To view full size images and read captions, click on an image.
As many of you know, the Historical Society’s summer exhibit, “Early Chateaugay Lake”, is currently on display each Wednesday and Saturday morning from 9:00am until noon in the Archival Center in the Town Hall. We have been gratified by the large numbers of folks who have stopped in and offered kind words for our efforts.
We have covered several topics, including: the Natural History of the Lakes, the Native American presence on the Sand Bar and Indian Point, Early Schools, Early Transportation Development, The Bellows House (later the Banner House), the Earliest Settlers and more.
One of the larger parts of the display are the paintings and lithographs of scenes captured by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait that are set in the area around the Upper and Lower Lakes (see the first photo above).
Tait did hundreds of paintings throughout his long career. Many were done when he was a guest at the Bellows House (later the Banner House) each summer from 1851 to 1855. The seven shown in our exhibit were always identified as being set in the Lakes area.
As shown in the exhibit and in the photo, they are from left to right: “A Second Shot: Still Hunting in the First Snow in the Chateaugay Forest” (lithograph below it), “A Tight Fix” (lithograph below it), “Arguing the Point—Settling the Presidency” (lithograph below it), “Return from Hunting: the Halt in the Woods: a Scene near Chateaugay Lake, Franklin County, N. Y” and “With Great Care” (both of these images are of Tait’s original oil paintings, no lithographs were ever made of these two works), “Winter Sports: Trout Fishing on Chateaugay Lake” (lithograph below it), and last, on the far right is the lithograph of “Sugaring Off: Forest Scene in Early Spring” (We were unable to find an image of Tait’s original oil painting of this scene, only the lithograph. The original oil is most likely in a private collection somewhere.)
I have been continuing my research on Tait and believe I have come upon one more of his scenes from the Lakes. More on that painting shortly…
Tait was unusual, some might call him eccentric, in his approach to his paintings. He is known to have painted several versions of the same scene. For example, there is one work of two men in a canoe entitled “Deer Driving-A Good Chance” (and other variations of the title), that he painted twelve different versions of—each subtly different from the other. He was also known to have done preliminary sketches of scenes but not to have done a completed painting until several years later.
Some of his works were reproduced as lithographs by Currier and Ives and some were not. The lithograph could be very true to the painted image or it could be an interpretation of his work with dramatic changes in scene, tone, and content. The framed scenes in our exhibit clearly show the differences between his paintings and the lithographic prints. And, sometimes, Currier and Ives produced several lithographic versions of the same scene. They also reproduced some of their lithographs with noticeable differences in color or tinting.
One of my favorite Tait paintings is not set at the lakes but I wanted to share it here. This work was painted in the mid-1870s and his notes never identified its inspiration nor location. This original oil painting of freshly caught Brook (or Speckled) trout and the subsequent lithographs done of it have always appealed to me.
Following the photo of the wall of our exhibit in this post, is a group of images that show his original trout painting, followed by three versions of the same scene done by Currier and Ives. In one case, they only changed the color tint from lithograph to lithograph, and in the other, they changed up the images of the trout, keeping a sense of the original image composition but making the fish look quite different.
Incidentally, this trout image is thought to have been the last painting Tait allowed Currier and Ives to lithograph, as he had come to believe that the availability of the lithographic versions was devaluing his original works.
Now back to Chateaugay Lake… The last group of images above were done in the early to mid-1850s, when Tait was staying at the Bellows House. They are set in the lakes area. The first three images appear to be exactly the same. However, when examined closely, they all have subtle differences; there is a slight change in the man’s features in some of the three and, if you look at the dead tree tops at the left center of the three images, you can see small differences in the way he painted the branches. These images were all entitled: “A Hunter’s Dilemma” and were painted between 1851 and 1853. Then, in 1854, he took the theme of the first three versions and changed it up. He retitled it “Huntsman with Deer, Horse and Rifle” and set his hunter in much the same setting; with a deer on a rock face, but with a horse for transportation instead of the hunter seemingly being on foot in the other versions. All four of these variations were oil on canvas paintings but the last was larger than the first three. The respective sizes were: 31” x 44”, 34” x 44”, 35’ x 45” and 44” x 54”.
In any event, I believe this final scene (or scenes) were set at Chateaugay Lake. So, whether looking at one of the versions of “A Hunter’s Dilemma” or at “A Huntsman with Deer, Horse and Rifle”, you are looking at what, I think, becomes the eighth Tait work set in the Chateaugay Lakes area.
AF Tait was a prolific artist with a wide range of preferred subjects, from hunting and fishing scenes, to landscapes, game animals, farm animals, and images of the west (where he also spent much time over the years).
The British-born Tait became an American citizen and embraced the availability of natural-world imagery his new homeland had to offer.
To view full size images and read captions, click on an image.
