At Home in the Adirondacks 2012
The remarkable comeback of a historic Lake Placid lodge
by Grace Per Lee
Mary Pat Ormsby had always dreamed of reviving the Stagecoach Inn. She grew up just blocks away, and has fond childhood memories of playing games of hide-and-seek in the house and tromping through the woods just behind it. She and her brother caught ﬁsh in the pond next door, before the old dam on the brook was removed. Ormsby grew to love the timeworn building and its rambling warrens of small rooms, but most of all she loved the stories that came with it—and as the oldest standing building in Lake Placid, it came with quite a few.
The Stagecoach began its life as a family home in the early 1800s. Sometime before 1833 Iddo Osgood turned it into North Elba’s ﬁrst lodging for travelers. In 1849 the addition of a post ofﬁce increased the inn’s proﬁle, and it later served the Elizabethtown–Harrietstown stagecoach line along Old Military Road.
When a tavern was added, it became a gathering place for locals, who would mingle with the out-of-towners brought in by the coaches. John Brown’s homestead was nearby, and it’s conjectured that radicals on their way to consult with the famous abolitionist would have stayed at the inn. Of course, dialogues of a more casual nature must have been common as well. In the Lake Placid history The Plains of Abraham, a fellow Lake Placid hotelier, John Stevens, described the 1870s scene at the Lyons Inn, as the Stagecoach was then known: “Here elections were held, people gathered for sport and horse trading, drank hard cider and sometimes other liquids of a more stimulating character.” By then the place was gaining popularity with highfalutin “rusticators” escaping New York City.
The building would change hands many times over the ensuing decades, sometimes serving as a private estate—at one point it was owned by Melvil Dewey; at another, by Syracuse University chancellor James R. Day. In 1977 the Moreau family purchased the place as a bed-and-breakfast, made some improvements, and for a while it was again a stylish place to stay—close to the Olympic Center, yet still on the edge of the woods. In 2002 an electrical ﬁre ravaged the building, and it was thought to be a total loss. As the Moreaus pondered their options, the burned roof of the once-great inn crumbled in on itself and the structure was left open to the elements.
Mary Pat Ormsby was devastated. She was running a thriving antique business in Lake Placid, but still dreamed of buying the old building and returning it to its former glory as an inn. In 2005, while driving past the burned house with her husband, Tony Carlino, she shared her vision with him. Carlino called the owner, and they arranged for a viewing that day. “It was just heartbreaking,” remembers Ormsby. “We walked in and it was like Dr. Zhivago. There was ice and snow everywhere. You could see that the ﬂoor had buckled maybe three feet high in some places. Still … it had good bones.”
Though they did not own the place, Ormsby and Carlino immediately did what they could to prevent further damage. The pair brought in tarps to patch holes in the roof and wrapped the wooden banisters and mantels in sheets of plastic. They made an offer on the inn, though they doubted it would be accepted. To their amazement, it was. After sitting vacant nearly three years, the Stagecoach was theirs.
An almost four-year intensive gut rehab began. The couple came after work to do what they could a little at a time, eventually selling their own house to help ﬁnance the project, and moving to the inn. Wherever possible, they restored original materials. The maple ﬂooring throughout most of the rooms was removed, pressed back into shape, then reinstalled and reﬁnished. The original paper-shade chandelier was resurrected through careful mending, cleaning and restoration. The yellow-birch mantels and staircase banisters were unsheathed and slowly brought back to their original glow.
Some of the house had been mercifully spared: the stone hearths throughout, the grand wooden staircase that wraps around the great room, even a large stained-glass piece featuring a stagecoach and Adirondack scene. Many of the old wavy glass windows remain as well. And the scale of the building hasn’t changed: its smaller doors, lower ceilings, and narrow hallways lend the inn an intimate feel.
Where materials were unsalvageable, Ormsby was adamant about staying as close to the original as possible. When it came to replacing the damaged wood paneling, she took a sample to a lumberyard in Plattsburgh, which sourced the wood from Washington State, to match the Douglas ﬁr. Each piece of the wood was cut to the same speciﬁcations and then hand-stained, sometimes multiple times, to match the originals.
“I have to give a lot of credit to [carpenter] Tim Traynor,” says Ormsby. “Nothing was plumb; nothing was regular; every inch of this project was a custom job.” The inn’s not-quite-square lines and architectural relics are a large part of its charm. In one corner the old lead pipes jut down from the ceiling at an angle, though they were decommissioned long ago and new plumbing was installed.
Ormsby is an avid collector, and her barn out back is overﬂowing with the pieces she hasn’t yet found a home for. Inside the inn a small brass doe sculpture sits beneath a paper-shaded lamp, which casts amber light on the bookcase nearby; antique snowshoes rest against a set of antlers. In each of the seven bedrooms, handcrafted and carefully chosen furniture, bedding and ornaments complete the sense of being hosted in a grand camp of yesteryear. Even the bright red Westport chairs on the wraparound porch are based on a single antique passed down in Ormsby’s family and recreated by carpenter Bob Blake. It’s these personal touches in combination with the incredible original architecture that give the Stagecoach its Adirondack style.
Evenings at the Stagecoach are once again a time for gathering—of hotel guests as well as Ormsby and Carlino’s many local friends and family. As manager of the nearby Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg and the Olympic Jumping Complex, Carlino often plays host to international athletes who’ve come to experience the world-class facilities. On any given night, you may chat with visitors from Vancouver, swap jokes with a neighbor or throw back shots of vodka with the Russian bobsled team. You can count on being presented with Ormsby’s famously decadent platter of cheeses, which she selects from local dealers and Vermont.
Ormsby and Carlino’s loving restoration and the building’s historical details are impressive, but their ability to recreate the spirit of the old coach stop in a completely authentic way is what truly makes the Stagecoach Inn a special place.
The Stagecoach Inn is at 3 Stage Coach Way, in Lake Placid (518-523-9698, www.lakeplacidstagecoachinn.com).