When was the last time you took a leisurely stroll through downtown Saranac Lake and really looked at the historic buildings lining our little business district? A few of these buildings are in need of refurbishing but most have been restored to their former glory. As you meander through the village you can't help but wonder what businesses originally occupied them and what stories each one holds. Most of these structures go back to the early 1900's and there are actually a couple dating back to the late 1800's. If you dig deep enough you'll find that each one of those old buildings has an interesting tale to tell.

Unfortunately, some of our early buildings were destroyed by fire and others were demolished to make way for more modern buildings. Some were torn down and replaced with parking lots, parks and gas stations. Even though the building itself is long gone the history behind each one should be recorded so that future generations can take a look back and learn what was going on back in the early days of Saranac Lake.

One of these missing buildings was called the Spaulding Block and most people today don't even realize it once existed. This building has an interesting story behind it.

In 1885, Titus "Tip" Spaulding, who owned one of the first homes on Riverside Drive, had the vision of constructing a modern, three story brick office building with a storefront. The location of this proposed project would be on the empty lot on the corner of River Street and Main Street, across from where the Town Hall is now situated. Today a Mini-Mart occupies that lot. Across River Street, where the Riverside Park now stands, was Blood's Hotel, which has some interesting connections to the Spaulding Block.


Blood's Hotel had been built in 1860 by John Miller and several years later was sold to Orlando Blood, who unfortunately gave it his name. In 1883 Blood's Hotel was leased from Orlando by Charles H. Kendall and, in 1886, it was sub-leased to George Berkley who met his maker there two years later. Thirty four year old George Berkley was tending his bar June, 22 1888 when one of his patrons, an Adirondack guide by the name of Charles Walter Brown, became abusive and was bodily ejected from the saloon. Charlie, usually a sensible and sociable fellow, had imbibed more than his limit and he soon returned to the village carrying his rifle. Charlie sat on the newly built Spaulding Block porch steps and waited for George to step out for his predictably timed breath of fresh air. George eventually came out onto the Blood's Hotel porch for what would be his final breather. Charlie, a crack shot, took aim and fired the fatal shot.

Charlie vanished immediately and was never apprehended although a carpenter working on the construction of the new Ampersand Hotel spoke with him the next morning. The conversation was short. Charlie: "How is George doing?" Worker: "He died." Charlie: "Then I suppose they're after me."

George left a wife, Mary Berkley, age thirty four and an eleven year old daughter, Mabel. Blood's Hotel had now lived up to it's name! (For a few years Saranac Lake was actually called by many, Bloodville.)


George, to settle a debt, had willed the hotel to Wallace Murray, who promptly enlarged it and renamed it "The Riverside Inn". Wallace had come to Saranac Lake from Keene Valley, where he operated the Owl's Head Inn, which was across the highway from what was then Grave's Hotel. Coincidentally, the Blood Family, including Orlando, had owned Grave's Hotel from 1850 to 1866. Graves' Hotel later burned and was replaced by the present Monty's Elm Tree Inn. The giant Elm Tree, from which the name was derived, is now just a stump. Several years later Wallace Murray was to aquire the Spaulding Block .

George Berkley's headstone at Pine Ridge Cemetery

Murray put on some wild parties in the new Riverside Inn and it became a popular place, attracting revelers from as far away as Malone and Plattsburg. The Riverside Inn was then sold to a Mr. Pine and Mr. Corbett. Corbett died in 1911 and Pine operated it succesfully well into the "Roaring 20's". The Riverside Inn catered to it's share of the famous and the infamous throughout it's lifespan and especially during the roaring twenties.

One of the most infamous patrons was Legs Diamond, who frequently visited Saranac Lake to visit his brother, Eddie, who cured from TB here. Legs was known to wear ladies apparel on occasion and presumably this was as a disguise. The hotel was torn down in 1935 and this lot is now known as Riverside Park.


At the time that Titus was looking for backing, Orlando Blood was a partner in the Saranac Lake Light Keep And Power Company and still owned the Riverside Hotel but had leased it to Charles Kendall. Having extra capital to invest and being a wise businessman, Orlando saw the potential in Spaulding's proposed project. This would not only be the largest, most modern office building in Saranac Lake at that time but it would also be the largest in Northeastern New York. The Berkley Hotel was the only three-story building in the village in 1885. Because of it's availability, wood was the only material used for building in this area up to this time but Tip insisted on using brick. This would complicate matters because the nearest access to bricks was Ausable Forks. Transportation of heavy materials was a big concern in 1855 because the railroad hadn't yet come as far as Saranac Lake and there were no paved highways. Tip put the touch on Orlando, who agreed to finance the project and work began right away.

