During the 1870s, people couldn't wait to get to Schroon Lake.
The Leland House was one reason folks made the trip north. Thomas Leland built his three-story hotel on six acres of land and could accommodate 300 visitors to the Adirondacks.
People came for the elegance, but also appreciated the community's mountain lake - framed by earth tones of green and brown. Air was clean and crisp; pine trees everywhere provided both beauty and fragrance.
The Leland closed down - after two fires and two rebuilds - in 1952. But the people still come.
Visitors can't find a 300-room hotel in 2018, but they can book rooms at places like the Schroon Lake Place, the Schroon Lake Bed and Breakfast, Chamlar Lakefront Resort and Cottages and bunches of other places.
They can explore a short main street - actually Route 9 - that offers a modern Tops supermarket, a post office, the Irish-style pub Flanagan's, a breakfast cafe, busy restaurant, town general store and an old-fashioned theater.
I have both visited and explored. I first visited the lake in 1978, on assignment during my first year as a newspaper reporter for The Post-Star in Glens Falls.
Part of that first story was about the community's history. The town of Schroon was first settled in 1804, north of the current Schroon Lake hamlet. During the Colonial period, Schroon Lake bordered colonial New York and New France; historians say Schroon was once a battleground, and lives were lost near the cool, blue water.
I never thought about vacationing at the lake until 1992 or so, when photographer Bruce Squiers and I did another story about quiet Schroon as an alternative to busier Lake George. I started my "4B" vacations soon afterward - bicycle, books, beers and briquettes.
For me, Schroon afternoons generally include bicycle rides up scenic Route 9, to North Hudson. The peaceful rides are natural stress reducers, pedaling north on roads that become more crowded with pine trees and less crowded with cars and trucks the farther you go.
Some years, I've taken a right turn on Route 74 and wheeled over to Paradox Lake. Neither rides are long or grueling. For now, my 40-mile round trips over steep mountain hills are over.
Happy hour starts after the rides are over. Coors Light may be a "lawnmower" beer, but I find they both "taste great" and are "less filling" when I'm lake side, reading in an Adirondack chair planted on a private beach.
Cooking on the beach in a charcoal grill is another perk. At many places in town, you can start burning briquettes, walk to the nearby Tops market for grill mates, return to home base and still have to wait 15 minutes for the charcoal to turn white-hot.
Pretty soon you're cooking, as dusk and waves from the lake roll in. Citronella candles mark your place in the sand, and hopefully annoy any pain-in-the-arm mosquitoes.
The Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce can't say why mosquitoes show up. But staffers know why people do.
"It's a great summer family vacation without all the hustle and bustle of Lake George," said Nicole Howe, manager of the chamber visitor's center. "It's a close-knit community and generation upon generation have come."
All generations will see new things in Schroon Lake this summer.
"We're getting a brand new Stewart's," Howe said. "It's going up behind the old Stewart's and there are going to be three more gas pumps."
That's good news - there are few gasoline stations in Schroon Lake.
"There's a new store - Bark Eater Outfitters, where the former Ursula's was, next to Flanagan's. It's going to carry hiking apparel, T-shirts, books on the Adirondacks."
The town library has expanded, the town fountain - a landmark lit by changing colors - is in operation and the beach is open. Lifeguards begin their shifts in July; until then, swimmers are on their own.
* "We specialize in barbecue," said Marie Rice, who has owned the popular restaurant Pitkins since 1975. "We sell a lot of turkey clubs, hand-pressed burgers, we do a pork Reuben which is very popular. All our desserts are made in-house, our strawberry-rhubarb pie, chocolate cream pie, coconut cream pie."
During the summer, Pitkin's is open from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Rice knows people like the home-style dishes, but they're really in Schroon Lake to be outside.
"It's the lake," she said. "People are boating, fishing, swimming."
* The Schroon-North Hudson Historical Museum, housed in a post-Civil War home, contains vintage photographs, postcards, maps and posters of the days when the Leland House - and other grand hotels and summer camps - lined the shores of Schroon and Paradox lakes.
Visitors can also listen to tapes made by older residents or check out local military records from wars starting with the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War.
* The Adirondack General Store is located on the east side of the lake, so people have to drive or pedal to visit. Maureen and Robert Diaz are beginning their fifth summer as proprietors.
"We have breakfasts, lunch, a full deli," Diaz said. "We have a lot of home decorations, kids' toys, candy. It's just your basic general store."
The store building was built in 1855. It's easy to find - visitors just have to look for the vintage Texaco gasoline pumps outside. They no longer work, but still advertise the brand's famous "Fire Chief" and "Sky Chief" fuels.
With summer here, Diaz knows he'll see more July and August travelers.
"We'll have motorcycles and more on bicycles," he said. "We get a lot of that all summer long."
* Joe and Debbie Jones have run the Schroon Lake Place, a mini resort off Route 9 at the southern end of Schroon's commercial corridor, since 2014. Joe Jones believes people come because they enjoy Schroon's laid-back pace.
"It's not as commercial as Lake George or Saratoga," Jones said. "It's kind of quaint, nice, quiet."
No parasailing, no arcades. Jones knows some people just want to bring their bicycles, books, beers and briquettes to Schroon - even late in the season.
"They think they own the lake," Jones said. "It's like, 'It's me and the lake and nobody else.'"
Schroon Lake Facts:
* The lake is 9 miles long.
* The Adirondack Marathon, which circles the lake and concludes in downtown Schroon Lake, is held every September.
* The 1957 Warner Brothers film "Marjorie Morningstar," which starred Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly, was filmed at Schroon's former Scaroon Manor resort.
* The "Word of Life" Christian organization is headquartered in Schroon Lake.
* The Seagle Music Colony, the oldest summer singer training program in the country, has been based in Schroon Lake since 1922.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]