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Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
April 1, 2015
Towers Hall at Fort William Henry Hotel
What follows is a manuscript found in the files of the Warren County Historical Society. It was written as part of the application process to list a property on the National Register of Historic Places. The author is unknown but it is evident that he or she did their homework.
There has been some dispute as to when Towers Hall was built and it uses. With some research, I believe we now have a fairly accurate idea.
The historians of the Village and Town of Lake George and Bolton established the building period as 1850 or 1860s. Looking at its intended use, this may be 10 years early, but not totally unreasonable.
An aging and hard to read historical marker outside of Towers Hall indicates the building was used as a carriage house and also served as housing for hotel employees.
The original Fort William Henry hotel opened in 1855. It was sold in 1868 to T.Rossle& Sons who enlarged and renovated the hotel to the grand structure that we refer to as the first hotel. It is reasonable to assume that Towers Hall was built either during this renovation or shortly thereafter. Why?
In 1869 the railroad was extended to Glens Falls and began what is known as the “Golden Age of the Stage Coach.” Stage coaches of the Glens Falls Lake George Stage Coach Co. would meet all trains (up to 12 per day) and the steamboats on the lake to transport passengers to and from Lake George and Glens Falls.
Towers Hall (then known as the Carriage House)was built as part of the livery stable and was where the coaches were housed; not only private coaches for those coming to the hotel, but commercial coaches serving the entire area. Every commercial coach that came to Lake George used the Fort William Henry Hotel as the Lake George terminal. A stagecoach office was located in Towers Hall and a ticket office was located in the hotel lobby. In this regard, Towers Hall was to the stagecoach what the “Station” would become to the trains.
In 1882, the railroad line was extended to Lake George sounding the death knell for stage transportation. The Delaware & Hudson obtained exclusive rights to rail and steam companies serving Lake George and where the tracks ended their steamboat line took over.
As the 20th century began, Towers Hall was again put to use, this time as a garage for the new automobile. Automobiles were rare and to be seen in one was a mark of one’s position. A number of automobiles were available at Towers Hall for the affluent visitors who would rent a car and driver to take them on tours of the area. As cars become more popular, guests of the hotel would arrive in their own vehicles which would be stored in Towers Hall during their stay.
In 1908, the D&H Railroad purchased the Fort William Henry Hotel as the final piece of their tourism empire at Lake George. Unfortunately, the hotel burned to the ground in 1909. The D&H Railroad rebuilt the hotel, although on a more modest scale and Towers Hall continued to serve as a garage and quarters for employees.
An undated, older view of Towers Hall.
By the mid 20th century, the demographics had changed and Lake George was hosting more tourists than wealthy, long term guests. In the early to mid-1960s, Towers Hall became a theater hosting Summer Stock, bands, parties and other entertainment. It also was designated as a Civil Defense Shelter during the Cold War era. In the Towers, containers of hard candy and other items were found in 55 gallon sealed drums ready to be distributed in case of war.
Today the building is used for conference and banquet space.
Later, it primarily became storage for the hotel and remained so for a number of years. Towers Hall has again reinvented itself and opened as a banquet/conference facility hosting groups that are too large for any other facility in the region.
Due to its unique architecture, which is not duplicated anywhere in the area and perhaps the State, important place in the history of Lake George Village and its service to the travelling public in the early days of tourism, Towers Hall should be given consideration as eligible for the NYS Historic Register.
- Lake George Village Historian
- Images of America, Lake George Gale J Halm and Mary H Sharp
- History of the Fort William Henry Hotel William P Gates
- Railroad Gazette, April 24, 1908 edition
© April 1 2015, Warren County Historical Society.