A short history of Lake Placid

Lake Placid is a winter resort area in the Adirondack Mountains which first gained popularity with wealthy Americans well over 100 years ago.

In the late 1800s, rich and famous people vacationed there because of the crisp, clear air that was so different from the Northeastern cities from which they came. Amazing trees that seem to get their tree trimming naturally, even in the summer, the air there was cooler and more refreshing than anywhere else. This was an invigorating way to spend a few days, weeks or even a month.

Also during this time period, doctors began to note the health benefits of the Adirondack air. It was especially good for those with lung diseases such as tuberculosis. Some people went there for a season, while others moved to Lake Placid permanently in order to continue receiving the benefits.

Just after the turn of the century, one man, Melvil Dewey, convinced community residents that the area would draw even more tourism if it stayed open all winter, although most were skeptical. He kept the resort open during the winter of 1904-1905. The experiment was a success, and by 1914 Lake Placid was indeed the first and only American winter resort.

In 1924, something happened that would forever change the way the world saw Lake Placid. Charles Jewtraw, who trained in the Lake Placid area and was a member of its local skating association, won an Olympic gold medal in speed skating at the first Winter Games. This did more than anything else to draw attention to the area and establish it as a winter sport resort. His success at the games – and the success of others who trained there with him – etched Lake Placid into the minds of winter sports fans forever.

The area’s fame only grew from there. Melvil Dewey’s son secured the bid for the Olympic Winter Games in 1932, only the third Winter Games ever held. Dewey also helped the area to create policies and make decisions which made those games a raving success.

Then, from the 1930s through the 1970s, Lake Placid became a mecca for figure skating champions as well as speed skaters. All the greats trained and performed at Lake Placid regularly. Because figure skating was such a popular Olympic event, Lake Placid again benefited.

Beginning in 1950, a rally to bring the Winter Games back to Lake placid grew in size and strength. Dedicated supporters worked and researched in order to make Lake Placid suitable once again for a competition of this magnitude, all without compensation.

The revamping of Lake Placid for these second Games had a major impact on the area then, and it continues today. There has been an ongoing commitment to keep the facilities up-to-date and in use for training, competition and exhibition. Improvements and additions have been made since 1980 that keep Lake Placid one of the premiere training and competition facilities in the world.

Lake Placid now features a bobsled, luge, and skeleton run. It also houses a conference center, shopping, performing arts centers, restaurants and a tourist railroad.