Chateaugay Lake was noted for several resorts during the 1800s. The Banner House, the Merrill House, Indian Point, the Sunset Inn and the Owlyout were the most recognized names (they were known by other labels over the years, as well).
In addition to those well-known, major hotels, there were a number of private camps that became quite familiar to the public and were frequently referred to, both in conversation and in writings about the Lake.
One of those prominent camps was built by John M. Humphrey, a leading citizen of Churubusco. He was one of the earlier settlers of that area and became a prominent businessman. In addition to his own businesses, he formed a partnership with Albert D. Boomhower. Together they ran mercantile and creamery operations.
In 1884, their partnership extended to the construction of a large camp on the eastern shore of Upper Chateaugay Lake. Shortly after, a falling out between the two, led Humphrey to sell his share to Boomhower.
In 1886, Humphrey bought property on the back side of the Upper Lake from the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company. This land was near the south inlet and the building materials had to be brought over the ice in the winter as no roads were ever (nor are now) extended that far down the back side of the Upper Lake.
The camp had six rooms, all finished and trimmed out. It had lath and plaster walls and was as “modern” and well-appointed as any 1886 home would be.
He called the camp “Pine Lodge” and that name remains on it today.
Pictured above: a portrait of John M. Humphrey and two photos I took of the camp while ice fishing on the Upper Lake in 2006. The photos clearly show how well maintained the camp has been over the years.
I believe Pine Lodge is still owned by the Humphrey family.
To view full size images and read captions, click on an image.
The history and events of Chateaugay and Chateaugay Lake are very closely related and interconnected. The Chateaugay Lakes area has a fascinating and event-filled past that merits a detailed treatment and much attention by local historians. Today, there are several websites that contain historical material on the Lakes.
Throughout the years, many articles have also been written in various local and national newspapers and magazines. This wealth of information is all priceless. I am currently compiling material that will contain around twenty five first-person accounts of the earliest sporting visits to the lakes. They are filled with vivid descriptions of what the “sports” experienced while either plying the waters for trout and whitefish or traveling the woods in search of deer and other game.
Two more recent books: Chateaugay Lakes by Herman and Ruth Whalen © 1997 and Chateaugay Lake: The Resort Era 1830-1917 by Henry C. Ruschmeyer © 2010 are longer treatments of Chateaugay Lake history and are treasure troves of information, memories and captivating characters.
Rev. Ruschmeyer’s book has proven to be the definitive work on the various hotels that served guests on the lakes. He has exhaustively documented the history of the lodgings and visitors to the area and traces the various stages of resort development over almost 90 years. His detail and analysis of the “Resort Era” is unmatched.
With deference to Rev. Ruschmeyer, this blog post is a “Cliffs Notes” version, or a primer of sorts, of the resort hotels and their various names and incarnations. In discussions over the years, I’ve heard questions like; “Which hotel was Morrisons?” or “What was the Interlaken?” or “Was it the Merrill House that was also known as Young’s?”
It can be easy to lose track of which hotel was which, due to the various changes in ownership/operators and business names.
There were six major, commercial accommodations on the lakes during the “Resort Era”, but they were known by a total of some twenty different names over the years. This blog post is neither a comprehensive nor detailed look at these resorts, but rather a quick reference as to which name goes to which hotel, when the names changed and, specifically, where the five Upper Lake hotels were located.
For the in-depth story of Chateaugay Lake and the “golden age of visitors”, we are, indeed, fortunate to be able to turn to works like Chateaugay Lake: The Resort Era 1830-1917.
The very first resort hotel on Chateaugay Lake became known to later generations as the Banner House. Located on the Lower Lake and built about thirty years before the Civil War, it was the only true resort on northernmost lake. There were a few cottages that took guests, but the Banner House was the only larger accommodation dedicated solely to guests each season.
Bellows House → Bellows Lake House → Chateaugay Lake House → Banner House
Construction was begun in the late 1830’s by Jonathan Bellows. This is the original commercial accommodation on the lakes. It was variously referred to as the “Bellows House”, the “Bellows Lake House” or the “Chateaugay” or the “Chateaugay Lake House” until it was purchased from Bellows’ grandson, Millard, by A.M. Bennett and J.S. Kirby in 1891 and renamed the “Banner House”. Kirby eventually bought out Bennett’s share. Fred W. Adams later became owner, followed by the Chase family who operated it for 4 generations. Capacity: approx. 75
The map shown in image 1 places the five resorts located on the Upper Lake. The Banner House on the Lower Lake is easily the most visible of the six hotels; sitting across Route 374 and overlooking the water. These five on the Upper Lake were less visible to the casual traveler. Below are brief sketches of each along with the various names attached to them over the years. The number for each resort coincides with the number on the accompanying map.
