Friday, January 21, 2022

A look back at the Eagle Bay Hotel, 1897-1945, Fourth Lake

The Eagle Bay Hotel on Fourth Lake opened in June 1897 and operated until it burned on August 7, 1945. On the former Hotel grounds today is Eagle Bay Village, formerly the Eagle Bay Villas. At its demise, the Hotel was part of a group of large, popular early 20th century hotels that included The Arrowhead, The Wood, Rocky Point Inn, Holls Inn and Neodak Lodge on the shores around the Head of Fourth Lake. Only The Wood, now The Woods Inn, remains.

fourth lake

This history is based not only on my research, but also the files of the Goodsell Museum, and information in books such as God’s Country and Fourth Lake Early Camps and Hotels.  Looking at the Hotel’s knoll in Eagle Bay from a boat, it is hard to picture the Hotel’s structures that served Fulton Chain guests for almost fifty years.

When Dr. William Seward Webb purchased Township 8 and surrounding John Brown’s Tract and neighboring Totten & Crossfield Purchase lands in May 1891, only scattered private camps occupied Fourth Lake shores on land not owned by their builders. Some notable ones were the former Hess Camp on Cedar Island, Dollar Island, Alonzo Wood Camp, Emil Murer Camp (later Becker’s) and Jack Sheppard’s Camp (later The Cohasset).

Excluded from Dr. Webb’s purchase was Robert Perrie’s Third Lake House (later Bald Mountain House) property at the head of Third Lake built on land acquired from the Lyon Estate in 1871.  Some camps were leased to hunters and travelers, or managed by guides, who used the Fulton Chain water route to Blue Mountain and points north of the Chain.  The only major hotel in 1891 was The Forge House overlooking Forge Pond. Old Forge village did not yet exist on the Forge Tract.

The opening in October 1892 of Dr. Webb’s Mohawk & Malone Railroad provided travelers ready access through the new proposed Adirondack Park region for those seeking relief from city life and for the health benefits from clean mountain air.  Recognizing not only opportunities for the harvesting of timber from his forest lands, Dr. Webb also appreciated the potential for profit from the sale of shoreline lots for hotels and cottages on Second, Third and Fourth Lakes. Dr. Webb’s surveyor was David C. Wood whose contributions to his efforts I talk about below.

Offered fair terms by Dr. Webb in most cases, private camp owners at this time purchased the title for their camp properties. In five years, Rocky Point Inn (1893), Hess Inn/Arrowhead (1893-1896) and Inlet Inn (1897) opened and would be joined by the new Eagle Bay Hotel in 1897.

The genesis of The Eagle Bay Hotel is the sale on October 10, 1895 by Dr. Webb and his wife Eliza to Dwight Bacon Sperry lots 134, 135, 136 and 137 (Township 8, John Brown’s Tract) at a cost of $1500.  The deed’s most important condition was in the first paragraph: the buyer “shall within two years from the date thereof erect, finish and have ready for use and occupation a hotel having capacity to accommodate fifty guests board and lodging…”.

If this did not occur, all monies advanced or paid by Sperry for the lots, and those lots, shall be forfeited to Dr. Webb. As an added protection to Dr. Webb’s adjoining forest lands, the contract further stipulated that if Sperry, his agents, hotel occupants or his tenants start or permit to be started a forest fire on any part of John Brown’s Tract or adjoining lands, the same penalty occurs.

A year later on July 28, 1896, Sperry conveyed to William West Durant a right over his lands to build a private store, wharf, dock and store house, along with approaches from the Sucker Brook Bay Road from Raquette Lake for teams and passengers.  Durant’s private Mohegan Road built from J.P. Morgan’s Camp Uncas to that Road was close to completion. Also that year, the Sucker Brook Bay Road from Raquette Lake through John Browns Tract Ponds to Eagle Bay was finished.

The Eagle Bay Company

In January 1897, the Herkimer Democrat reported that the Eagle Bay Hotel Company had filed its articles of incorporation with the State. The effective date was December 31, 1896. The St. Lawrence Herald provided more details.  The Company’s directors for its first year were David C. Wood, Dwight Sperry and Patrick Moynehan, the latter also its president.  Other officers were J. George Thompson, vice-president, Sperry, secretary, Wood, treasurer and Patrick’s brother Dennis, general manager.

