Although there are many historically significant sights in Lake George, there are also several important ones located no more than an hour’s drive, including those in the towns of Bolton, Bolton Landing, Ticonderoga, and Glens Falls.
A short drive from Lake George Village on Route 9N is the town of Bolton.
Characterized by rolling hills and steep mountains, which are part of the Kayaderosseras Range, the Town of Bolton contains 26.7 of Lake George’s 44 square miles and the majority of its islands.
Initially inhabited by the Prehistoric Stone Age Woodland Indians, who traveled through the Lake George Valley between 10,000 and 5,000 BC, it became witness to the first white man in the form of Father Isaacs Jogues and his two assistants, who traveled Indian paths to the lake, leading to its May 30, 1646 “Lac du Saint Sacrement” designation.
Early settlers were pioneering New Englanders from the likes of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, who carried their worldly possessions on foot and in oxen caravans and planted their initial roots in what became the Lake George Valley. Conflicts and danger lurked in the distance from hostile Indians, predatory animals, and the battles raged within the French and Indian and American Revolution wars.
Farms and families brought structure and stability to the Bolton wilderness between 1786 and 1790. Fields were cleared. Homes were built of logs. Crops, such as grains, wheat, and rye, sprouted from the ground, and pine, maple, and spruce trees were cut in mills, whose power was provided by five main brooks.
Disappendaged from Thurman in 1799, Bolton, with a population of approximately 900, assumed autonomous township status. By the turn of the 19th century, the area’s beauty began to attract tourists, to whom a proliferation of lodges and hotels catered in the summer, and its accessibility significantly improved with the 1817 introduction of steamboat services on the lake.
Bolton Landing, a separate hamlet, was established in the late-1800s because its deeper water could accommodate ever-larger steamboats. Both lake and rail travel facilitated seasonal tourism, particularly of the wealthy, who initially frequented grand hotels, but ultimately purchased their own tracts of lakeshore land. Stretching ten miles from Caldwell to Bolton Landing, they quickly supported summer mansions, earning the current “Millionaires’ Row” designation.
Two sights offer deeper glimpses into the area.
Bolton Historical Museum:
Located on Main Street and housed in an 1890 church deeded to the Town of Bolton in 1967 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, the Bolton Historical Museum was granted a charter by the New York State Education Department three years later on July 31.
“Our mission is to educate townspeople and visitors about the history of Bolton, Lake George, and the surrounding region,” according to the museum. “The museum displays extensive collections of regional artifacts and memorabilia and we sponsor a summer lecture series with the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing.”
The Sagamore Resort is an opulent, amenity-abundant, lakeside complex with deep historical roots.
Tracing its origins to 1883, it took initial idea form when hotel operator Myron O. Brown was inspired to construct an exclusive resort community in the Adirondacks. Together with four Philadelphia millionaires, who themselves had spent their summers in stately mansions on the lake’s western shore, he purchased Green Island and formed The Green Island Improvement Company.
Catering to the proverbial rich-and-famous, including dignitaries, government officials, and international clientele, it opened its doors in 1883 and quickly became the social epicenter of Green Island.
Twice fire-damaged, in 1893 and 1914, it was reconstructed in 1930, but continued to serve guests such as Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who presided over the 1954 National Governor’s Conference.
Yet changing conditions and clientele sparked the property’s gradual decline and disrepair, leading to its permanent closure in 1981. But “permanent” here translated into only two years. Marking its centennial, builder and real estate developer Norman Wolgin of Philadelphia acquired it and restored it to its former glory.
“The Sagamore Resort on Lake George is a landmark hotel with a prestigious history that dates back to the 1880s,” according to the hotel. “Secluded on a private 70-acre island just 60 miles north of Albany, The Sagamore has hosted families, celebrities, and dignitaries alike with their signature hospitality established over a century ago by Myron O. Brown. Along with an inspiring setting in the heart of the Adirondacks, our historic enclave offers elegant lakeside accommodations, award-winning dining… and a commitment to creating remarkable guest experiences every day. With an unmatched selection of water and land activities to enjoy at your leisure, The Sagamore is a year-round Lake George resort ideal for family vacations, weekend gateways, and one-of-a-kind events.”
Its amenities are numerous: 392 rooms in the historic hotel, lodges, castle, and the Hermitage Building; a 70-acre island location; eight restaurants and lounges; an 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course; the Opal Spa and Salon; four tennis courts; a fitness center and wellness classes; the 95,000-gallon outdoor Infinity pool; a 10,000-square-foot recreation center; and 90-minute cruises on its own 72-foot boat, “The Morgan.”
Perhaps the most important and meticulously restored sight in the Adirondacks is Fort Ticonderoga, which is located about 40 miles north of Lake George Village via Route 9N.
Land, and particularly that which could yield significant resources, was the single most important incentive that drove man to stake his claim on it, and both England and France did exactly that in North America, each endeavoring to expand its empire and harness the timber it promised, all the while mostly ignoring the existing Native Americans. With their claims came the need to protect them. In the British case, that protection took form as a series of Hudson River forts and in the case of the French, similar fortifications along the waterways that connected its fur trade network.
Although the Ticonderoga Peninsula, which the French dubbed “Carillon,” was on the outer edge of their territory, it was still an important one, and by the mid-1700s, the pristine forest-and-mountain tranquility of the Lake George region was often transformed into human clash-and-chaos as the transplanted European powers wrestled with each other for dominance there.
