hotel was designed in Victorian style by G.E. Harvey, of New York City, to
accommodate 400 guests. Ground layout was under the supervision of Mr. Miller,
the superintendent of grounds at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. The contract
for construction was won by H. Emsley of Cornwall, New York. The contract
required house closure by October 1, 1889, and completion by March 1, 1890.
Ground was broken for the hotel in September, 1888. Topsoil was blown off
to eight feet from the highest point. This gave an elevation of two hundred
feet above Lake Champlain. However, bad weather stopped construction until
Work was resumed in the Spring of 1889. On June 17th, 1890, the large grey
and white structure was formally opened. It was built on solid rock so there
was no need of a foundation. It measured four hundred feet long, by seventy-five
feet wide, with three towers, the center tower one hundred and twenty-five
feet from the ground. The main section of the hotel was five stories high
with verandas on three sides.
The basement (or ground floor) contained a barroom, cafe, wine rooms, billiard
rooms (both fire proof,) dining rooms for white and black servants, servants'
sleeping quarters, and a large engine room to generate power for the three
elevators. The ceiling in the basement measured ten feet.
The first floor had a central office, lounge, and dining rooms. These rooms
were finished in oak wainscoting with fireplaces. The main staircase was seven
feet wide. The ballroom was finished in whitewood with white ivory surface
and adjoining parlors. The ceilings measured sixteen feet.
The upper floors were used for private sleeping apartments. Fireplaces throughout
the five-hundred-room hotel kept temperatures at a summer level. An electric
plant on the grounds supplied electricity to the two thousand lights on the
grounds and in the hotel.
The property also included eleven cottages, seven built in 1890. There was
also a water pumping station, railroad station, and a one-hundred foot pier
for steamboats and other water vehicles.
Face lawn & flower gardens. Postcard -Private Collection
The grounds consisted of parks, woodlawns, paths and walks. Bridlepaths accommodated
the fifty riding horses provided by the hotel stables. There were also tennis
courts, a bowling alley, and the five-hundred-foot "Beach of Singing
Sands," with a beach house for the fifty-two boats.
Golf was the reining sport of Hotel Champlain. The eighteen-hole course was
the first hotel course constructed, and the third oldest in America today.
Turf for the course had to be trucked in because of the rock surface. For
guests waiting to play, there was a small nine-hole pitch and putt course.
It was said that once while playing the course, Babe Ruth hit a ball over
two hundred feet into the lake. In 1911, the National Golf Tournament was
played on the Hotel Champlain course.
The Delaware and Hudson Company promoted the hotel as a "Summer Paradise."
It was an immediate success. The socially
elite frequented Hotel Champlain. The large military post nearby added
another factor to the hotel's success Men came to the hotel's social events
and simply as a social outlet.
On December, 26, 1892, ground was broken for the annex on the south side of
the original hotel. The contractors were R. Prescott and Son, and Callanan
Brothers were plumbers. The Plattsburgh Republican stated, "Adequate
fire protection is secured by a tank of 2,000 gallons of water in attic, connected
by two-inch pipes with every floor, with hose ready attached. The annex was
opened in 1893.
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Champlain written by Patricia Snyder, appeared previously in
the Clinton County Historical Association's monthly newsletter: North
Country Notes, No. 164, February 1981
© 2004 Clinton County Historical Association