The people of the Company were successful businessmen; all did business previously or soon with Dr. Webb and his associates.  Shortly after the Hotel’s opening, the Raquette Lake Railway inaugurated service. Raquette Lake Village (initially named Durant) developed around the Railway’s terminus and the Marion River Carry Railroad inaugurated rail access to Blue Mountain Lake resorts.  Eagle Bay Station was the only station of the Railway whose termini were Clearwater and Raquette Lake Stations.  The Company knew the importance of the Hotel’s location.

I believe the driver for the building of the Hotel was the wealthiest of the officers, Patrick Moynehan. I now go into detail about Patrick and the rest of the initial Company officers to show their significance and contributions to the early development of the Fourth Lake to Blue Mountain transportation stretch.

Patrick Moynehan

Under the name of Moynehan Brothers, Patrick and Dennis were under contract with Dr. Webb to cut and deliver designated trees from 40,000 acres on Township 42 T&C Purchase near Nehasane, then loading them on Dr. Webb’s railroad cars. This was one of three contracts the State permitted to continue when the land was sold to the State in 1896. Patrick and William Whitney formed the 60,000-acre Whitney Park during 1896-1898 in Hamilton County from their land acquisitions.

Patrick was president of the Glens Falls Post Star for many years.  In 1899, Patrick and State Senator Edgar Brackett (Saratoga Springs) lent money to the financially strapped W. W. Durant and endorsed notes for more funds with Saratoga Banks. When Durant’s benefactor Collis Huntington died in 1900, Huntington’s estate, and Dr. Webb’s associates, turned off support and Durant’s land company- the Forest Park and Land Co.- mortgages were foreclosed.  In 1901, that company sold its lands to Patrick’s Raquette Falls Land Company and Sagamore Lodge to Alfred Vanderbilt.

Around this time, Moynehan and Brackett were required to pay the loans they made earlier to Durant. They then purchased Durant’s Blue Mountain & Raquette Lake Steamboat Company in the spring of 1901. This included the Carry Railroad property. They then reorganized this Company as the Raquette Lake Transportation Company.

This Company then issued bonds to Durant which he hoped to sell to former associates, who were already refusing him support, who would be paid back with the income from Company operations. This failed.  Then Moynehan and Brackett sold the company, and its running stock and bonds, to Dr. Webb’s interests that already owned the Raquette Lake Railway. While the sale included the right of way for the Carry Railroad, Moynehan retained the railroad’s land, the Carry Inn and Durant’s sawmill.

In addition, under a 20-year lease with the Raquette Lake Railway Company, Moynehan acquired the “Railway Terminus” property. On this land in 1901, he took over the Raquette Lake Supply Company which originally was on Long Point before the Railway. Moynehan expanded its operations with new warehouses.  In 1903, he built the Raquette Lake House on the property.

Patrick was now heavily invested in this region of the Adirondacks. His family connections soon joined him.

Of note, Patrick’s sister Johanna Moynehan Foley was the mother of Patrick J. Foley who, after working in lumbering with the Moynehan Brothers on Nehasane Park lands, moved to Old Forge and worked at the George Deis Lumber Company, later, the Foley Lumber and Hardware Company. Her daughters (Mary Ellen) married Emmett Marks, a noted stocker of fish for lakes and (Ella) Ryan and (Evelyn) P. Edward Hurley.  The latter two operated the Hurley & Ryan Grocery and General Merchandise store in Old Forge where Ace Hardware is today.

Dennis Moynehan

Earlier, I noted Dennis as a lumber partner with his brother Patrick. In addition to logging, he also worked in road construction and temporarily was a partner with Dwight Sperry for building half the road from Old Forge to Eagle Bay. It eventually was awarded to another group. Dennis was Town Supervisor of Newcomb 1890-1896 and soon after the Hotel was built, the Town of Webb Supervisor 1898-1902, defeating William S. deCamp for his first term.

David C. Wood

When Dr. Webb was completing his Mohawk & Malone Railroad mentioned above, he charged his surveyor David C. Wood in 1892 to do preliminary surveys for future roads from Clearwater to Fourth Lake and Raquette Lake. To provide access to the new railroad from the Raquette and Long Lake region, Wood was hired by Hamilton County jurisdictions to lay out a new Sucker Brook Bay Road from Raquette Lake to Eagle Bay (1893).  For Dr. Webb, he established boundaries for cottage lots along the shores of Second to Fourth Lakes.  This resulted in the often referred to David C. Wood’s map, “Township No. 8, John Brown Tract.