The need for what was initially named Fort Carillon arose in 1755 after the French were defeated in the Battle of Lake George, prompting the Marquis de Lotbiniere to thwart potential British invasion on two routes-down the headwaters of Lake Champlain and over the two-mile portage from the outlet of Lake George.
The star-shaped fortification, located on the La Chute River between lakes George and Champlain and possessing a 400-man winter barracks capacity, was considered the ultimate defense weapon of the 18th century. Initially constructed of earth-reinforced logs, but later fortified with stone-faced bastions from nearby quarries, it was surrounded by external support structures on a slope below it, including a bakery, a brewery, ovens, and a brick kiln.
Sawmills on the La Chute River enabled lumber to be cut for the construction of both the fort and the boats (“batteaux” in French) that delivered supplies after docking at north and south wharves.
Soldiers practiced drills in the Place de Arms, which was surrounded by barracks and four bastions housing ovens, powder magazines, ice storage areas, dungeons, and cisterns. Fort-surrounding defenses included north and west redoubts and a Mount Hope located battery.
Tent cities sheltered summer garrisons.
Eli Forbush, a Massachusetts soldier once commented, “The strength of the fort exceeds ye most sanguine imagination. Nature and art are joined to render it impregnable.”
Attacked six times during two wars, Fort Carillon never suffered a direct hit on its walls, although it ironically twice fell when the supply lines that sustained it could not be maintained.
Of its significant historical milestones, more than 8,000 French, Canadian, and Native Americans left to attack British-occupied Fort William Henry in 1757; almost 16,000 British troops suffered some 2,000 casualties while assaulting French positions on July 8 of the following year in what was considered America’s bloodiest battle until the Civil War; and Lord Jeffrey Amherst led a powerful assault in 1759, driving away the French, but not until its powder magazine was blown up.
Rebuilt and in British hands for the next 16 years, it was renamed “Fort Ticonderoga,” an Iroquois word either meaning “between two waters” or “where the waters meet.”
Three weeks after the Battle of Lexington and Concord during the American Revolution, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, along with their Green Mountain Boys militia men, crossed Lake Champlain from Vermont on May 10, 1775, executing a dawn attack on the still-sleeping British garrison in what was considered the first successful and significant American victory during that conflict.
William Ferris Pell, a New York merchant, began leasing the fort’s grounds in 1816 and then purchased the military post outright four years later. Almost a century later, Sarah and Stephen Pell initiated one of America’s earliest restoration projects. Opened to the public in a ceremony attended by President Taft, it was designated one of the first National Historic Landmarks in 1966.
“Explore one of North America’s finest collections of 18th century military material culture,” entices the museum. “Art, weapons, and equipment from North America and Europe displayed in the soldier’s barracks exhibit areas document the largest collection of 18th-century artillery in this hemisphere, mounted on Fort Ticonderoga’s walls.”
The Log House Welcome Center, overlooking Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains, contains guides, information, an extensive gift shop, and America’s Fort Café, and leads to the actual fort, where activities encompass demonstrations, tours, musket and cannon firings, tailoring, shoemaking, carpentry, and fife and drum playing.
Other attractions include the King’s Garden, a 75-minute boat cruise on the “Carillon,” and drives up Mount Defiance for views of the fort’s military landscape.
THE HYDE COLLECTION
Twelve miles south of Lake George on Warren Street in the town of Glens Falls (exit 18 on the New York State Thruway), the area’s attractions shift from 18th century history to 20th century art in the Hyde Collection.
Its origins arose in 1865. Samuel Pruyn and Jeremiah Finck founded Finck, Pruyn, and Company, a Glens Falls paper manufacturing concern, thus laying the foundation for family wealth and community prominence. Two years later, daughter Charlotte Pruyn was born into one of the region’s leading industrial families.
By the end of the decade, now a young adult herself, she met Louis Fiske Hyde, a Harvard law student, at a Boston finishing school, and they married in 1902. But leaving his Boston law practice four years later, he and Charlotte returned to Glens Falls, where he accepted the vice presidency positon of Finch, Pruyn, and Company.
Following the American Renaissance tradition of adapting European architectural traditions to American tastes, she, along with her two sisters, did so in the three houses she had built overlooking the Hudson River and the family mill between 1904 and 1912.
Wealth combined with a series of European summer trips became a formula for the serious collection of art, and a later trust agreement ensured that it, as well as the house it was displayed in, would be maintained as a museum, which opened to the public in 1963. Designated Hyde House, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places 21 years later.
“A collection of more than 5,000 works of art and more than ten exhibitions a year, the Hyde Collection is the region’s premier visual arts institution,” claims the museum. “Founded by Gilded Age collectors Charlotte and Louis Hyde, the museum includes their historic home. In spacious, elegant rooms, an extensive collection of decorative arts, rare books, and a distinguished collection of medieval, Renaissance, European, and American art is exhibited.”
The house itself incorporates a dining room, a courtyard, a library, a guest bedroom, and a reception room on the main level, and the green guest room, the music room, the east guest bedroom, and Mrs. Hyde’s bedroom on the upper level, and their walls are graced with paintings by an impressive list of masters-from Rembrandt, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Eakins, Renoir, Rubens, Picasso, Botticelli, El Greco, and Degas to Homer.