Steamboats and Tourism
The Rise of Grand Hotels
In 1820, New York businessman William Ferris Pell purchased the 546-acre property near Ticonderoga that encompassed the ruins of the famous Fort Ticonderoga. He constructed a large home, the Pavilion, on the property. In 1839 the Pavilion, began to be used as a hotel, a function it fulfilled until the early 20th century.
Pell was quick to realize the value of tourism as eager visitors traveled up Lake George via steamboat. Because of its strategic location at the southern portion of Lake Champlain and the northernmost part of Lake George, this location became a transfer point for travelers heading on to point south or north.
Early Stereoscopic view depicting the ruins at Fort Ticonderoga, NY
This was one of the first "tourist destinations" along the lake, as hundreds of visitors came to view the ruins of the historic fort. The Pavilion Hotel provided rooms and meals and was easily accessed via its own steamboat dock.
Great hotels and resorts such as Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont and The Hotel Champlain at Bluff Point were often celebrated as the most luxurious lodgings of the day.
Built in 1888, the Hotel Champlain had a capacity of 400 people, and included a large barroom, a children's playroom, servants' quarters, three elevators, a billiard hall, a cafe, a spacious ballroom and wine rooms. There were also seven cottages on the grounds, which housed additional guests.
Nicknamed the "Queen of American Lakes," Lake George attracts visitors drawn by its natural beauty.
In 1817, the Lake George Steamboat Company began operations, and continues to this day.
In 1783 George Washington was among the earliest "tourists" to visit the region. Thomas Jefferson & James Madison followed in 1791, enjoying the lake and the natural and majestic beauty of the surrounding mountains and visiting the forts.
The advent of steamboats opened a portal for tourism in Lake George. With easier access to the waterways, wealthy vacationers built summer homes and resorts along the shoreline.