Wood testified in important Adirondack land court cases, in some instances certifying land boundaries. He participated in the Julia deCamp vs Moose River Lumber Company et al in the (1895-1897); Dr. Webb vs NY State over its dam flooding his lands (1893); and the Page Tract boundary between Hamilton and Herkimer Counties (1910).

Wood’s knowledge of the Adirondack lands and his ability to confirm old boundary lines led to an appointment as Chief Land Surveyor for the State’s forest and land division over 20 years. Wood owned lots on Fourth Lake’s South Shore that were later acquired by his wife Martha’s brother, well known lawyer William Witherstine.  Witherstine served as the Company’s vice president in 1898 when Dennis Moynehan became Town of Webb supervisor. Another friend, John Fields, town supervisor of Fairfield, also became a director in 1898.

John George Thompson

Thompson was superintendent for Durant’s unincorporated Blue Mountain and Raquette Lake Steamboat Line whose steamers were transferred to Moynehan’s Raquette Lake Transportation company in 1901. Thompson left the region after suffering injuries during a launching of the steamer Tuscarora at Blue Mountain Lake.  Soon after this, Thompson died in New York City during an appendectomy operation.  A few years later, Thompson’s widow Emma Crapo Thompson married Maurice Callahan his successor. Callahan served until 1930 when the Raquette Lake Transportation Company dissolved.

According to his obituary, he had assisted Durant with his Adirondack developments since 1893. I believe, being a director of a company outside of his operational area, Thompson may have represented Durant’s extending his operations to Fourth Lake, especially with the recent Durant purchase of a right of way through the Hotel property for their transportation operations.  The Hotel and the new railroad were to be the beginning terminus for the Eagle Bay to Raquette Lake route towards Durant’s Blue Mountain Lake resorts before a railroad opened three years later.

Dwight B. Sperry

big moose

The Sperry family is a frequent part of Fulton Chain and Big Moose Lake history.  Dwight’s uncle, Cyrus Sanford Sperry, was the first proprietor of the Forge House; his aunt Mary Esther was steamboat captain Jonathan Meeker’s first wife. His brother, David Franklin Sperry was Benjamin Harrison’s guide. Dwight’s sister Francena married James Higby; another sister, Daisy, married William Glenn. Glenn and Dwight built the Glennmore Hotel at Big Moose Lake. This hotel designed by William Rich was run by Philo Wood and George Conant from 1900 to 1902. Afterwards, Wood then operated the Forge House 1903-1907 before moving to his expanded hotel The Wood in 1908.

Dwight Sperry never married.  He moved from Sperryville in Lewis County, named for his father Franklin, to the Fulton Chain when Dr. Webb was building the Mohawk & Malone line. Dr. Webb hired Dwight to supply food to the construction gangs. This required running wagon teams from Boonville and Lowville over the track construction route, following the crews’ progress.

With the railroad opening in 1892, Dwight “cut” a road from Big Moose Station to Big Moose Lake near the Glennmore Hotel future lands and started a transportation company for the lake. A year after the railroad opened, he moved to Old Forge. Afterwards he took an active interest in the village’s affairs.

On Harrison Avenue (Route 28) in 1896, Dwight built a telegraph office and telephone exchange building for his company. He later sold this company to Bell Telephone. During the contentious first Town of Webb supervisor election that year, he was the court appointed messenger for delivering disputed ballots to the court. Dwight cleared lands for the construction of Benjamin Harrison’s Berkeley Lodge during 1896.

In 1902, built the road from Raquette Lake Station to the Morgan, Vanderbilt and Woodruff Camps. At his death, he was considered one of the “greatest boosters of the southern Adirondacks.”

The Eagle Bay Hotel (continued)

The purpose of the Company was to accomplish the terms of the deed executed by Sperry in October 1895. In other words, the Company was to build a “first-class” hotel at Eagle Bay on the north side of Fourth Lake opposite Cedar Island. The main hotel would be three (sometimes called four) stories high, with basement and the dimensions of the main building 94×40 feet. Closely matching Dr. Webb’s deed, the hotel would have 50 sleeping rooms and accommodations for 75 guests.

