Hotel Champlain


Hotel Champlain from a 1902 hotel brochure -Private Collection


Hotel Champlain (continued)


The 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 the Spring.

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.

East 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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Hotel Champlain written by Patricia Snyder, appeared previously in the Clinton County Historical Association's monthly newsletter: North Country Notes, No. 164, February 1981


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