Melvil Dewey and the Two Lake Placids

Melvil DeweyMelvil Dewey - yes, the very same Dewey of the Dewey Decimal Classification System - is responsible for a great chunk of Lake Placid's storied history. Dewey was chief librarian at Columbia University from 1883-1888, and from 1888 to 1906 he served as director of the New York State Library, and also served as secretary and executive officer of the University of the State of New York.

In 1895 with his wife Annie, Dewey founded the Lake Placid Club in New York State's Adirondack mountains on a small patch of land across Mirror Lake from what is now Lake Placid's Main Street. That small patch of land grew to encompass thousands of acres of Club holdings by the middle of the 20th century. He created what he called "simplified spelling", utilizing phonetics for commonplace words in the English language. The publications the Club produced used this spelling style exclusively. He imported winter sports equipment to Lake Placid from Europe in the fall of 1904 and for the first ever winter season, opened the Club for lodging and outdoor recreation. An iconic American winter resort was thus born and still thrives today. Lake Placid is still known as America's First Winter Resort and thrives on international sports events and year round outdoor activities to this day.

Dewey, together with his son, Godfrey, helped promote winter sports and Godfrey pursued and succeeded in securing the bid to hold the III Olympic Winter Games in America for the very first time in 1932. Lake Placid's name went "on the map" because of this international notoriety and subsequently the town's leaders secured a second Olympic Winter Games for Lake Placid in 1980. Melville was also the founder of the Lake Placid Club Education Foundation and the Adirondack Music Festival.

In 1926, Dewey founded a second Lake Placid Club in Lake Stearns, Florida. He convinced town leaders to change the town's name to Lake Placid. He died there on December 26, 1931, just a few weeks before opening ceremony for the 1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY. Melvil Dewey had just recently celebrated his 80th birthday, on December 10.

In the late 1970's many clubs such as the Lake Placid Club, fell to changing travel trends and the Lake Placid, New York club met a similar fate. The last use of the Club under the Lake Placid Company's management was to house the International Olympic Committee during the XIII Olympic Winter Games of 1980. After that time successive managements and ownerships took over and it further deteriorated. The main clubhouse suffered several small fires and then a major fire in 1992, rendering it unsalvageable. It was torn down shortly thereafter, and the property sold to the Lussi family of Lake Placid, owners of the Lake Placid Holiday Inn at the time. The entire property is now known by the name Lake Placid Club Resort, and encompasses the Lussi family's hotel on Olympic Drive, The Crowne Plaza. Part of the property has been developed into multi-million dollar home sites and a new hotel will soon be constructed on the site of the old Club employees dormitory. The old Club golf courses are still operational under the Lussi's ownership.

In the fall of 2011, Lake Placid, New York and Lake Placid, Florida, were joined together in a long-overdue proclamation by their respective town and village councils, as Sister Cities. The two cities plan to continue a long tradition of connections, both historic and cultural.

Click for more historic information about Lake Placid Club, Florida.