Adirondack History


The history of the Adirondacks has been shaped and influenced by many powerful forces. Logging, mining, farming, tourism and even medicine have all played a major role in the development of the region. In the early 1800’s, towns like St. Regis, Paul Smiths and Old Forge sprang up taking advantage of the vast timber resources and iron ore deposits. In the central Adirondacks, pioneers cleared the large tracts of land for farming creating the first settlements. And beginning in the late nineteenth century, the Adirondacks became a popular destination for the rich and famous. Known as the “Gilded Age”, this period is famous for the construction of huge rustic compounds called Great Camps.

We invite you to learn more about the history of the Adirondacks by visiting the many museums and historic sites. We will soon have sections on logging, farming, tuberculousis, mining and so much more.

Historic Saranac Lake

Historic Saranac Lake, a not-for-profit organization, formed to seek National Register of Historic Places listing for buildings in and around Saranac Lake, New York, works to encourage historic preservation in the community through education and research. Activities have included: the listing of 170 properties to the National Register of Historic Places, operation of a rural preservation company, completion of a comprehensive housing survey, two rehabilitation conferences, full rehabilitation of two houses in the community and publication of two books and two videos on local history and architecture.

Adirondack Statistics

  • Adirondack State Park – 6 Million Acres
  • Adirondack Forest Preserve – 2.3 Million Acres
  • 8,000 Sq. miles of mountains
  • 2,000 miles of foot trails
  • 240 lean-tos
  • 35 campsites
  • 200 lakes at least a square mile area
  • There are over 2,000 high peak mountains
  • There are over 40 high peak mountains over 4,000 feet
  • The highest peak is Mount Marcy at 5,344 feet
  • There are over 50 species of animals
  • Over 220 Birds Over 30 species of reptiles and amphibians
  • 66 species of fish
  • Over 2,300 lakes and ponds
  • 1,500 miles of rivers
  • 30,000 miles of brooks and streams

Castles of Ice

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is a week long celebration that came into being around the turn of the century. Developed as a traditional approach to cure “cabin fever” for the local residents, The Winter Carnival became an annual event in 1897. The centerpiece of the festival is the ice palace, a grand structure built entirely of 700 pound blocks of translucent lake ice.

Prior to the advent of refrigeration, ice cutting was a thriving profession in the North Country. Blocks of ice were harvested from the frozen lakes of the region and shipped to the cities; packed in sawdust aboard railroad boxcars. The use of ice blocks as building blocks was an obvious invention and the first ice palace was born.

In the initial years of Winter Carnival, the construction of the palace was the source of much competition between the various ice cutters, the early ice palaces were quite elaborate, with each succeeding year’s buildings striving to out do the the previous years’. Each company took pride in their design and spent many hours sculpting the ornamentation of the palace.

Present day ice palaces retain this excitement in the choice of design, as engineering students from various colleges die for the opportunity to see their design utilized. Construction begins in late January as the ice blocks are harvested and assembled along the shore of Lake Flower in the center of the Village of Saranac Lake. The design includes indoor rooms: a throne room, staircases, towers and embattlements reaching heights of 50 feet, as well as an ice slide leading out onto the lake ice. Fabricated completely with volunteer labor, the palace utilizes over 3000 ice blocks, each cut to size of 2 feet wide by 2 feet thick by 4 feet long. Using slush as mortar, the blocks are frozen in place as the palace takes form.

The sheer size of the structure is impressive and the sight of such a beautiful building created entirely of natural materials is awe inspiring. Illuminated by interior lights, it is a marvel to visit on a crisp winter’s eve or a joy to behold on a sunny weekend day with children scurrying along its ramparts.

For further information, please contact this website:

Adirondack Museums
Enjoy your visit!!

The Adirondack Museum
Blue Mountain Lake, NY 

One of America’s finest outdoor history museums and called, “the best of its kind in the world,” by the New York Times, the Adirondack Museum is the only place to discover the region’s history. A magnificent new Visitors Center and Museum Store welcome visitors to the stories of how people have lived, worked, traveled, and played, in the Adirondacks from the early 1800s to the present. In addition, two fine art galleries showcase some of the region’s finest works from nationally acclaimed artists. Traditional skills demonstrations, hands-on activities, games for the whole family, and special events are all part of the Adirondack Museum experience.


Franklin County Historical Society
Malone, NYExhibits of early Franklin County, including victorian parlor and Dining Room, Old country store, crafts rooms and so much more.

Six Nation Indian Museum
Gabriels, NYPaintings, drawings, maps and artifacts that reflect the historic and contemporary aspects of the Six Iroquois Nations Federacy culture (Haudenosaunees).

Constable Hall
Constableville, NYThis restored nineteenth century mansion with its original furnishings was built out of limestone.

Historic Society of Saratoga Springs Museum
Saratoga Springs, NYThis museum use to be a gambling casino during the17th century

Fort William Henry
Lake George, NYRestored French and Indian War fort. Military drills, musket-cannon firing

Awakesasne Museum
Hogansburg, NYHistorical and Contemporary Mohawk Art and Artifacts

Chapman Historical Museum
Glens Falls, NYDelong House, Victorian period home restored to 1865-1910 era. Exhibitions on history of southern Adirondacks

Adirondack Park Visitor
Interpretive Center

Paul Smiths, NYLife in the Adirondacks, its natural .history, workshops and special programs offered.

Penfield Museum
Crown Point, NYHistoric Site. Museum of local history around the 1800’s. Exhibits on the Civil War and early Iron Work

Slate Valley Museum
Granville, NYExhibits documenting the history of slate quarrying.

Almanzo Wilder Homestead
Malone, NYFrom The Little House On the Prairie – Laura Ingals Husband, Almanzo Wilder Home

Webb Historical Association
Old Forge, NYExhibits of of the first Adirondack settlements.

Robert Lewis Stevenson Cottage
Saranac Lake, NYMaster storyteller and author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Hancock House
Ticonderoga, NYMuseum of the Adirondacks and it also has a research library