Tag Archives: Saranac Lake

Robert Louis Stevenson at Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake

When we were at Saranac Lake last fall on our Adirondack holiday I was surprised to learn that Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish writer known for his adventure stories such as Treasure Island, had spent some time there, from 1887-1888, for his health. While we were in the Adirondacks I picked up “The Adirondack Reader,” which has selections of letters from Robert Louis Stevenson, his mother Margaret Balfour Stevenson, and a memoir by his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. Coincidentally, as I was reading these writings, I was reading the historical novel about the love story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny. Reading this wonderful novel, “Under the wide and starry sky,” by Nancy Horan, brought to life even more the excerpts from “The Adirondack Reader,” regarding this famous author and his family, especially their time in upstate New York.

I love this kind of confluence, of mixing a place with fact and fiction, to make for a richer understanding of a time and place, and the characters which populate them. I only wish we could have visited the Robert Louis Stevenson cottage, but next time!

Adirondack libraries

A recent vacation in the Adirondack mountains of New York found us, as usual, visiting libraries.

Some we only saw from the outside: the lovely stone library in Brandt Lake is no longer used as a library, but offers a picturesque photo opportunity.

Adirondack libraries - Brandt Lake

Lake Placid’s library was located on the main street, and offered a box of “free” stuff on the porch steps.

Adirondack libraries - Lake Placid

Raquette Lake’s library had steps from the water and tucked in a grove of trees.

Adirondack libraries - Raquette Lake

But some libraries we were able to visit inside. One was the Adirondack Museum’s library.  Yes, the museum had closed for the season a month earlier, but thanks to a brilliant tip from a friend, I had previously e-mailed the librarian, Dr. Jerold Pepper, to ask for a tour. Jerry not only showed us his wonderful library full of great books and fabulous manuscripts, highlighting such characters as Winslow Homer and the Roosevelts, but he also gave us a behind the scenes tour of the closed exhibits, including boats, carriages, and sleds. There are some interesting commonalities between Maine and the Adirondacks, including history and art. (Both Rockwell Kent and Winslow Homer spent time in Maine and the Adirondacks). We also enjoyed Jerry’s perspective on life in that region, an area “forever wild.”

We also stopped into The William Chapman White Memorial Room/Adirondack Research Center in the basement of the Saranac Lake Free Library, and chatted with the slightly overwhelmed looking librarian, who was cataloging tuberculosis patient cards. Saranac Lake was known as “the Western Hemisphere’s foremost center for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis,” from the 1890s through 1950s.

Adirondack libraries - Saranac Lake

Both libraries gave us a glimpse into the history of the area. Visiting libraries on vacation can be a great opportunity to get a flavor of the community, whether exploring exhibits or meeting people in the community, including visitors who come to our own island library.