Wawbeek Lodge, 1900 Hotel Wawbeek, 1890 (Seneca Ray Stoddard) Wawbeek Lodge from Burt's Island, c. 1902 Wawbeek Lodge, c. 1912 Ampersand Mountain, left of center, from the Wawbeek Lodge, c. 1909 Boot Bay Mountain, right of center, from the Wawbeek Lodge, c. 1904
In 1889, the Wawbeek Lodge, a five story structure with 200 guest rooms and cottages (also known as the Hotel Wawbeek) was opened on the southeast shore, 1.5 miles north of the southern end of the lake, at the historic Sweeney Carry, a portage route to the Raquette. Guests could choose between luxurious hotel rooms, cottages or carpeted platform tents along the shore. Despite its scenic location and lavish appointments, it closed in 1913, a victim of high operating costs and a trend toward shorter hotel stays and increasing private camp and cottage ownership. It burned shortly thereafter.
Roy Baker rebuilt the Wawbeek as a smaller inn in 1930 and operated it for several years before selling the business to Harry and Terry Purchase in 1952. The Purchases had stayed at the Inn on their first wedding anniversary some years earlier. They managed the Inn for 12 years. A Major Edwards operated the Wawbeek as a boy's camp for several years in the early 1960s before selling the inn to Judge and Mrs. Van Voorhis of Rochester, who donated it to St. Lawrence University in 1975. The University leased the inn to Sports Illustrated for the 1980 Winter Olympics; the weekend after the magazine staff left, a fire destroyed the building. (See Wawbeek Hotel Fire.)
A third hotel complex was established using the buildings of the Great Camp adjacent to the hotel property; it is no longer open to the public, and the buildings, designed by William L. Coulter, have been torn down.1 2
Jamieson, Paul and Morris, Donald, Adirondack Canoe Waters, North Flow, Lake George, NY: Adirondack Mountain Club, 1987. ISBN 0-935272-43-7.
Tolles, Bryant F., Jr., Resort Hotels of the Adirondacks, Lebanon NH: University Press of New England, 2003. ISBN 1-58465-096-6.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 11, 1975
Wawbeek Inn given to St. Lawrence U.
CANTON — St. Lawrence University has acquired the Wawbeek Inn on Upper Saranac Lake as a gift from Judge and Mrs. John Van Voorhis of Rochester. The 57-acre property has 2500 feet of lake frontage and consists of a main lodge and 11 cabins for guests. It will continue in operation as a commercial business. The Wawbeek is located on Route 30, eight miles from the university's Saranac conference center.
Judge and Mrs. Van Voorhis became acquainted in recent years with St. Lawrence's management of its conference center. "We were impressed with the university's concern for the preservation of the lake, the surrounding woods and plant and animal life," said the donors of Wawbeek.
President Frank P. Piskor said today that "we are deeply gratefull to Judge and Mrs. Van Voorhis for giving St. Lawrence this excellent asset.
The Wawbeek property also includes a lodge for summer staff, a recreation building, five utility buildings and the caretaker's home. There are two beach areas, a marina and two tennis courts. Several of the cabins can be used in winter, although Wawbeek has been operated for vacationers only during July and August.
According to Town of Harrietstown Tax Assessor Gerald Primeau, the Wawbeek's assessed valuation is approximately $60,000 and the town taxes on the property last year came to $2,234.63. These figures, however, apply to 77 acres, as listed on the town's tax rolls, which indicates that Van Voorhis has retained 20 acres.
School taxes for this year on the total Wawbeek holdings amount to $5,804.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 12, 1983
Developer plans Wawbeek subdivision
By PETER RACETTE, UPPER SARANAC LAKE
A Florida developer is buying the Wawbeek Inn property on Upper Saranac Lake and hopes to develop both single and multiple family units on it.
The developer, Brian Mantis of Mankow Properties in Hallandale, Fla., is in the process of closing the purchase with St. Lawrence University's University Inn Corporation, current owner of the property. The purchase price is reportedly $400,000.
Madelyn Mooney, public information officer at the Adirondack Park Agency, said today the agency has received an application from Mantis for subdividing the 57.2 acre property into 21 lots. The application was received by the park agency on April 27.
Mooney said the application calls for single family dwellings to be constructed on 17 of the lots, a four unit dwelling on one lot, a six unit dwelling on one lot and an eight unit dwelling on one lot. The application does not call for development of the final lot, which currently holds cottages and outbuildings from the former Wawbeek Hotel, she said.
Mooney said the park agency must notify Mantis today whether or not the application is complete. If the application is complete to the park agency's satisfaction it has 90 days to consider the proposal and either approve it or convene a public hearing to receive input on it.
A portion of the development is also subject to approval by the Town of Harrietstown. Since the property is zoned for single family dwellings Mantis would need a variance from the town zoning board to install the multiple unit structures.
The main lodge of the historic inn burned in March, 1980 when a small fire in a deep fat fryer escaped into a flue and traveled up a wall into the attic. Despite the efforts of four local fire companies the lodge was totally destroyed by the blaze.
The inn was given to St Lawrence University in 1975 by its owner, Judge John Van Voorhis of Rochester. During the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid the college leased the property to Sports Illustrated magazine. The magazine renovated and winterized the main lodge and used it to house staff and guests during the games.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, July 22, 1988
Wawbeek Inn put on market
TUPPER LAKE - Citing costly investments of time and money, the owners of the Wawbeek Inn on Upper Saranac Lake have put the property up for sale.