The building was designed by Herkimer architect Charles E. Cronk and built by Lowville’s William Rich & Company, who later built the Hotel Glennmore for Sperry and William Glenn. Charles Cronk also designed Benjamin Harrison’s Berkeley Lodge.

Another news report noted the hotel was at the junction of the Old Forge, Big Moose and Durant’s Mohegan Roads.  This March report included the hotel’s size, that work on the foundation had begun, the hotel was to have steam heat and its basement billiard and bar rooms.  The Company hoped to erect several cottages adjacent to the main building. Without furniture, construction estimates were $15,000.

According to Roy Higby, the Hamilton County line went through the hotel. The bar was on the east side of the building. When liquor options were available to individual counties, his uncle Dwight would move the bar to the side of the room where it could be sold.

To move the required 30,000 feet of lumber, in April 1897 Hess’s Lumber mill employees at Fifth Lake needed to cut a mile and a half channel through eighteen inches of Fourth Lake ice to the construction site. The Hotel was expected to be completed by July.  While construction was proceeding that month, the Company hired experienced proprietors to manage the Hotel, adding one to its board.

When Dr. Alexander Crosby and Samuel Garmon noted the increased tourist trade in 1893 from Dr. Webb’s new line, they hired experienced hotel managers Alexander (“Sam”) M. and his wife Nellie Ambrose (N.A.) Briggs to run their newly expanded Forge House. Their experience included almost thirty years of operating Oneida and Herkimer County hotels.

In newspapers, Nellie was often in announcements as “N.A. Briggs”, referred to as a male. The Briggs’ contract with the Forge House had ended in December 1896 and the Company signed a five-lease with “Mr. N. A. Briggs”, an “incorporator”. As with the 1893 Forge House contract, Nellie was probably the signatory for this lease.

The Eagle Bay Hotel opened in June 1897 and expected to do a “flourishing business”.  Dwight Sperry conveyed the properties and stipulations from his 1895 Dr. Webb contract to the Company, effective July 1, for $1500, the price he paid Dr. Webb, and both transactions were recorded on the same day, July 7, 1897 by the Herkimer County Clerk.

The new Hotel appears in an 1897 photo booklet of Fulton Chain sites by F.E. Slocum. Nellie’s ads listed “new in construction, modern in appointments, liberal in management.”  “Liberal” meant they accepted Jewish guests, confirmed by news reports of guests staying at the Hotel for the Sabbath.

eagle bay hotel fourth lake

The Company’s February 1898 meeting added newcomers William Witherstine as vice-president and John Fields assistant manager. Its agenda included expansion of the Hotel with cottages. The Company’s officer roster remained the same as late as 1906.

For the 1898 season, two new large hotels: Josiah Wood’s The Cohasset and Fred Hess’s Hess Camp (Woods Inn) joined the Eagle Bay Hotel, Rocky Point Inn and Hess Inn. The Hess Inn was renamed The Arrowhead when Hess Camp opened in July.

Sam and Nellie Briggs enlarged the Hotel’s dining room and kitchen, added nurses for children and built new boat and bath houses. Two cottages were built, and the Hotel opened in May.  Nellie’s name was in the Hotel’s ads. Sam Briggs also managed The Osgood House in Ilion that season.

At the end of that season in November, The Briggs’ daughter, Edythe Ione, married Utica undertaker John F. Cassidy at the Osgood House. Cassidy assisted with the operations of the Hotel for the next three years.  When Edythe later divorced him and remarried Charles Benjamin in 1905, the announcement indicated “little ripples which went to make up serious family troubles arose” during Cassidy’s time at the Hotel.    Also, beginning 1899, the ads named the Hotel “Eagle Bay Hotel and Cottages.”

The Raquette Lake Railway opened to the public in July 1900 and the station up the hill from the Hotel improved access that previously had been by steamer or wagon. A year earlier, the Company had conveyed to the new line a right of way across its property.

In February 1901, “Mr.” Nellie Briggs signed a lease with the Old Forge Company to manage the Forge House. She and Cassidy continued to manage the Eagle Bay Hotel until the end of the 1903 season. Her Forge House management lasted two years (1901-1902).  During this period of management, they advertised accommodations for 400 persons for the two hotels combined.

