In 1895 Melvil Dewey, the creator of the Dewey Decimal System, founded the Lake Placid Club in the budding resort town of North Elba, NY. This private institution, located on the eastern shore of Mirror Lake, began as a five acre summer retreat for educators to relax and share their ideas but became a year round 10,000 acre establishment by the 1930s when the Games took place. This so-called “University in the wilderness” (Manchester, 7) accepted new members by recommendation and had strict regulations against drinking and smoking. Through Dewey’s vision and drive, the Club expanded to 9,600 acres with a staff of over 1,000 by 1923. At that time there were 356 building with 110 residences, 21 tennis courts and 7 golf courses. By the time talks of hosting the Games began to emerge, the Club had been transformed into a self-sufficient village. Two years before the Games opened in 1932 the Lake Placid Club saw 120,000 total guests (Manchester, 9). Besides its famous founder the Club also boasted Henry Van Hoevenberg, an Adirondack pioneer for whom Mount Van Hoevenberg is named, as a member.
(The club house on the shores of Mirror Lake) (Melvil Dewey)
© http://www.lakeplacid.com © http://www.lakeplacid.com
This successful and exclusive club played an enormous role in bringing the 1932 games to the small village of Lake Placid. For the first decade the grounds were just used as a summer getaway, but at the end of the 1904 season Melvil Dewey kept it open for ten or so members, who skated on Mirror Lake and skied on the Club’s golf course (Manchester, 10). Dewey's push to make the Club a winter destination fueled a major growth of winter sports not only in Lake Placid but also in the whole of the United States.
(Club members getting ready to ski, winter 1904-05)
© Lake Placid Club
Godfrey Dewey, Melvil’s son, is credited with spear heading the efforts to bring the Olympics to the Adirondacks and it is safe to say that without the Club and its members the Games couldn’t have taken place. George Lattimer, the compiler of the Offical reports for the 1932 Winter Games, asserts that “…the history of the Games in reality goes back to that day, over a quarter of a century ago, when organized enjoyment of the sports of snow and ice and cold began where the highest peaks of the Adirondack mountains cast their shadows on the village by the two lakes” (7).
Click here to view The Lake Placid Club's current website (it is now owned by Crowne Royal and run as a resort)
Click here to read about the extensive history of The Lake Placid Club (1890-2002)