The Columbian Hotel at Thousand Island Park
In June of 1892, the Columbian Hotel in the Thousand Island Park would replace the island’s eponymously-named hotel which sat in the location and burned to the ground in 1890.
The Watertown Re-Union would report on June 22 of the Columbian Hotel opening—
The new Columbian Hotel at the Thousand Island Park far surpasses the old hostelry which was burned in 1890. It contains upwards of 200 rooms.The dining room and parlors are large and handsomely appointed. The ceilings throughout are of steel and the building is thoroughly equipped with fire escapes. The wide verandas afford fine opportunities for promenading. The sanitary arrangements are as perfect as science can make them.
The house is fitted up with 400 electric lights and with steam heating apparatus. The Columbian has been leased for a term of years by Messrs. Inglehart & Hadcock, of Watertown. Mr. Inglehart made a success of the Westminster Park Hotel at a time when poor management had wellnigh destroyed the business. He will still retain the Westminster and also the hotel at Central Park.
Located inland on the Thousand Island Park of Wellesley Island, the Columbian Hotel wasn’t too far from the Pullman House located on Pullman Island, the small island off of Grenell Island. The Frontenac Hotel, on Round Island off the coast of Clayton, N.Y., was a short boat-ride away. Both of these hotels, along with the Thousand Island Park Hotel and, eventually the Columbian in 1912, would meet very similar fates having been destroyed by fire.
Despite the precautions taken to avoid another catastrophic fire, a combination of hot, dry weather, insufficient equipment and a closely packed community on the island with limited water resources turned into one of the biggest conflagrations in the area’s history in July of 1912.
Along with the hotel, seven business buildings, three schools, a chapel and a total of 98 cottages burned to the ground leaving approximately 500 people temporarily homeless.
The July 10th edition of the Watertown Daily Times would chronicle the destruction–
Thousand Island Park, July 10 – It was estimated today that the property loss in the fire which swept Thousand Island Park yesterday afternoon will be about $500,00, about half covered with insurance. A total of 101 buildings were burned, including the general store, Columbian Hotel, smaller buildings on the hotel property, such as the laundry, lighting plant, etc. There were a toal of 110 buildings in the immediate vicinity of the fire, but nine of them were saved.
But a mass of smoldering ruins is all that remains this morning of the magnificent Hotel Columbian: a vacant space, scorched and charred, covered with debris, all that is left of the collection of cottages, which were but a day before the pride of Northern New York. The guests of the Columbian and the occupants of the destroyed cottages spent the night, some at the Wellesley, or at the other cottages of the resort. Many left for other points along the river. Most are making plans to return home this week.
Hotel Columbian A Fine Building
Was Surrounded by Many Shade Trees Now Gone Forever.
Thousand Island Park, July 10– The Hotel Columbian was visited by fire once before about 20 years ago. The place was entirely ruined, but besides the loss of the hotel, little other damage was done. The new Columbian, which was destroyed yesterday, was a magnificent structure. There were five stories and accommodations for over 250 guests. A large porch surrounded the entire structure and one of the finest views and the most refreshing breezes could be secured there. The hotel overlooked a beautiful lawn, dotted here and there with the finest of shade trees. Today the lawn is charred. The trees, so tall and stately, hang their withered heads. The leaves are gone.
The fire on July 10, 1912 marked yet another major loss of grandiosity built during the Gilded Age which stretched from approximately 1870 – 1900. Unfortunately, it was, at least, the third major conflagration to destroy a major hotel in the area within a decade. The losses amounted were great and, in their own way, marked the end of an era as fewer, large scale hotels would be built over the course of the decades to come.
Below is a 8mm color film from c. 1950 of the Thousand Island Park with some interesting history. Video: Tom French.