Upstate New York is home to a plethora of historical landmarks and relics of our country’s early history. These range from manmade monuments to majestic creations of mother nature, and are almost universally worth a visit if you find yourself passing through – or even anywhere remotely nearby!
One such site is the historically loaded Lake Placid. While Lake Placid is indeed a body of water, it is also the name of the small village that lives near it. With a population of just over 2,000, it might surprise you to know that Lake Placid has hosted some big time events for the state of New York, and the USA in general, in the past century.
Among its claims to fame are the two times that it has hosted the Winter Olympic Games (1932 and 1980). That’s right, the beautiful forested setting of Lake Placid attracted the attention of winter games planners not once, but twice (and it just might happen again!).
Even so, the Olympic games far from mark the beginning of Lake Placid’s beginnings as a settlement, as the town was founded in the early 1800s as “North Elba” as part of a mining operation seeking to benefit from rich iron deposits nearby. Even so, the settlement was tiny, and Lake Placid is thought to have only had six families living on site nearly into the middle of the 19th century. In 1945, however, abolitionist Gerrit Smith bound tracts of land in the area and gave them to former slave families to start their lives on.
When another prominent figure in the anti-slavery movement, John Brown, heard of this, he too moved to Lake Placid and purchased land. Be sure to visit John Brown’s farm when passing through, it’s still preserved today as the John Brown Farm State Historic Site.
North Elba wouldn’t stay quiet for long, however, as the Lake Placid Club was erected there as a vacation spot in the 1890s. Not only did this vacationing club for the wealthy attract new attention and spending from around the state, it also lent the town its official name when it incorporated as such in 1900.
By the time the early 1920s rolled around, the town boasted a ski jump, ice rink, and other cold-weather attractions, and began to build itself a reputation for snow-time recreation. In 1929, the International Olympic Committee was convinced that Lake Placid had become a hotspot (or maybe the opposite of that, ha!) for winter sports, and decided that the 1932 Winter Games would be held there.
In 1980, Lake Placid would again have the honor of hosting the games, and those attending would witness the international upset when the Soviet hockey team was defeated by the soon-to-be gold medalists ragtag US team.
If you decide to stop by, be sure to check out the bobsled run, one of just a few in the Western Hemisphere. Plus, experience the thrill of dogsled rides or, alternatively, a relaxing traipse through the snow by horse-drawn carriage. Also, if you enjoy the small town experience of Lake Placid, you will probably enjoy visiting the historic Hudson, NY area attractions as well.