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Hotel Champlain (now Clinton Community College)
Once offering the height of luxury on Lake Champlain, this grand hotel was located on Bluff Point, now the site of Clinton Community College. The Hotel Champlain opened in 1890. Operated by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Company, it offered magnificent views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondack Mountains (to the south and west), and Vermont’s distant Green Mountains (across the lake). Because of its advantageous location, it quickly became recognized as a leading summer resort for wealthy vacationers and the elite. Political dignitaries of all kinds frequented the 300-room hotel, as did celebrities like baseball star Babe Ruth and prominent families such as the Astors and the Vanderbilts. U.S. President William McKinley and his wife spent the summers of 1897 and 1899 there. Because of this association, the hotel was sometimes called the “Summer White House.” Many New York State governors spent time at Hotel Champlain–as did the president of Cuba and his family.
The original Hotel Champlain burned on May 28, 1910. A little over a year later, on July 1, 1911, the “new” Hotel Champlain—the present building—was opened to the public. Built of structural steel at an estimated cost of $300,000, this building was much smaller than the original.
Hotel Champlain’s primary recreational activity was golf. Its 18-hole course holds the distinction of being the first hotel golf course constructed in the United States and the third-oldest course in the country. Today, the course still operates as Bluff Point Country Club.
Scenes from the 1924 silent motion picture “Janice Meredith” (also known as “The Beautiful Rebel”), starring Marion Davies as Janice Meredith, were filmed on the hotel grounds. Based on the 1900 play of the same name written by Paul Leicester Ford and Edward Everett Rose, the movie follows the actions of Janice Meredith, who assists George Washington and Paul Revere during the American Revolution. Scenes showing “Washington crossing the Delaware River” were filmed locally, as the “Delaware River” is actually the Saranac River, which empties into Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh.
Because of financial difficulties during the Great Depression, the Delaware & Hudson Company sold Hotel Champlain in 1939 to Mailman Brothers of Montreal. The hotel remained in operation for several years, but at a loss. The Depression, World War II, changes in transportation, and the emergence of new vacation spots all combined to dim the popularity of Hotel Champlain and other Lake Champlain resort hotels as vacation destinations. In July 1951, Hotel Champlain was sold to the Society of Jesus and converted into a Jesuit college called Bellarmine College, which operated until it folded in 1966. Hotel Champlain and its grounds then became Clinton Community College in 1969. Related Sites Or Experiences
The view of Hotel Champlain from Lake Champlain is especially dramatic. Perched atop the forested heights of Bluff Point, the hotel is a prominent landmark on the lake’s eastern shore visible from many miles away.
Suggested Further Reading
–Patricia Snyder. “Hotel Champlain.” North Country Notes (monthly newsletter of the Clinton County Historical Association), 164 (February 1981). Electronic version available via the Clinton County Historical Association’s website, http://clintoncountyhistorical.org, on Home Page, click on “Hotel Champlain History” and this article comes up.
— Bryant F. Tolles, Jr. Resort Hotels of the Adirondacks: The Architecture of a Summer Paradise, 1850-1950. Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2003.