1. MERRILL HOUSE → YOUNGS
Built in the late 1860’s by Darius Merrill and run by him for over twenty years, it was sold to Oliver Young in 1890 and the name was changed. Young enlarged the hotel and installed indoor plumbing throughout. It was considered an excellent “family style hotel”; clean, pleasant and comfortable with an “excellent table”. Young operated it well into the 20th century, through the end of the “Resort Era”. The building eventually burned in November, 1979 following several years of disuse. Capacity: approx. 75
2. HOTEL INTERLAKEN → CHATEAUGAY HOTEL → THE CHATEAUGAY → OWLYOUT LODGE
Originally constructed in the early 1890’s, it was more of a “big city hotel” than the existing establishments were. It was built basically “next door” to the Merrill House. In 1892, Charles W. Backus bought the Interlaken from Wat Merrill and renamed it the “Chateaugay Hotel” or simply, the “Chateaugay”. In 1902, Backus had financial difficulties and lost the hotel. Alys Bentley and a business partner bought the hotel and the three acre property for $4,000 and renamed it the “Owlyout Lodge”. It burned in 1908 and was never rebuilt. Capacity: approx. 100
3. LAKE VIEW HOUSE
This hostelry was conducted in Charlie Merrill’s home much like a bed and breakfast might be today. It was the smallest but, probably, the most intimate of the lodging choices found on the Lakes. It was located south of the Owlyout Hotel. The Charlie Merrill family placed ads in local newspapers as well as in several New York City papers.
This hotel was listed in the “Adirondack Hotels – Circa 1860 to 1930”, and in The Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks… ©1894 by E.R. Wallace. In each case, C.E. Merrill is listed as the proprietor and its capacity is noted at 35 guests.
Wallace’s description reads: The Lake View House is pleasantly located near the shore, 60 rods from the Interlaken [later the Owlyout Lodge], and commands a prospect similar in picturesqueness to that disclosed by the other resorts named. It offers entertainment to 35 guests, at moderate rates.
The Lake View House was not discussed in the previously mentioned Chateaugay Lake: The Adirondack Resort Era 1830 – 1917.
4. THE ADIRONDACK HOUSE → TUPPER’S HOTEL → RALPH’S → MORRISON’S → SUNSET INN
Built in 1872 by Captain Tupper, this hotel was the largest on the lake and was operated as the “Adirondack House” during the early years. In 1878, it was purchased by a Doctor Ralph from Malone who enlarged it to accommodate 125 guests and renamed, appropriately, “Ralph’s”. In 1907 Andrew Morrison became the new proprietor and, again, changed the name. In 1920, it changed hands yet again and, under the new ownership of Arthur T. Smith from Montreal, became the “Sunset Inn”. Several other owners followed Smith. The hotel eventually closed in 1940 and was demolished in 1943. Capacity: approx. 125. There is a more in-depth description of this hotel in an earlier blog post, dated September 10, 2021.
5. FOREST HOUSE → MCPHERSON’S → THE MCPHERSON HOUSE → INDIAN POINT HOUSE
Around 1852, a man named Eben McPherson built a number of “shanties” on Indian Point and hosted guests. The property was leased to George W. Collins for a time just before it was eventually sold to Richard Shutts in the early 1880s. The Indian Point House was among the smallest and most intimate of the commercial hotels on the lake. It was built in 1882 by Dick Shutts. It consisted of a main building and several cottages. This resort was also the most inaccessible, only reachable by boat. Upon “Uncle” Dick Shutts death in 1921, the family attempted to keep the business going. However, the main lodge burned in 1923. The property and the remaining cottages were later purchased by Fay Welch and become “Tanager Lodge”, a summer camp for children in 1925. Tanager Lodge still operates today. Capacity: approx. 40.
Chateaugay Lake was served by trains on the Chateaugay Railroad that stopped in Lyon Mountain, about four miles distant, and by trains on the Rutland Railroad that stopped in Chateaugay village, about nine miles away. Both stations were connected to the lake by well-maintained roads and continuous stage service on comfortable Concord coaches.
When all six of the Chateaugay Lake resorts were filled to capacity, there could be some 450 guests enjoying both lakes and all they had to offer.
To view full size images and read captions, click on an image.
The histories of Chateaugay and the Chateaugay Lakes have been very much intertwined from the earliest days of settlements at each place. The Chateaugay Historical Society has regularly included articles about Chateaugay Lake in our quarterly newsletter. Stories of both communities help to weave the story of our area over the last 200+ years.
This blog post began when a friend of mine, Jesse Kaska, posted a photo on the “Lyon Mountain, Ny” Facebook page. The image he shared is the first one posted below. It shows a sign directing people to the “Sunset Inn on Chateaugay Lake”.
Jesse’s post immediately set off a flurry of comments and questions about the hotel. I wrote a very brief sketch of the inn’s history for the Lyon Mountain page but quickly decided that this week’s blog post should be the story of the Sunset Inn. Here is a profile of the hotel in a bit more detail.
