Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adirondack Attic: Tupper Lake porter’s cap from the Hotel Altamont

(Editor’s Note: The following is a sample of an “Adirondack Attic” story, by Andy Flynn, originally published in newspapers in 2006 and re-printed in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 4.” See a photo of the artifact on the cover of the book.)

Tupper Lake had its own share of main street hotels, but one stood out among the rest: the namesake of the town, the Hotel Altamont. Until July 2004, the village of Tupper Lake was located in the Franklin County town of Altamont. Today it’s the town of Tupper Lake. The Hotel Altamont was located on the corner of Park Street and Wawbeek Avenue, where the Adirondack Medical Center’s physical therapy building is currently located. Earlier, it was the Rite-Aid and, before moving to Demars Boulevard, the Grand Union.

The late Tupper Lake historian Louis Simmons summed up the Hotel Altamont’s impact on the community in his book, “Mostly Spruce and Hemlock,” lamenting the days when it was pillaged for scrap and torn down in 1957: “Hotel Altamont was a ‘fixture’ and a landmark among Tupper Lake commercial properties since 1890, and its passing left a gap in Park St. to old timers which nothing can ever quite fill.”

One of the Tupper Lake businessmen who made his own memories at the Hotel Altamont, by working there as a teenager, was Marcel V. Richer (1920-1994), a former village mayor known mostly for operating the Richer Funeral Home at 29 Park St., one block away from the hotel. Richer donated a Hotel Altamont porter’s cap to the Adirondack Museum in April 1975.

The cap is navy blue, and the name of the hotel is embroidered with gold thread lettering on the crown. It has a black leather visor and a strap attached at each end with a brass button. There are two air openings on each side of the crown and a 1.5-inch strip of heavy ribbon. Inside, there is black lining, a trademark and a leather band. This cap is size 6, a small size for a man’s head. That’s because it is believed that Richer wore it while he was a porter/bell hop for the Hotel Altamont when he was a teenager. That would date the cap to the early 1930s.

The Hotel Altamont was the second hotel within the current Tupper Lake village limits. John H. and Thomas L. Weir built the three-story structure in 1890, the same year that the town of Altamont was formed, and opened it on New Year’s Day in 1891.

(Read more about this porter's cap in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 4.” Buy the book at the Hungry Bear Publishing Book Store. $18.00)

Copyright 2006 Andy Flynn/Hungry Bear Publishing

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