Bolton Landing’s Candlelight Lodge Landmark Steeped in History
By Buzz Lamb
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Candles have been used for light and to illuminate man’s celebrations for more than 5,000 years. The use of candles diminished with Edison’s discovery of the incandescent bulb.
Candles enjoyed renewed popularity during the first half of the 20th century until the mid-1980s when there was an unprecedented surge after interest in candles as mood-setters and gifts began to escalate.
There is a candle in Bolton Landing which has been burning for almost five decades. Residents have driven by the candle so many times they hardly take notice of it but tourists stop frequently to have their pictures take standing by it.
Stanley Zenda built that candle back in the early 1960s to bring attention to his resort, Candlelight Lodge. “We know who built it, but we don’t know for sure when he built it,” said Heidi Hess who in 1999 purchased the resort with her husband Mark. “Somebody said in 2005 that it’s been here fifty years,” she said.
Heidi said that in 1947 the Northwest Bay lakefront property was owned by Earl Woodward. He sold the land to the Harris brothers, Donald and Earle. According to Heidi, Donald, now 96-years-old, returned to the property for a week-long vacation in June, 2009.
Heidi said the Harris brothers kept it for only one year but built a couple of duplexes while they owned it. “The main house was a duplex, that’s why there are two front doors,” Mark said with a chuckle. The Hess family now uses the duplex lodge building by the road as their residence and office.
The Hess’s said there were three or four different owners until the Stanley and Helen Zenda took over in 1956. “They are the ones who really developed this place,” Heidi added. The Zendas spent the summers in Bolton Landing and the winters in Syracuse, N.Y. until 1964 when they became year-round residents.
In 1975 the Zendas sold the facility to Hedwig and Wolfgang Neuffer, Heidi Hess’s parents. Wolfgang added a Rec Hall and two more cottages, bringing the total to 19. In February 1980 the Olympics were held in Lake Placid. “When Olympic torch runner, Mickey Luce, passed by Candlelight Lodge he stopped and lit our candle with his torch,” Heidi recalled. “The only stipulation was that the candle had to stay lit during the entire Winter Olympics.”
Mark says the flame burns about 100 gallons of propane each month. “We burn it from Memorial Day until Columbus Day each year,” Heidi said. “It used to blow out in strong winds but I installed a baffle,” Mark added. “Someone threw a wet towel over it once,” he said with a laugh. “It’s pretty easy to re-light.”
Heidi says that tour busses frequently stop alongside their property and the passengers snap pictures through the bus windows. “A lot of people use us as a landmark when providing directions,” Mark said. “When they started building the house for the Progressive Insurance guy we could see the big trucks slow down when they saw the candle,” he said with a chuckle. “’Second driveway past the candle’ is what I’m sure they told them.”
According to Mark, the candle holder requires the most maintenance. “The steel has to be scraped and painted every couple of years,” he said. “In 1991 someone pulled it off the base. That’s the only time it has been vandalized. We couldn’t believe that someone would do that,” Heidi said.
Even though the candle is snuffed out for the winter, since 2001 the Hess family has decorated it with electric lights for the holiday season. “The last couple of years we have been doing it in red, white and blue to be more patriotic,” Mark said.
Both Mark and Heidi agree that the candle is an expensive way to promote their business. “I love it,” Heidi said. “It’s such a unique symbol…I just couldn’t imagine not lighting it.”
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