In the early 1870s, Captain W.R. Tupper bought lakefront land on what is now the Sunset Road. In 1872 he built a small hotel on the site and hosted visitors to the Lake. He also operated a side-wheeled motor launch which would ferry his guests from the stagecoach stop at the north end of the lower lake up to his hotel. The paddle wheeler would motor the length of the Lower Lake, its two side mounted paddlewheels churning the water, and make its way up the Narrows, emerge on the Upper Lake and eventually arrive at Tupper’s hostelry (which he called the “Adirondack House” and later, “Tupper’s Hotel”). The captain even referred to the dining room at the hotel as “Tupper’s Hall” where he hosted banquets and dances. This side wheeler, by the way, is said to have been the first of many motor launches to ply the waters of the Upper and Lower Lakes.
The story goes that on weekends, miners who worked for the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company would frequent Tupper’s to enjoy the drinks he had in stock. Evidently, the president of the company, Andrew Williams, didn’t think much of his employees’ weekend activities there and thought it an unnecessary distraction for the workers, so he bought the property from Tupper and had thoughts of tearing down the small hotel.
Shortly after, Williams was approached by Dr. M.D. Ralph of Malone with the idea for a larger, more upscale hotel to cater to the growing summer clientele on the Lakes. Eventually, a more refined hotel emerged as the Tupper building was renovated and enlarged. It was leased by Dr. Ralph. Understandably, as it was named by the doctor, it quickly became known as “Ralph’s” and was the largest and one of the most popular resorts on the Upper Lake.
Under Williams’ ownership, the main hotel had four levels with expansive verandas. The main floor contained the office, a reading room, a parlor and a huge dining room. The upper three floors held the guest rooms. There was also a two story annex and two two-story guest cottages. The entire facility could accommodate 125 guests, which made it the largest hotel on both lakes. To illustrate the extensive nature of the renovations, the main hotel refrigerator was so large that it could hold eighty tons of ice to keep the kitchen’s food supply adequately cooled. All of the facility’s grounds were also expanded and developed to include croquet, tennis grounds, new docks, larger boat house containing all new boats for the guests (and guest rooms above it), and other amenities.
In 1878, Dr. Ralph became the much-expanded hotel’s owner. He owned it for the next several decades and hired various managers to oversee the day-to-day operations. The hotel became known as the most posh on the lake. In fact, in the early years, guests were expected to “dress” for dinner each evening.
In 1907, it was purchased by Andrew Morrison who renamed it "Morrison’s". He was an experienced hotel man who immediately upgraded the facility. Gas lights were installed to light the entire hotel complex and indoor plumbing was upgraded with the installation of several bathrooms throughout the guest spaces. Morrison would operate the hotel for the next several years. In 1917, Morrison sold to William Dalenz who only remained for three years.
In 1920, Arthur T. Smith of Montreal bought it from Dalenz and named it the "Sunset Inn". Smith had managed and owned restaurants and hotels in Montreal and brought a great deal of experience to the Chateaugay Lake resort.
In 1923, Chateaugay businessman, C.W. Sprague, bought the hotel but only operated it for one season. The Sunset was closed for the 1924 and 1925 seasons. In 1926, Arthur Smith resumed ownership of the hotel (presumably Sprague had defaulted on the mortgage held by Smith).
Smith ran the inn for the next decade. Two factors began to work against him. The roaring “Resort Era” on Chateaugay Lake was waning. The summer visitor traffic that had descended on the Lake for over ninety years was slowing. All of the hotels were feeling the pinch. In addition, the stock market crash on October 24th 1929 and the beginning of what would come to be called “The Great Depression” caused even less visitors to the resorts.
Henry Cook of Chateaugay managed and ran the hotel for the 1935 season; Smith’s last as owner. That year, Smith began to fall behind in his mortgage payments and the die was cast as his ownership was destined to end.
Mrs. Isabelle Shufelt became the new owner when she bought the property at a mortgage foreclosure sale in early 1936. Her son-in-law, Henry Cook, took over long-term management of the hotel at that point. He later owned and ran the hotel until 1940 when it closed for good.
During the years the hotel was known as the “Sunset Inn”, it became the site of area meetings and annual banquets. The pleasant surroundings and first-class facility made it the preferred destination for many groups and organizations. Among those groups regularly scheduling events at the hotel were: the Chateaugay Rotary Club, the Franklin County Veterinarian Association, the Chateaugay Court of Catholic Daughters, various bowling leagues, Lyon Mountain Miners baseball team, and many others.
The main building of the Sunset Inn was demolished in 1945. The Cook family had sold off portions of the large property over the years but kept the two cottages. Carolyn Cook Campbell made one of the cottages her camp on the Lake.
The long and event-filled history of this property on the Sunset Road is a major part of the story of the "Resort Era" on Chateaugay Lake.