Lake Placid History
History - Lake Placid, New York
Finding the roots of Lake Placid is as simple as looking back into the history of the Adirondacks region, where this village is located. Influenced by many forces and industries, from mining to medicine, the region has suffered many changes throughout its development.
In the early 19th Century, many towns took advantage of the vast timber resources and iron ore deposits. Early pioneers cleared large tracts of land to create the first farm settings on the central Adirondacks. However, this region became popular in the late 1800s as a destination for the rich and famous.
This period was called the "Gilded Age” that became famous because of the construction of huge rustic compounds, later known as Great Camps. We can say that the history of Lake Placid begins with the Winter Olympic Games of 1932. Before this, the village was formerly known as the town of North Elba, east of the Saranec River.
Lake Placid was founded in the early 1800's after the discovery of iron ore in the region. By 1840, the population of this village consisted of 6 families, all of them living in the North Elba zone: Alexas Tender, O.J. Bartlett, Iddo Osgood, S. Avery, R. Thomas, and Moses Sampson. Before the end of that year, new inhabitants were added: Thomas Brewster, R. Nash, Alonzo Wabash and R.G. Scott.
It was not until 1845, when the sparsely settled territory of North Elba received an important neighbor: Gerrit Smith. Mr. Smith was the owner of most of the land around the North Elba area, so he purchased land on the village to grant significant chunks to his slaves in good faith as one of his diverse acts of benevolence, reforming the land law.
Ironworks around the region drew people to the area, as well as social and economic prosperity in the following years. The abolitionist John Brown, who helped blacks to become free in Kansas, moved his family up to North Elba, where he heard about Gerrit Smith's reform, and bought 244 acres of land next to Smith's land, in the later years to be called Timbucto.
In those years, blacks needed to own at least 250 acres of land for their right to vote, so Smith provided them with the land they needed. When blacks could not afford the purchase, Gerrit Smith convinced them to get the land and pay only the taxes for the first couple of years. Brown joined to help black landowners teaching them how to maintain their farms successfully.
Until his death in 1859, John Brown fought to help African Americans get the rights they deserved, and his tomb near his farmhouse is still preserved in Lake Placid with this inscription: "African Americans honored Timbucto with their demonstrations of self-sufficiency. John Brown honored it by choosing it as his last resting place".
When the late 19th century was approaching, the rich and famous began to arrive. For a time after, the Lake Placid NY Club was founded as the principal entertainment and recreation center of Lake Placid. Formerly named "Placid Park Club" in 1895 and designed by Melvil Dewey, the name suggested it was the time to change the name from North Elba to Lake Placid.
This club has remained as the most significant historical sites in Lake Placid for more than 100 years. Opened in 1896, the club suffered many financial problems running in its early days, with many subscribers dropping out, but later began to expand farther each year, increasing its memberships.
October of 1929 hit the Lake Placid Club hard, as it did the whole nation when the United States' stock market crashed, beginning the Depression Era, and the increasingly number of members and guests leaving the club. On December 1931, founder Melvil Dewey died in Florida, in a city renamed Like Placid on his behalf.
1932 brought the revival of the region when the Winter Olympic Games were announced to take place at Lake Placid. The Lake Placid Club, became the headquarters for the International Olympic Committee, despite the financial difficulties for the club were increased with this responsibility.
Winter Olympics were cast when the Great Depression was "starring" the nation's every day behavior. During these games, 306 athletes from 17 nations attended the event, but launched the name of Lake Placid internationally. Shortly after the United States' economy was recovered, but World War II just beginning.
Over time, the region began to prosper again for more than 30 years leading to the second time when Winter Olympics would be held in Lake Placid. During 193,2 it was Mr. Dewey who promoted the village for the first Olympics in order to attract visitors to the place. The second time, the Olympics Committee decided that Lake Placid was the perfect setting to hold the 1980 Games.
Once again, the Lake Placid Club was host to the Olympic Committee, but once again found itself in debt, resulting from preparations for the Olympics. After the games and 85 years of service, the Lake Placid Club shut down its doors. Unfortunately, a series of fires in the late decades of the 20th century destroyed much of the original building, standing still in Lake Placid.
Curiously, while the number of athletes and nations were increased in the Winter Olympic Games of 1980, Lake Placid's population was only 2,731 people, 200 less than the population that was counted in 1932, ant the financial obstacles were also greater during the second games' round.
Outside Lake Placid, people feared the village was too small to host such a big event. However, local government and residents were concerned about debt. Over $51 million dollars were needed in construction to receive all the guests, make additions and improvements in existing sites and prepare everything around the games.
The Olympic Village in order to host the Athletes was funded by the federal government, under strings attached. After the games, the Olympic Village was stipulated to become a medium-security federal prison, as it is today, located halfway between Lake Placid New York and Saranac Lake.
Lake Placid offers a downloadable free Heritage and Culture Guide at this address: http://lakeplacidmedia.com/uploads/PDF/Heritage04.pdf or call 518-523-2445.