Warren County Historical Society
The Digital Version “REWIND”
November 1, 2016
Guest Register at the
Island Harbor House has
Stories to Tell
Perhaps one of the most picturesque and famous hotels on Lake George was the Island Harbor House. The hotel was built by Albert Clifton in 1883. After 50 years, the hotel was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of September 28, 1933.
The Hague Historical Museum is fortunate to have the guest register of the hotel. It is interesting to note the visitors at the Island Harbor House when it first opened. Noted Adirondack photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard, stayed there several times. Folks traveled to the hotel from as far away as Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, as well as from around the northeast. They even hosted a guest from England.
A frequent visitor to the Island Harbor House in the 1880s was J. Buchanan Henry. He was the adopted nephew of U.S. President James Buchanan, 15th president of the United States who served from 1858-1861
Henry was educated at Princeton and studied law in Philadelphia. He served as secretary to the President Buchanan and was the first person to hold that position who was paid by the government. Prior to Henry, each president paid the wages of his private secretaries out of his own pocket. Some of Henry’s duties included drawing the President’s salary and paying all of the bills.
Following the two-year stint as Buchanan’s secretary, Henry practiced law in New York City. Mr. Henry apparently developed an affinity for Lake George, coming often to Hague, but he was also the joint owner of Green Island – the site of the Sagamore Hotel – which he bought in 1855 and sold at a handsome profit in the 1880s.
A July 20, 1888 entry in the Island Harbor House guest register paints a colorful picture:
“A grand parade of boats towed by the steam yacht of Mr. J. Buchanan Henry. The afternoon was spent by a trip up the lake as far as the Steam Boat Landing where a boat containing Mr. and Mrs. Aldrich was added to the line, and then to the east shore of the lake and down as far as Rogers Slide, from there returning to Island Harbor. The ladies were mostly on the Yacht and the balance of the party was in the small boats. On returning to the dock three cheers were proposed and given heartily to Mr. Henry for the pleasure afforded.”
The Henry clan continued to summer in one of the Island Harbor cottages for many years.
Many of the guest came for the great fishing. The register has entries stating, “70 pounds of trout” and in May of 1885, two gentlemen from Shoreham, Vermont, pulled in 54 pounds of trout, “despite the bad weather.”
In May of 1887, five fishermen stayed for 3 ½ days and caught 50 fish between them that weighed in at 176 pounds. Forrest Lee of Ticonderoga wrote in the register that he, “caught today five trout one weighing 12 ¾ pounds.
It’s no wonder that trout dinners at Hague’s hotels were so customary!
The material for this article was taken from articles originally written by Pat McDonough, former president of Hague Historical Society. The articles originally appeared in The Hague Chronicle in 2011.