the building, however, could be used for ordinary purposes now. This means that the gymnasium at least will be ready in time.
Wednesday the hockey team of the Lake Placid Club and that of the Boys' Club will play the game deferred from Saturday on Pontiac rink. The team will be selected, according to Physical Director Harlan, from the following: Charles Duquette, Clifford Huntington, A. Brown, Jack Walker, George Allen, Bill Paye, Joseph LaBeau and Edward Amell.
Skating on Pontiac Bay, c. 1925, Boys' Club and Mount Baker in the background