An incentive, and in some cases a last resort, for coming to the Fulton Chain was a prospect that the environment had restorative aspects for invalids. Miss Ida Shultz of Ilion was an “inmate” of the Briggs family for four years when she died “of that dread disease consumption” in August 1899 at the Eagle Bay Hotel.

In October 1902, Charles, the only son of Sam and Nellie Briggs, died from typhoid fever at the Forge House. Charles had assisted the Briggs with management of the Hotel.

When the Briggs leased the Arrowhead Hotel for the 1903 season from William Moshier’s lawyer Herbert Sholes, Briggs and Cassidy continued to run the Eagle Bay Hotel that year.

After the 1903 season, the Briggs temporarily left the region to operate The Globe Hotel in Syracuse until returning to the Forge House in 1911. Dwight Sperry and his Glennmore Hotel partner and brother-in-law William Glenn managed the Eagle Bay Hotel during 1904. At this time, the Hotel no longer accepted those with “pulmonary afflictions”.  The Hotel property is at the top right in the map from the Goodsell Museum.

map

In 1901, William and Emma Brinks Preston had opened Camp Neodak on the South Shore of Fourth Lake next to the Pratt Camp, across the lake from the Eagle Bay Hotel.  In 1905, the Eagle Bay Company leased the Hotel to William. The following year, William offered to buy the property, but the Company declined. Shown on maps, William did acquired acreage in 1907 west of the Hotel property in Eagle Bay from William Thistlethwaite, whose company had purchased Dr. Webb’s unsold Township 8 lands in 1902. Howard Weller and Orr Liddle later acquired Preston’s land.

William Preston’s 1907 ads noted the Hotel now had a new Casino and assembly hall.  Emma Preston managed Camp Neodak and William the Eagle Bay Hotel from 1905 until William’s death from illness in late 1909. She then hired managers for Camp Neodak and took up William’s lease for the Eagle Bay Hotel to the end of the 1913 season when financial difficulties caused her to lose control of both properties.

During the Prestons’ management period, some events of note occurred. In 1906, Grace Brown drowned at Big Moose Lake and her accused murderer Chester Gillette went to trial and eventual execution.  In the 1907 trial, the District Attorney claimed Gillette intended to arrive at the Eagle Bay Hotel at the same time as the train with his suitcase so that people would think he had just arrived from Raquette Lake.

In August 1908, Ella Zehr of Croghan was in the laundry when fire started from an explosion of gasoline. Located about 20 feet from the Hotel were its laundry and storehouse. Ella suffered severe burns about her head and arms and both out buildings were destroyed. She had been operating a gasoline mangle (mechanical device with rollers for drying) when the explosion took place.  Only a bucket brigade pouring water from Hotel windows diminished the flames.

In 1896, Charles O’Hara arrived at Fourth Lake from Glenfield and opened the Inlet Inn on the channel to Fourth Lake from Fifth Lake. He acquired The Arrowhead in 1907 from Albert Boshart, advertising both hotels in the same ad.  In September 1913, The Arrowhead burned.  While deciding whether to rebuild, he leased The Eagle Bay Hotel from the Company for 1914 and 1915.

From correspondence with realtor Frank Tiffany in early 1915, who he hired to operate the Inlet Inn while Charles managed the Hotel, we learn that O’Hara purchased the Pratt Camp in 1914 to sell to help him finance the Eagle Bay Company’s purchase price for the Hotel. The Company did not accept his offer and soon after O’Hara built the New Arrowhead that opened in June 1916.

eagle bay hotel

Dwight Sperry, Owner

Dwight Sperry managed the Hotel for 1916. A year later, he negotiated its purchase and accompanying property from the Company, effective July 27, 1917.  The Eagle Bay Company “voluntarily” dissolved in September.[47]

At this time, Sperry offered a booklet about the Hotel’s features, describing himself as having had “long experience in conducting Adirondack hotels” and was for many years “owner of the Hotel Glenmore.”  Sperry now included accommodations only to “desirable guests”, excluded “all with pulmonary troubles” and declined “patronage of objectionable patrons.”  The altitude (1800 feet) was considered too high for “Hebrews.” By the way, “no dogs or other pets allowed.”

According to Sperry’s booklet, the Hotel building was four stories high, with single or suited rooms, furnished, some with baths, large and airy, with views of Fourth Lake and surrounding mountains. Though the Hotel has had a Casino since 1907,  Sperry described the present one as “new”. Continuing, the Casino was also four stories high containing rooms with private baths, a reception room and, pictured, a spacious dance and assembly hall.

