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Halfway House in the late 19th century

Halfway House in the late 19th century

The Making of an American Resort: Bill Gates’ Lake George Hotels and Landings

By Mirror Staff

Sunday, April 3, 2011

During the latter half of the 19th century, there flourished on Lake George a ‘summer civilization’ unique in the history of the resort business. In those years about 100 hotels, catering to approximately 200,000 people a year, sprang up on the shores of Lake George.

“Monstrosities of architecture” to many, they nevertheless provided unequalled luxury and comfort. Furthermore, they stood as monuments to native enterprise. It was no easy task to build them, and once built it was no easier to fill them with guests. But the hotels were built, and the guests filled them up.

Now, of course, all this has changed. Most of these grand hotels either burned to the ground or have been razed to make way for cottage colonies, motels or second homes.

Local historian Bill Gates, however, has preserved the images and stories of these hotels in his latest book,  Lake George Hotels and Landings.

“In a sense, I’ve been working on this book all of my life, collecting photos and listening to stories,” said Gates.  “In addition to showing the pictures, I wanted to give people a sense of what life was like at the hotels for the guests. I relied heavily upon the Lake George Mirror for that kind of information.”

Among the hotels included in Gates’ Lake George Hotels and Landings:

Halfway House

“At the intersection of present day Routes 9 and 149 stood the Halfway House. Prior to the construction of the railroad to Lake George in 1882, stages stopped daily between the Moreau Train Station and Lake George. The hotel burned in 1946.”

The Fort William Henry

“The first of three Fort William Henry Hotels was built during the winter of 1854-1855. The hotel’s 350 rooms could accommodate 1000 guests. Available were suites and private parlors, warm baths, telegtraph, music and dancing and stock market connections. Twenty acres of woodland surrounded the hotel. A 12-year-old Teddy Roosevelt vacationed here in 1871.”

Willard House

“In the 1890s, the Sheldon hotel was renamed the Hotel Willard by its new owner, William D. Rockefeller. He also renamed the point, where there was a steamboat landing reached by an arched bridge, to Rockhurst, after himself. The hotel was demolished in 1956. The footbridge to the dock has been rebuilt several times.”

Mohican House

“The first steamboat landing in Bolton was built in 1824 for Mohican Point. In 1901, the inn that had been situated on the Point since 1802 was razed by W.K. Bixby and constructed the summer house that still stands on the property today.”

Bolton House

“The Bolton House was constructed in 1869. Torn down in 1902, the owner built himself a mansion which was later re-named the Anchorage. That house was razed in 1976. The land was subdivided for homes.”

The Sagamore

“The first Sagamore Hotel opened in 1883 on Greeen Island, which became accessible due to the construction of a new bridge in 1882. The hotel owners constructed their own large steamboat dock, which still stands today. In 1893, the hotel burned. It was rebuilt in 1894 and again in 1930. Today it is owned by Ocean Properties, which operates more than 100 hotels in Canada and the United States.”

Silver Bay

The Silver Bay Hotel was built by the Silver Bay Association in 1904. The YMCA and the YWCA were formed, in part, here. During 1918, a prep school for boys, the Silver Bay School, was established at the campus. Today, this beautiful, historic complex is Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks.”

Bill Gates’ Lake George Hotels and Landings features more than 100 hotels and landings. The book is available at local stores and markets or through Gates’ website, www.wpgates.com.


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