Historic Sleuthing: Schroon’s “Real” Ondawa Hotel

We recently featured a story about a listing from EBay featuring a 150-year-old photograph featuring the Ondawa Hotel. The listing clearly stated the photo was of the historic hotel on Main Street Schroon. The photo eventually sold for $174. Well the old saying that things aren’t always as they seem, applies here. One of a readers, Forrest Jones, raised questions about what the photo reall portrayed. From Forrest: 

“Regarding your recent post of (the) EBay sale of the photo of the Ondawa House, I wanted to mention that I believe the subject of the photograph is actually a building in Salem NY. Here is a website with a photo of the Salam Ondawa House. There was an “Ondawa House” in Schroon Lake (another magnificent old building), but it has a different roofline than the one pictured in the old photo offered on EBay."

To investigate this mystery we turned to our most trusted source on all things historically Schroon Lake: Ann Breen Metcalfe, to see if Forrest’s hunch was correct. From Ann:

“I did some limited research: There seem to have been two Ondawa hotels of the same vintage, one in Schroon Lake and  the other in Salem, NY. Checking images of the Schroon Lake Ondawa, it was a 3-story white frame building at the corner of Main St. and what is now Dock St, (except it extended over into what is now the park). The side of the hotel facing the lake had a pointed roof. The Main St. side had a porch with an overhead roof along the first floor; the side facing the lake had roof-covered porches on the first and second stories. There was an “Ondawa” sign on the side facing the lake.

"The 3-story building in Salem had roughly the same shape but there were roofed porches on the two stories facing the main street. There were prominent chimneys. There was a very large “Ondawa House” sign at the top of the building on that side. In one photo the building appears to be dark-colored; in another it looks like white painted wood. The dark building is the picture you used; it appears your correspondent is correct in thinking that is the Salem hotel. 

Some sellers of postcards do seem to have the two sites confused. In my view the existence of two covered porches and the huge sign on the front of the Salem building are what distinguish it from the one in Schroon Lake. Sources: on-line references, Gray’s Atlas, S.R. Stoddard’s “The Adirondacks Illustrated” guidebooks, Historic Map Works. old photos, old postcards."

A huge thank you to Ann! So there you have it. The Ondawa Hotel listed on EBay as being in Schroon, is in fact from Salem NY. Got an historical question about Schroon? Shoot as an email, here.