Having several furnished cottages, Sperry added two new bungalows for the 1917(?) season. The Hotel could handle up to 150 guests.  The 1907 ad also referred to a new casino and assembly hall, and William Preston advertised accommodations for 125 guests.  A 1910 Fulton Chain photo guide listed room for 175 guests.

The buildings and grounds were lit by gas, included hot and cold water, spring fed water pipes, open fireplaces and sanitary plumbing. Indoor and outdoor sports were readily available; the Hotel served hunters in season.

Other amenities included dancing, daily concerts by a Hotel orchestra and vegetables from the Hotel’s garden.  Meats, fresh fruits, dairy and poultry products were received daily, perhaps from the pickle boat. The local post office was nearby, telephone and telegraph service were available, and the Hotel had a physician. Photos of building interiors and exteriors are throughout the booklet.

Above the Hotel, Eagle Bay Station is reached via the New York Central via Utica to Carter Station, then on the Raquette Lake Railway, from Old Forge by steamer through the Fulton Chain or, becoming a more popular choice, by automobile over the “new state highway” fifty miles from Utica to Old Forge, then to Eagle Bay over “an exceptionally good dirt road.”

eagle bay hotel

Dwight Bacon Sperry died on June 2, 1918, just days shy of his 58th birthday. His obituary mentioned he had been in poor health for about a year.  After a recent undisclosed failure, Sperry went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, but doctors informed him his illness was fatal. An operation could not aid him. Wanting to know the truth, they told him he may live a month or a year.

Sperry then returned home to prepare for the 1918 season, keeping a cheerful appearance outwardly. Then he suffered additional failures and was confined about 10 weeks to his bed before finally dying at the Hotel. His brother and three sisters, mentioned above, were his immediate survivors; Sperry never married.

Benjamin Franklin Sperry, Owner

At the time of Sperry’s death, his nephew Benjamin Franklin Sperry, son of David F. and Harriet Newton Sperry, became the proprietor.

According to his 1954 obituary, Ben served for years as a guide for Dr. Samuel Niccolls at Niccolls Point, First Lake. Ben and his father David Franklin were both members of the Brown’s Tract Guides Association. Ben assisted Dwight several seasons with the management of the Glenmore Hotel.  Ben Sperry became owner of the Eagle Bay Hotel property as the first choice of Dwight, per a directive in Dwight’s will, probated June 6, 1918. Clarence R. Sperry, a nephew of the first Forge House proprietor Cyrus Sanford Sperry, was the executor.

The will directed Clarence to execute a contract with Ben for the sale of the Hotel, its contents and 350 acres of land for the sum of $20,000. This amount was to be paid annually in $800 payments of principal and interest until paid in full. Amounts were to be paid to Clarence to distribute as cash among Dwight’s siblings. These conditions would be in effect for as long as Ben wanted the Hotel.

This contract was not recorded in Herkimer County records until Sperry declared bankruptcy in 1938.

As mentioned, Ben’s name began appearing in the Hotel’s ads with the 1918 season. As with his uncle, the Prestons and the Briggs and other area hotel owners, Ben included terms such as completely renovated, renovated throughout, modernized, new buildings, etc. to his ads.  Gas lighting was replaced by electricity. According to her 1973 obituary, Mabel Frenette Sperry, Ben’s wife, co-managed the Hotel.

In 1920, Ben completed a new boiler room and laundry and added two large fireplaces to the Hotel. By 1921, Ben offered a garage with separate stalls.

Another change in 1920, helped by the new road, was that improved automobile access increased the demand for private camps and shorter stays. In 1920, the Gawanka Corporation opened sites along the channel from Old Forge and at First and Second Lakes.  The new Eagle Bay Park Association, its property neighboring the Hotel, opened with a club plan for private camps.  In my opinion, these and other area seasonal opportunities began to erode the regular clientele from the Hotel and its business partners.

In September 1920 Ben partnered with Utican George G. Cunningham in buying the Schmidt’s Hotel in Daytona Florida to run as a winter “seasonal offset” to the Hotel.  The oldest hotel in Dayton, they planned to remodel and renovate it for opening that November. The report said that Cunningham had been clerk at the Hotel for some time and knew its regular clientele. It also added that several Eagle Bay Hotel guests planned to move on to Florida when the Hotel closed October 15.  When Cunningham returned from Europe in April 1918 at the end of the first World War, the report indicated he had been a manager of the Eagle Bay Hotel.

