In 1918 Enterprise Publisher John S. Ridenour said in a letter to his Mom, quoted here last week, of Saranac Lake: “there is big money invested here by many of the biggest men in America.”
Let’s get started by telling you about just one of those big men, Charles M. Palmer. The Palmers bought the house at 308 Park Ave., which is the three story pink mansion owned for 50 years or more by Frank and Audrey Casier. One might consider that the Palmers built the house because they spent $100,000 “remodeling,” which meant adding two stories. Some time ago Phil Gallos did a good story on the history of the house listing the many owners.
Palmer supposedly was physically a very big man and a very big man in business. Here are excerpts from a story in the Enterprise written by E. K. Goldthwaite for the 75th anniversary of the Enterprise. E. K.’s father had purchased the Enterprise in 1906 and sold it to Mr. Ridenour in 1918.
About that same time (1906) Charles M. Palmer had offered $25,000 for the purchase of the New York Times because he thought the asking price of $50,000 was too high.
He “owned a daily newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri, was senior partner in a newspaper brokerage firm in New York City and served as mechanical consultant to the Hearst newspapers.” In Saranac Lake, he “was a director of the Adirondack National Bank.”
He owned a farm on the back road to Sorrell Street (the road begins at the town of Franklin Town Hall) operated by the Cash Shumway family. Palmer had built a dam on a creek that ran through the property to create a fishing pond. It was a nice swimming hole for us and the Shumway kids as we would hike from the back of our farm on Norman Ridge, quite a distance, through the woods down to the pond.
The Shumways had a big family … maybe 12 kids. I used to know all their names but not anymore. One boy was named Cash, who was my age, and another boy named Stanley became a brother-in-law to my brother Ray when they married sisters.
Stanley had a 1929 Chevrolet 4-door and he used to drive across the open fields which seemed to me, riding in the backseat, that we were going 100 miles an hour, which was probably 25 mph. The bouncing and rocking was a bigger thrill for me than the roller coasters I discovered on our St. Bernard’s School 1944 Class (train) trip to an amusement park in Montreal.
The pink mansion
The house on Park Avenue is three stories with an elevator from the first to the second floor. There are huge living rooms on both the first and second floor. There are two full bathrooms on each floor; the bathtub on the third floor is absolutely huge.
There is a winding staircase to the second floor and then there is a small back stairway from the second floor all the way to the cellar.
A beautiful house and maintained so well for all those years by Frank and Audrey. Back in the 1960s I managed the various Casier properties for a few months in the winter when they were in Florida. At that time they also owned the building at 54 Main St., the home today of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Winter Carnival history
More of the story by Mr. Goldthwaite:
“In 1915, Saranac Lake was the pre-eminent winter sports resort in the United States. No one had ever heard of Snow Mountain or Sun Valley. Lake Placid hadn’t yet built its bobsled runs or ski jumps, although it did have skate-and-ski-joring behind fast-running horses and it had produced some outstanding speed skaters, of whom Charles Jewtraw was a prime example.
“Saranac Lake, however, had a focal point of Winter Carnival, with speed skating events, championship ice hockey, figure skating, curling, skiing, snowshoeing and tobogganing, and was unrivaled as a center for winter sports. [Speaking of Winter Carnival, Jeff Branch has done a terrific job holding that event together through these difficult times.]
“Winter Carnival was an event which occupied every man, woman and child in the village from the first snowfall until the last Roam candle was fired in defense of — or attack on — the Ice Palace built on the hill [site today of the administration building of NCCC] looking down on Lake Flower.
“Weeks of research went into designing floats and costumes for the parade; months of construction and preparation honed the production to a fine edge, and lifetimes of experience and skill backed the entrants in the competitive events that brought hundreds of people to the stands alongside the River Street building that in other seasons was used as an armory.
“The village had developed an outstanding crop of speed skaters, but none was better known — or more deserving of his title — than Ed Lamy. Not only was Ed champion in the one and two mile distances; his record in jumping 28 barrels has never, to my knowledge, been surpassed.”
Now I have read in other old carnival stories that trainloads of spectators would come for the carnival. One story said that hundreds came from Plattsburgh just for the parade. There were 10 or 12 trains a day arriving in Saranac Lake at that time so visitors from Plattsburgh could arrive in the morning and get another train back in the evening.
That train station was a busy place and a great hangout for us 12- and 13-year-olds in the 1940s.
In the summer of 1948 our National Guard unit, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment went to Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) by train.