The Storied Sagamore Resort



The resort occupies nearly all of Green Island

Photo courtesy of The Sagamore Resort

If The Sagamore Resort is a grande dame among historic hotels, Lake George is a king among lakes. Together, they charm visitors with their royal romance. Certainly one of New York’s prettiest locales, it is also one of its most storied.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America, The Sagamore stems from not-so-humble beginnings. The original hotel, opened in 1883, accommodated wealthy businessmen and their families who came from New York City and Philadelphia—traveling by train to the village, then by stagecoach for the six-hour journey to the hotel—to enjoy a stay in Bolton Landing. At its opening, it held 300 guests.

Throughout its history, The Sagamore has been a social center for well-to-do residents of Green Island and Millionaires’ Row, the stately mansions along the lake’s western edge. Occupying much of the island’s 72 acres, the hotel has always had a close relationship with 32-mile-long Lake George. The first bridge to connect the island to the mainland was erected in 1882, when the island was purchased for $600 by the Green Island Improvement Company, which was owned by hotel operator Myron O. Brown and four Philadelphia millionaires. All five men built “cottages” on the property (seven in all), a few of which still stand today, including Villa Nirvana on South Point and Wapanak. Interestingly, they did not equip them with kitchens—a design strategy meant to encourage communal dining in the hotel proper.

Built in 1883, the Sagamore has had four incarnations to date. Destroyed by fire in 1893, it was reconstructed in just 11 months by the hands of 90 men and christened The Sagamore II, which welcomed guests for the next 48 years until 1914 when, once again, it was ravaged by fire. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. William G. Beckers, one of the hotel’s early stockholders, and William H. Bixby, a Saint Louis industrialist, the hotel began anew as a modest Georgian Colonial-style “club” composed of just 100 rooms. It was re-opened at the start of The Great Depression, and the time that followed is referred to as the Karl Abbott Era. Abbott ran the hotel for 15 seasons.

Another changing of the guard, in 1946, saw Louis Brandt—a Jewish man once turned away while trying to register as a guest—purchase the hotel, which he managed until 1981, when it fell into disrepair and closed its doors. In 1983, 100 years after construction of the first Sagamore, builder and real estate developer Norman Wolgin of Philadelphia purchased the hotel and restored it to its former grandeur. It was called the Norman Wolgin Kennigton Ltd. Era Omni Resort until 2008, when current owner Ocean Properties bought it. Soon after the purchase, the Merrill Lynch collapse posed yet another obstacle for the old hotel to hurdle. However, having undergone a $75 million renovation, The Sagamore IV began its reign.

The Sagamore’s past is marked by history-making events that include its famed regattas, which became a beloved source of entertainment in the 1880s. The hotel also hosted the 1934 Gold Cup Race as well as the 1954 National Governor’s Conference, presided over by Vice President Richard Nixon.

Today, the hotel enjoys a contemporary splendor. Always meant to be a place where guests gather together, there’s no shortage of verandas, patios, balconies, and porches for perching. The Morgan—a 72-foot-long replica of a 19th-century touring vessel—shows passengers the lake’s full glory, while the award-winning Donald Ross-designed golf course and five professional outdoor tennis courts offer mainland recreation.

There are also plenty of old-fashioned lawn games on offer including horseshoes, croquet, and bocce ball; miniature golf, half-court basketball, Wii stations, and a new rock climbing wall are among the activities that draw people to the recreation center; and campfires and s’mores making take place regularly on Mt. View Terrace. Guests are invited to sip cocktails on Veranda Overlook Terrace, recreate in the pool area, luxuriate at the spa, wander lakeside trails, and revel in water sports.

Meals at The Sagamore are always a pleasure. La Bella Vita is the resort’s signature Italian restaurant, where diners enjoy panoramic lake views from the comfort of a rich interior or while seated on the expansive outdoor deck. Caldwell’s Lobby Bar and Mister Brown’s Pub are both enjoyably casual—the former features an old-fashioned mahogany bar and large columns, while the latter is an Adirondack-style, cozy-up-with-a-pint kind of place. Upscale Club Grill is a sublime New York-style steakhouse overlooking the tightly manicured golf course. (Be sure to inquire about its resident ghost.)

A stay at The Sagamore is about just that—the stay. There is no need to venture far. The amenities are luxe, the food is exquisite, and opening one’s eyes to the morning lake is nothing short of divine. thesagamore.com

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