In June 1921, thirty-five regional hotel proprietors met at the Eagle Bay Hotel and formed the Central Adirondack Hotel Men’s Association. I should note that Eliza Helmer, Bertha Payne and Caroline Longstaff attended, representing the Moosehead, Camp Fulton and Camp Mohawk, respectively. No agenda was given; this was probably an organizational meeting. Roy Higby was president, Ben Sperry financial secretary and Bertha Payne, corresponding secretary.

A year later, the group formed a committee to go to Albany to kickstart the State roads project to build the constitutionally approved, but stalled, Route 25 to the region. They agreed also to promote this effort to clientele forced to cope with the existing dirt roads. Roy Higby chauffeured Governor Al Smith and Highway Commissioner Green over the much used, dirt “highway”, turning left at Eagle Bay onto the winding dirt road to a banquet at his camp in Big Moose.  The speedy, bumpy ride made quite an impression on the Governor, who pressured Green to adjust favorably the road’s priority on the County’s road projects. The highway was important to both the Eagle Bay Hotel and Big Moose resorts.

In 1923, the Association agreed to partner with the Beaver River Road Association to urge the State to build a Lowville to Beaver River Road to connect with the Moose River Road to Eagle Bay. The two groups wanted to increase access for Canadian travelers.  The Association dropped “Men’s” off its name in 1923. The annual meeting was held often at the Eagle Bay Hotel. This later joined a group that became the Central Adirondack Association, incorporated in 1930.

During the 1920s, at least two reports of Klan activities occurred near the Hotel.  In 1923, revolver shots drew the attention of Fourth Lake Hotel, cottage and camp guests towards the top of Eagle Cliff. They viewed draped figures surrounding a burning cross also witnessed by state troopers.  A year later at the same location, a Klan meeting burned a twenty-five-foot cross, seen by Hotel guests, which fell on and burned the “landmark” open camp at that point. When questioned, Ben responded with the hope they would in the future exercise caution near property. Ben Sperry printed a revised Hotel Booklet in 1931 with updated photos and text. Pictured was a seaplane parked in front of the Casino, now described as a three-story structure.  The Hotel, in addition to orchestral music and dancing, now offered movies. The Hotel remained an “exclusive” resort, accepting only “desirable” guests and excluding pulmonary patrons.

With truck transport on State roads, Ben informed travelers that fresh dairy, eggs and vegetables arrive from nearby farms. The Hotel garage serviced guests’ vehicles and sold automotive accessories. The two means of access to the Hotel and points beyond were now the new State highways. They could also arrive by Pullman busses from Utica or via the Raquette Lake Railway to Eagle Bay Station (until 1933). With the increasing popularity of winter sports on the Fulton Chain, Ben built a “fast” toboggan slide at the Hotel. This and Inlet’s slide became popular attractions.

Financial difficulties caused Ben to file for bankruptcy in July 1938. Mortgages and notes foreclosed on behalf of Ben, his brother Louis and sister Mary Sperry Young resulted in Ben’s loss of the Eagle Bay Hotel property. It is at this time that the executor Clarence Sperry 1918 deed for Dwight Sperry’s Hotel property was recorded in Herkimer County Clerk’s Office, excluding any property conveyed during that 20-year period. It became the property of bankruptcy trustee Ernest Brackett.

Brackett conveyed it to Frances M. Christy, daughter of William P. and Catherine Christy, who a month later in April 1938 transferred it to Dwight Sperry’s sister Francena Sperry Higby. At this time Ben’s wife Mabel also assigned her rights to the Hotel to Francena.

  1. (William?) J. Congdon was the manager of the Hotel in 1938, advertising “special Sunday dinners.” I could not find more than this about him. In January 1944, Francena Higby sold the remaining (from multiple prior sales to individual purchasers) Hotel property from the 1918 Dwight Sperry purchase to Elizabeth O’Leary of Hotel Alexandria, Borough of Manhattan, NY for $1500. According to the deed, the purchase was subject to multiple mortgages outstanding in excess of $20,000.

