About 10 miles northwest of Saranac Lake  lies the hamlet of Paul Smiths, named after Appollos (Paul) Smith, a famed Adirondack guide who established one of the Adirondack’s first hotels here in 1859. Charles Dickens once said of Smith, “he has no bad habits, and is, withal, the best rifle shot, paddler, and compounder of forest stews in the whole region.” When Smith died in 1912, his funeral was the largest ever held in northern New York, drawing more than 700 people.
The original Paul Smiths hotel has closed, but its spirit lives on through Paul Smith’s College (Rtes. 86 and 30, 518/327-6227 or 800/421-2605, www.paulsmiths.edu ), founded by the hotelier’s son in the 1930s. The school is known for its degrees in hotel management and the culinary arts.
For an excellent introduction to the Adirondacks , step into this large and informative center (Rte. 30, 518/327-3000, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, free admission), one of two run by the Adirondack Park Agency (the second, smaller center is in Newcomb). Inside you’ll find exhibits on everything from logging camps and Trudeau’s Sanatorium to the region’s problems with over-use and acid rain.
Three different slide shows run continuously throughout the day, while information about trailhead locations and canoe routes is available on computerized touch-screen stations that provide free printouts. Out back are a butterfly house and interpretive trails leading through a 60-acre marsh.
After years of deterioration, the great camp that served as President Calvin Coolidge’s summer White House in 1926 reopened to the public in 1995 (White Pine Rd., a half mile east of the Rtes. 86/30 intersection, www.whitepinecamp.com , 518/327-3030). Built in 1907, the camp overlooks Osgood Pond and contains about 20 asymmetrical buildings complete with soaring rooflines, unusual angles, and skylights. In the main cabin, exhibits explain the site’s history and architecture, while among the surrounding outbuildings are a tennis house, indoor bowling alleys, and a Japanese teahouse. There are also six renovated guest cottages that are available for rent by the week.
Tours of the camp are offered at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays July–Labor Day (adults $9, seniors $8, kids 5–15 $5). Reservations are necessary; call Adirondack Architectural Heritage at 518/834-9328.