Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version * * * “REWIND”
May 16, 2013
Kate Smith ‘Sells’ Lake George and the Adirondacks
Kate Smith (1907-1986), a well-known and loved singer, radio and television personality had ties to the Adirondacks. She had a summer home at Lake Placid, New York, and she admitted that she was completely “sold” on the Adirondack Mountains.
Kate’s Star On ‘Walk of Fame.’
Miss Smith’s recording, television, radio and small movie career spanned five decades. She may be best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. Other favorite songs include When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain and The White Cliffs of Dover. Smith had several variety shows on television and radio, and because of her popularity, she often was part of print advertisements of the day.
In 1939, the Bureau of State Publicity for New York State decided to use Kate Smith as a tourism tool. She was going to broadcast a program identifying the state’s important ‘destinations’ for the people coming into New York. The broadcast would come from her Lake Placid home she would interrupt her vacation. It was estimated that she would be heard by a mid-western audience of 25,000,000. This was possible because of hook-ups with stations in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Louisville. Her sole purpose in this broadcast was to accurately inform residents of the mid-west of the best possible automobile routes from their respective localities to the New York World’s Fair.
Autographed Photo of Kate.
Six routes had been planned by the bureau to move people to New York City, and on the way see some of the beauty of the state, but five of them traversed the Adirondack region. Miss Smith was known as an enthusiast of the beauty and climate of the Adirondacks, so she was the perfect person to share information about them. She did the first of many broadcasts aimed at the mid-westerners, and other notable personalities continued the broadcasts.
The Bureau of State Publicity prepared a folder that highlighted several routes into the state if one was coming to the World’s Fair. They took the liberty to suggest stops along each of the routes that the visitors should see. They were attempting to get people to come, drive, and stay a bit. They didn’t want them to drive to New York City and turn around and drive out again without seeing some of the best parts of the state.
Motor Tour #1 had people from the west enter New York via Route 20. It suggested points of interest that included Lake George, Schroon Lake, Ausable Chasm, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Whiteface Mountain.
Motor Tour #2 also had people entering the state on Route 20. Destination spots on this route included Lake George, Schroon Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Whiteface Mountain, and Old Forge.
Motor Tour #3 suggested entering the state from the west on Route 5. Points of interest were Plattsburg, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Whiteface Mountain, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Lake George.
Motor Tour #4 suggested entering the state by coming over the 1,000 Islands Bridge from Canada. Points of interest were Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Whiteface Mountain, Ticonderoga, and Lake George.
Motor Tour #5again use Route 20. Stops suggested were Lake George, Plattsburg, Saranac, Lake Placid, and Whiteface Mountain.
While it is interesting to note that each of these five routes included Lake George, knowing the area, it is difficult to see how these destinations were on the way to New York City.
During her long career, Smith lived in New York City, had a home in Virginia, and a summer home on a small island in Lake Placid, New York. After her death, Kate Smith was buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Lake Placid.
In October, 1982 Kate Smith was honored with the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom,’ America’s highest civilian honor, by President Ronald Reagan. In bestowing the honor, Reagan said, “The voice of Kate Smith is known and loved by millions of Americans, young and old. In war and peace, it has been an inspiration. Those simple but deeply moving words, ‘God Bless America,’ have taken on added meaning for all of us because of the way Kate Smith sang them. Thanks to her they have become a cherished part of all our lives, an undying reminder of the beauty, the courage and the heart of this great land of ours. In giving us a magnificent, selfless talent like Kate Smith, God has truly blessed America.” (Lake George Mirror, July 28, 1939)
Kate Smith Lake Placid Home, Camp Sunshine
Kate at the Bobsled Run in Lake Placid.
Kate Smith Driving Bobsled at Lake Placid.
- Kate Smith’s Final resting Place.
© May 16 2013, Warren County Historical Society.
This article was inspired by a story in The Lake George Mirror from July 28, 1939. The initial broadcast had yet to be performed. No follow-up articles were found.
Article prepared by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society.
Photo credits: unspecified internet sites; http://www.bunksplace.com/