After a long-time policy of restricting patronage to desirables, the Hotel became a “haven for victims of World War II emigres…mostly Jews…crowded in the Hotel rooms.”

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Photos of the demolished city covered the August 7 newspapers. For obvious reasons, less coverage was given to the early morning August 7 fire that destroyed the Hotel.  Eagle Bay’s fire department was established soon after the fire.

The fire was discovered around 2 a.m.  The Hotel’s chef James Coswell and his assistant Clarence Moore suffered serious injuries in jumps from the upper windows. Clarence went through all the floors, waking most of the more than 170 guests who had not already fled the blaze. After going door to door, Moore found himself trapped and forced to leap from a second story window.

Ann Landsberger had read a Hotel ad in a paper favored by emigres fleeing the Nazis. A few days before the fire she and her mother-in-law arrived at the Hotel. They were two of the guests saved by Clarence. Years later she and her husband were able to provide Clarence with a new roof for his Orlando FL home. They had seen Clarence wearing an Eagle Bay Fire Department baseball cap in a courtroom photo where ownership of his home was being contested.  The cap had been a gift during a visit in 1995 from Town of Webb Historian Peg Masters fifty years after the fire.

After the fire, O’Leary sold the Hotel property to Leon Schopfer in June 1946. A major cleanup of the Hotel ruins now took place. The Schopfers rented rooms in the remaining buildings, removed the top two floors of the Casino and used these materials to build cottages for guests. The part remaining was redesigned into a one-story motel. After many other changes, the property became the Eagle Bay Villas.

The Villas were sold to Ella Cunningham in 1968, who sold it to James and Mary Evans in 1972.  Brad, Cliff, Mary and Judi Donovan purchased the Villas from Mary Evans in 1999. In 2019, the current owners, Cliff and Judi Donovan own it now as Eagle Bay Village.

Over the years, many improvements and buildings were added to the property.  The Donovans today continue the tradition of Adirondack hospitality to visitors begun by the Eagle Bay Company in 1897. Footnote numbers have been removed; I will be happy to provide any source information for this article.

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Charles Herr

Since the early 1980s when Charles Herr purchased a camp in Inlet he has been interested in the history of the Fulton Chain region of the Adirondacks. He has been contributing history articles about the times and people of the Fulton Chain, covering transportation, steamboats, hotels and most importantly, the people to the Weekly Adirondack of Old Forge since November 2006.

His ambition is to uncover local and regional Fulton Chain history about people and events prior to 1930 and little covered in the histories of the region. He is the president of the Inlet Historical Society and presents summer programs on Inlet history at the Town Hall in Arrowhead Park in Inlet, NY. His book, The Fulton Chain-Early Settlement, Roads, Steamboats, Railroads and Hotels, was published in May 2017. More information is available at www.facebook.com/herrstory .




5 Responses

  1. Tom B says:

    Thank you for the article. My family had a camp for a number of years on the South Shore Road on 4th Lake (across the road from what was the Trail House at that time). I spent many summers there before leaving for college. Although the hotel was gone by then and Eagle Bay Villas had been established, it is interesting to know the prior history and the genesis of the names of the various businesses that existed then and to this day. My mother worked at Ramblers Lodge when she was a student at RIT, which was in decline by that time.

  2. Jim Fox says:

    HOLY SMOKES Charles! The job of collecting all this documentation is nothing short of stupendous! Bravo!

    • Ray Letterman says:

      I agree with Mr. Fox, another impressive effort by Charlie Herr. Perhaps sometime Charlie will write an article that describes how he does his research. How does he keep all the information organized and accessible as he writes.

      • Charles herr says:

        I start with gathering sources: i pick a subject i am interested in and not covered extensively in recent works, or last covered over thirty years at least or covered little in existing published works. Or maybe not discussed in detail by anyone i know of.
        I contact historical societies who may have files or images about the topic. If the narrative requires property ownership, i get copies of deeds whic give the people i need to know more about, which leads to more research.
        For my book and newspaper articles, my primary sources are the online newspaper sites http://www.fultonhistory.com and http://www.nnyln.org, the articles i find i snip and paste into a word table noting the source and date, afterwards sorting these in chronological order.
        Then i connect all the dots and see if i have a story.

  3. Worth Gretter says:

    Lots of incredible historical information here!
    Researchers a hundred years from now will be thrilled to find this article…

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