Florida developers Brian and Diane Mantis are listing the 40-acre property, located off Route 30, with local real estate agencies.
"These buildings were built in 1907. It's a tremendous upkeep. We were just looking for a vacation home on the lake. We don't need to live on 40 acres," Diane Mantis said Thursday. Attempts to sell the property began in October, but were suspended during the winter and spring.
"This is the season," Mantis said of the renewed efforts to sell what she called the last piece of developable property on Upper Saranac Lake. The property could be sold as a whole or in lots.
Running the Wawbeek's restaurant and cabins during the summer is a lot of work, she said, adding that it is difficult to split time living in the Adirondacks and Florida. She said the restaurant and cabins would continue to operate through this summer.
A controversial plan to develop three multi-unit townhouses at the site remains suspended, Mantis said. She refused to comment further on the project, which has prompted an outcry from other Upper Saranac Lake property owners.
"There's a lot of options available if we don't list it," she said.
The Mantises bought the Wawbeek in 1982 from St. Lawrence University. The inn had been given to the school in 1975 by its former owner, Judge John Van Voorhis of Rochester. The main lodge of the inn burned in a spectacular blaze in March 1980.
View from the Wawbeek, 1912. The steam launch in the foreground was used to shuttle guests to the hotel from the railway near Saranac Inn. Library of Congress. View from the Wawbeek c. 1917. Near the center of the photograph, to the left of the flag, is Birch Island; the smaller island to its left it Doctor's Island. Directly above Birch Island is McKenzie Mountain, sixteen miles to the east northeast. The nearer mountain to the left of Doctor's Island is Boot Bay Mountain. Library of Congress.
From an unidentified clipping in a scrapbook kept by Alfred L. Donaldson, marked "News –- Aug. 1914 — "
When Wawbeek Hotel Was The Sweeney Carry House
Former President and Governor, Grover Cleveland, and Other Noted Men Stopped There—O.A. Covill Clinched Title to It for C. F. Norton
Wawbeek Hotel which with its outbuildings, equipment and furniture is being auctioned off this week, was the successor of a big log cabin known as the Sweeney Carry house from a squatter who used to haul boats back and forth between Upper Saranac Lake and the Raquette River. The house was of the early Adirondack type, with the timbers unpeeled and chinked with plaster. The shingles for the roof were hand-made out of cedar taken from the neighboring swamps.
The opening of the house as a hotel was a fine illustration of the old adage "Possession is nine points of the law." James H. Pierce of the Bloomingdale-Vermontville section, a farmer who was active in politics and had business interests wherever he saw an opportunity of success, and C. F. Norton, the prominent Plattsburgh lumberman, both claimed ownership of the house and land known as The Carry. Pierce said he had acquired it from the state which sold it for unpaid taxes.
Norton kept in touch with the situation more intimately than his rival, however, and one fine day dispatched O. A. Covill, a guide at Paul Smith's, to take possession of Sweeney end of the Carry, and Oliver Trombley of Lake Clear to settle at the other end. Pierce's aspirations ceased forthwith.
Mr. and Mrs. Covill did not expect to remain in the cabin more than a few months. C. F. Norton had merely hired them to take possession and make good his title to the property. Sweeney was recompensed also, it is understood, upon his consent to withdraw, although he had no real claim to Carry or cabin.
It was in March, 1878, when they first occupied the cabin. The Adirondacks were then just coming into popularity. The Carry was the only passage except Indian Carry between the Upper Lake and the Raquette River for parties of canoeists and fishermen as well as hunters. Indian Carry was a more roundabout route and much less frequented.
At first the Covills merely drew boats back end forth over the trail which ran for three miles through the woods over practically the same route as at present. At the height of the
pleased at these summer receptions at the Carry and the Covills didn't like it either.
Frederick Woodruff, of Orange, N. J., was one of the first to build a camp in the vicinity. He located on Birch island only half a mile from the Carry house and his camp was a notable one for that time. Dr. Herter purchased it later. William P Elery, a New York broker, was another.
George Sharp, reputed to have secured the first franchise in New York for a horse car line, put up a camp later in Gilpin Bay. Sharp was accused later of fraud and spent a term behind prison bars.
The Morgan camp in the narrow was one of the most beautiful in the neighborhood and represented another step in the tendency toward increasingly greater luxury and comfort.
All of these camps were erected while the Covills were at the Carry, but it was not until after their departure in 1891 that the Upper Saranac was built up into a large camp colony.
The construction of these fine camps and the class of patronage that the Carry house enjoyed induced Krumholtz and Smith to put up the present Wawbeek Hotel. C. Edmund Krumholtz was the moving spirit and Smith withdrew two or three years later, dying finally at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium for tuberculosis.
The hotel cost about a hundred thousand dollars and was a huge mistake from the beginning. Mrs. Covill tells how after its erection some of her old patrons used to come and tell her how sorry they were the old cabin had been torn down. The Carry house seemed to be a part with the wild, primeval beauty of the woods and lake. Although the woods were allowed to remain as before when the house was removed and the clear space was not much enlarged.
Beside the hotel were built several cottages of a type in keeping with the main building. There was every convenience and comfort, and the hotel was a popular rallying point for campers along the lake in the vicinity, but hardly a single season was successful.