LAC SARANAC – An article called Saranac Lake the city with the highest concentration of historic places in America.
The article, published in 24/7 Wall St., a financial news outlet, was written by co-founder and editor Douglas McIntyre. He sought to find the US city with the highest concentration of historic places using 2021 data from the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. McIntyre wrote that cities were ranked based on the percentage of historic places on the register compared to all structures in the city.
“We weren’t surprised” Amy Catania, executive director of Saranac Lake, said. “But we were happy to just be recognized.”
HSL’s goal has never been to be at the top of the list, but to stress the importance of taking care of these old buildings, Catania said. Architectural preservation was the reason Historic Saranac Lake got started in the first place. She considers one of the organization’s greatest accomplishments its prolific designation of historic sites.
Listing these properties as historic places was one of the first actions of its founding members.
Lake Saranac reached the top due to its small size and the high number of historic buildings.
According to 24/7 Wall Street data, one in 45 structures in Lake Saranac is historic, 71 in total.
But Catania said the number 71 is actually probably a low number. His estimates have around 230 individual historic structures in the village. The article may have counted historic neighborhoods instead of individual structures, she said.
Where are the historic buildings?
Since 1983, dozens of buildings, homes and facilities in Saranac Lake have been considered historic for a variety of reasons. The first listed historic site, the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital in 1983, was named to save the building. The hospital was built in 1928 as a place to stay for vaudeville artists and performers while they were suffering from the effects of tuberculosis.
The facility has been restored and is now the village of Saranac in Will Rogers, a independent living community for seniors.
The latest landmark record was the Saranac Hotel in 2019, a year after it reopened to the public following a $ 35 million restoration effort.
The majority of the historic buildings in Saranac Lake are linked to the village’s history as a center for tuberculosis treatment, research and recovery.
“Most of the houses and buildings listed in the national register are there because of their link with tuberculosis”, said Catania.
She said the village of Saranac Lake grew to the size it is today because of tuberculosis. It was a popular place for city dwellers to retreat when they contracted the disease, and the fresh, clean mountain air was believed to have medicinal qualities for people with tuberculosis. While it was not the “to cure,” it didn’t hurt.
A survey of HSL homes in the 1980s found around 900 spa cabins in the village, she said.
These homes are identifiable because of their spacious porches where people with TB would sit outside in the cold for hours and breathe in the fresh air.
Catania also said that the many historic buildings in the city center were born out of tuberculosis money.
She said downtown is a “Impressive area” and it is rare that so many historic commercial buildings exist in a city with a population of around 5,000.
What is a historical designation used for?
When a building is considered a historic place by the government, it is eligible for federal and state tax credits for maintenance and rehabilitation.
“We would like to see people use it more” said Catania.
She used tax credits for her own home.
Catania said people can call HSL to find out if their home is eligible for these tax credits. She said there are no restrictions on renovations due to this designation, but added that there are practical reasons for keeping the traditional look and construction of a home for homeowners.
Catania said this article comes at a good time of the year. This is a time when people are thinking about doing some work on their homes and it is good to keep these tax credits in mind.