It was a surprise visit, but a very welcomed one. Our governor, Andrew Cuomo, bought his fishing license at the Blue Line early yesterday morning and, as he walked out, saw the Hotel Saranac and wondered about its renovation progress ... a renovation he had a large hand in making happen. Of course, when our governor wonders, his staff quickly gets to work to make sure that wonderment is quickly put to rest, and so, at 5:30 p.m., I met The Guv with our hotel developer, Fred Roedel, and we "took the tour."
Governor Cuomo arrived in casual clothes, "zip-off-above-the-knee" microfiber pants and a long-tailed, white nylon shirt with lots of pockets. His countenance and face were very relaxed, having fished on Round Lake the afternoon hours prior, which he loves to do. However, I noticed he has aged a bit since we last met a few months ago. His hair was a touch grayer, a few more worry lines, and one could easily tell that relentlessly running a state with 20 million residents 24/7 with the high-profile pressure and demands of that responsibility in the nation's largest media market (New York City) will weary anyone.
After brief and very warm introductions that included firm handshakes and "man-hugs," The Guv told us of his morning meanderings through our downtown and how it "looked better and more alive than last year" and that the merchants told him traffic and sales were up. The Guv was pleased with these observations, having taken a special interest in our village since he first vacationed here decades ago with his younger brother Chris, to do a lot of fishing and "unwinding" on our many lakes. He developed a true love for our community then, an affection for the Adirondacks that benefits our region to this day along with the appreciation for all of the Empire State's mountains, rivers, lakes and forests.
From left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hotel Saranac Lake owner and developer Fred Roedel and Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau tour the Hotel Saranac, which the Roedel Companies are renovating.
(Photo — Janie Bevilacqua)
Fred then led the Guv's entourage through the now-re-exposed ground-floor "arcade" up to the reception room, onto the terrace, into the Ballroom and then to one of the 44 "smaller" hotel rooms that will be left "as is" to maintain their distinctive historical significance and charm.
"We'll counter the smaller size with the 'wow factor,'" said Fred as he went on to describe those components of wow. A large, well-appointed queen-sized bed with lots of pillows will be lined up against one wall - which still maintains a view of the Lake Flower and Scarface Mountain - and look directly at a huge 6-foot-by-5-foot mirror on the opposite wall - over a narrow but ample dresser - the former, with a push of button, will turn into the room's TV. Fred continued: Electrical and computer ports will be "part of the furniture" to add space and convenience; "millennial" guests will open the rooms using their smartphones having their "keys" downloaded at the front desk while Baby Boomers like me will still receive metal keys should we wish them. The bathrooms will have dramatic lighting and mirrors with accouterments oldsters like us once saw on "The Jetsons" cartoons.
Outside, the terrace will have the paint sandblasted away to expose the period limestone facade with a new, large stairway winding to the Main Street sidewalk. A large dining terrace will be added to the sunny south side with a two-level, 100-vehicle parking garage adjoining it.
The Guv and all present were impressed with the plans and the renovation progress. My partner, Janie Bevilacqua, a lifelong Saranac Lake resident whose life events revolved around the Hotel Saranac with weddings, proms, class reunions, Senior Teas and special occasions, remarked time and time again during the tour, "This is so great, Fred; way to go!" This exclamation, no doubt, reflects the delight of most everyone in the Capital of the Adirondacks and affirms their special memories of "Hot Sara."
In fact, Fred is having a special button installed at the front desk that will shut off the lights of the "E-L" and the "N-A-C" on the iconic rooftop neon sign so all who visit shall see Hot Sara's name alighted in the nighttime sky during special events.
As we walked The Guv back out the hotel to his black Suburban, manned by state troopers on Main Street headed as always by ever-affable Saranac Laker Mike Ryan - who brought his wife, son and mother-in-law to the hotel to meet The Guv - Mr. Cuomo turned to us and said, "The Hotel Saranac is a metaphor for the renaissance of the village and the state, we are bringing back the glory and vitality of our past ... but only better."