Kenneth (kensmind) wrote in potus_geeks,

Summer White Houses: William McKinley and the Hotel Champlain

During the summers of 1897 and 1899, the Hotel Champlain served as his "Summer White House". The hotel first opened in 1890, just outside the New York town of Plattsburgh. The hotel was described as follows in the book "Past and Present of Plattsburgh: Romantic History of a Prosperous Village":

"The scenery is magnificent. The hotel is 400 feet long, seventy-five feet wide and has three towers, the top of the central tower being 125 feet from the ground. The hotel is fitted with all modern conveniences and is a delightful summer-resort."

The hotel was able to accommodate 400 guests. According to author Kelly M. Julian in the book "Plattsburgh", the hotel "was quite luxurious, with a railroad station, and a pier, parks, lawns, and paths on the grounds. Guests also had access to tennis courts, golf, a bowling alley and the 'Beach of the Singing Sands' which boasted a 100 foot pier, a dock house and a beach house with space to accommodate 50 boats or more." Other notable guests included members of the Astor and Vanderbilt families and baseball player Babe Ruth.

The hotel was located approximately four miles south of Plattsburgh on Bluff Point. (It is now the site of Clinton Community College.) It was built intended to be the "hotel of hotels" by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Company. The land's original owner, Smith M. Weed, purchased it with the intention to build a private residence but later decided a hotel would be better suited there.

The hotel—400 feet long and 75 feet wide with 3 towers. It had 500 rooms, a ballroom, a billiard room, several dining rooms, a bar, and a children's playroom. After its second season, an annex was added, creating 100 more rooms.

McKinley brought along staffers who kept regular work hours during their visit. The hotel served not only as a retreat for the President, but also as a place of rest for First Lady Ida McKinley who was ill and was believed to be suffering from epilepsy. It is said that Mrs. McKinley found the hotel a place of restoration and rest. She is reported to have said, on her arrival at the hotel on the first occasion, "Oh, how beautiful everything is!"

McKinley and his wife spent two summers there: 1897 and 1899. The McKinleys believed that the hotel's water had beneficial effects on their health. Subsequent historians question the wisdom of this decision. A document provided to the Assembly of New York later attributed a typhoid outbreak amongst hotel staff to the unsanitary properties of the water.
Tags: william mckinley
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