Lake Placid Club

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Skiers and the Club's Main Building

The Lake Placid Club was a social and recreation club founded 1895, in a hotel on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, New York, under Melvil Dewey's leadership and according to his ideals. It was instrumental in Lake Placid's development as an internationally known resort.

Early years until Dewey's death (1931)[edit]

Dewey intended the club as a place where educators might find health, strength and inspiration at modest cost. Under his leadership, the club became nationally known for winter sports; it built a winter clubhouse in 1907 that allowed year-round visits to Lake Placid. By 1923, the Club had grown to 9,600 acres (39 km2), with 356 buildings (including 110 residences), its own theatre (seating capacity 1,200), library, boathouses, 21 tennis courts, seven golf courses, farms, a staff of 1100, a fire department, and even a school, today known as Northwood School.

Lake Placid Conference[edit]

Early in September, 1899, trustees of the Club found the time ripe to bring together those most interested in home science, or household economics. They sent out many invitations for the first Lake Placid Conference scheduled to take place September 19-25, 1899. One of the attendees, Ellen Swallow Richards, a founder of the modern domestic science movement, was elected chairman of the conference.[1] The conference took place each year from 1899 to 1907.[2]

From 1931 to 1971[edit]

The Club had been an active center of skiing ever since the 1910s. Ski-joring as seen in the picture at right was one of the attractions; ski jumping, ice skating, carnivals and cross-country ski lessons were others. Melvil Dewey's son Godfrey was instrumental in bringing the Winter Olympics to Lake Placid in 1932. Without the club's facilities and its national profile, Lake Placid would not have qualified to host the Games.

In the 1930s, a group of students from the Yale School of Drama performed at the Club's Lakeside Theater during the summer months.[3]

After 1971[edit]

Membership declined steadily as vacationing trends among the wealthy changed. Air travel and time constraints meant that fewer families spent the entire season at the Club. In 1977, only 471 families renewed their membership, compared to 711 the previous year. The Club closed soon after serving as headquarters for the International Olympic Committee during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.[4] During the 1990s the Club was a frequent target for arson and vandalism. Its last buildings were demolished in January 2002.[citation needed]

Exclusionary policies[edit]

For most of its existence the Lake Placid Club excluded Jews and other socially stigmatized groups. A Lake Placid circular explained, "No one will be received as a member or guest against whom there is physical, moral, social or race objection, or who would be unwelcome to even a small minority ... This invariable rule is rigidly enforced. It is found impracticable to make exceptions for Jews or others excluded, even though of unusual personal qualifications." Dewey was forced to resign[5] as New York State Librarian after it was shown that these policies were traceable to him personally, despite his denials.[6] (Dewey soon afterward took up permanent residence at the Club, and beginning in 1906 devoted himself to its development.)[7]

In 1904, the New York State Board of Regents received a petition demanding Dewey's removal as State Librarian because of his personal involvement in the Lake Placid Club's policy of excluding Jews and other religious and ethnic groups. While the Regents declined to remove Dewey, they did issue a public rebuke, and in the summer of 1905 he resigned as a result.[8][9][10]

In 1954, a New York Times article criticized the Club for its refusal to admit Blacks and Jews. The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League filed a complaint about the Club. The dispute lasted several years, until the League decided to drop the charges of discrimination in 1959. Representatives of the Club claimed that its members were religiously motivated and therefore wished to vacation as Christians among Christians in order to "strengthen their appreciation of and attachment to Christianity."[11] Since Dewey's time, the Club had been very strict about membership, avoiding fashionable vacationers, not serving alcohol in the dining room, and only accepting guests who came recommended by other members. The criteria for membership remained intact until 1976.[12]

Lake Placid Club in Florida[edit]

In 1926, Dewey established a southern branch of the club in Lake Stearns, Florida; the town was renamed Lake Placid as a result. It is now owned by the South Florida District of the Church of the Nazarene, which operates it as the Lake Placid Camp and Conference Center.


  1. ^ Richards, Ellen H., ed. (1901–1908), "Lake Placid Conference proceedings", Archives, Lake Placid Conference, Lake Placid, NY: American Home Economics Association [1]
  2. ^ Barbara Ehrenreich (1979), For her own good, Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Books, p. 155, ISBN 0385126514, 0385126514
  3. ^ Lake Placid News, June 19, 1936, p. 12.
  4. ^ Ackermann, David (1998). Lake Placid Club. An Illustrated History. Lake Placid, New York: Lake Placid Education Foundation. pp. 367–368. ISBN 0-9665875-0-2.
  5. ^ "PROF. MELVIL DEWEY RESIGNS.; Secretary of the State Board of Regents of the University Gives Up His Office". The New York Times. New York, NY. 23 December 1899.
  6. ^ Silver, M.M., Louis Marshall and the Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America. Syracuse University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8156-1000-7. pp. 90-97
  7. ^ Ackermann, p. 15
  8. ^ "STATE LIBRARIAN DEWEY.; The Real Issue Involved in the Demand for His Removal". The New York Times. New York, NY. 14 February 1905.
  9. ^ Silver, M.M., Louis Marshall and the Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America. Syracuse University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8156-1000-7. pp. 90–97
  10. ^ Wiegand, p. 327
  11. ^ Ackermann, p. 351
  12. ^ Ackermann, p. 41-43


  • Ackerman, David H.: Lake Placid Club: An Illustrated History: 1895-1980. Lake Placid Education Foundation, 1998. ISBN 0-9665875-0-2.
  • Stansfield, Dean: Images of America. Lake Placid. Charleston, N.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-7385-1051-3.
  • Stedman, Irving L.: Lake Placid Club. Fulton, N.Y.: Morrill Press, 1924

External links[edit]