The loads of brick had to be hauled from Ausable Forks by horse and wagon on muddy, steep, dirt roads. Some of the loads were brought up after the ground was frozen, which made the work a little easier and they had the structure ready for the finishing touches in the spring of 1886. A steam furnace, the first in Saranac Lake, was also shipped in and installed but, due to the lack of coal in the area, had to be fired by wood. Coal wouldn't be an option until 1892, when the first rails were laid to Saranac Lake. The Spaulding Block also featured the first elevator in the village. This was an exciting time for the pioneers of Saranac Lake. The project was finished and the general store was stocked in 1886. This was two years after Dr. Trudeau had built Little Red, his first cure cottage. The following year Robert Louis Stevenson arrived for his memorable winter stay at the Baker Cottage. RLS occasionally patronized the general store that Titus operated on the main floor. He ran this store during his first few years of ownership of the building and in it he carried just about anything the early settlers would need to survive. The store was a welcome addition to this village of around 1,000 hardy souls.

On the third floor of the building was a large meeting hall where quite a mixed bag of functions took place over the years. There were dances, weddings, club meetings and, in 1890, the first Roman Catholic Church held services and performed marriages under the direction of Rev John J Waters. In 1892 Rev Waters built the first Catholic Church on St Bernard Street. This wooden church burned on St Patrick's Day in 1909 and in 1911 was replaced by a beautiful "fire proof" stone structure which burned in 1967. In the fall of 1969 the new modern brick building was opened.

Other groups to meet on the third floor were, The Macabees, The Red Men, The Odd Fellows, The Order Of Foresters and The International Order Of Good Templars. The Odd Fellows, Macabees and International Order of Good Templars are still active around the world. The IOGT is a temperance group and are still very active in attempting to outlaw alchoholic beverages. They had a big hand in bringing about prohibition which, by the way, is why many of our local families owe them a debt of gratitude. The storage and quick shipping of alchoholic libation provided many locals with a way to make a good paycheck during the hard times of the twenties. A fast car, knowledge of the back roads and nerves of steel were all that were needed to make a good living.

Eventually Tip got bored and in 1896, after twelve years as a shopkeeper, he departed for Franklin, Alaska in search of adventure and was never seen in Saranac lake again. Years later Tip did send a letter to the Adirondack Enterprise but no record can be found of its content. Maybe he was homesick or wanted to apologize to Orlando for his sudden departure. Upon Tip's departure Orlando immediately foreclosed and took over the reins of the Spaulding Block. He encouraged a multitude of businesses to make their homes in the Spaulding Block and even after selling to Wallace Murray several years later, then Francis Carpenter and eventually bought by Al Shortt in 1942 the building was a succesful operation.


In 1889 Ferdinand Lamy, a watchmaker from Lyons, France, came to America and in 1890 he arrived in Saranac Lake where he eventually opened a jewlery shop in the Spaulding Block. He met his wife, Emma DeLisle, formerly of Plattsburg here and in that same year the Rev John Waters conducted the wedding of Ferdinand to Emma in the meeting hall over the Spaulding Block. Ferdinand or "Fred", as he was known, and Emma had three sons, Ed, Claude and Ernest. Ed and Claude were highly medaled skaters and toured the world performing in skating shows, including barrel jumping and racing. Some of their feats have never been duplicated.

Other businesses located in the Spaulding Block at various times were, The A&P Food Store, Albany Business College Office, Jacob Kern's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor, the Western Union Telegraph Office, Potter & Co Bankers (later to become the Adirondack National Bank), Saranac Lake Light Keep And Power Company, owned by Orlando Blood, Wallace Murray and Orville Morse and sold to Paul Smith's Light And Power Co. in 1907. In 1922 the company moved to what is now the Village Offices. Other businesses which operated in the Spaulding Block at various times were Bill Douquette's Electric Shop, J H Bogan Plumbing, Lefty's Bar, owned by Al Chapple, ( in 1942 this business was bought by Dick Desantis and became the Riverside Grill ) and last but not least, Pop Walsh's Cigar Store, which is a story in itself.