Aiden Lair; The First Stop in a Remarkable Presidency

Teddy Roosevelt slept here. Or might have were he not the home-schooled, mountain-climbing, really-big-game-hunting, rough-riding-war-hero and boxer of a man he turned out to be. “Sleep when you die,” you can almost hear him bellowing. “I’m pressing on.”

Despite that missed opportunity, Roosevelt’s arrival at Aiden Lair makes the lodge’s present condition all the more lamentable.

The scene was New York’s Adirondack Mountains, September 1901. Assured that President William McKinley was recovering swimmingly after being shot in Buffalo, Vice President Roosevelt and family opted for a little R&R deep in the Empire State’s North Country. Among TR’s planned activities was nothing too taxing, mind you, only climbing the state’s highest peak, the 5,343-foot Mount Marcy.

Aiden Lair 3     Aiden Lair 6

After knocking out that molehill with a day hike, Roosevelt paused on the mountainside to enjoy what any red-blooded American would after such an accomplishment: a tin of ox tongue. That’s when a messenger on foot delivered the news that McKinley wasn’t doing so hot after all. The president was alive, but barely. Roosevelt set off at once for Buffalo where McKinley lay dying.

At Tahawus Lodge, where the Roosevelts had been staying, TR and a driver set off in an open buckboard wagon for the nearest train station, sixteen miles south along rutted, muddy roads. That journey required two legs with a pause in the middle to switch out the exhausted horses with fresh ones.

Somewhere along that first leg, the clock struck 2:15 a.m., and 250 miles southwest of that bumpy wagon ride, McKinley expired.

When Theodore Roosevelt showed up at Aiden Lair an hour later, he was President of the United States, leader of the free world. There was no entourage, no “How do you do, Mr. President?,” no bands playing “Hail to the Chief.” In fact, even though word of McKinley’s death had reached Aiden Lair by then, no one told Roosevelt. They thought he had enough on his mind already. Still, that brief layover was remarkable.

Aiden Lair 1      Aiden Lair 13

Roosevelt’s first act as president was a pit stop at Aiden Lair, a humble country lodge deep in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. He stretched his legs, no doubt glad to be rid of the constant jostling for a spell. Those who greeted him urged him to stay. The night was pitch black, the roads near impassable. Dawn would break soon, they told him. Take a load off until then.

But the unsuspecting president would have none of it. The new team hitched up, Roosevelt and Aiden Lair proprietor Michael Cronin pressed on into the morning’s small hours, seven-and-a-half-miles south. There Roosevelt discovered his status and boarded a train, bound for Buffalo and the oath of office.

Aiden Lair’s brush with fate did little for its prosperity. Michael Cronin was hospitalized for personal issues, which an April 1914 New York Tribune article none-too-subtly announced with the headline “Roosevelt Guide Crazy.” The lodge burned a month later. Cronin’s family rebuilt Aiden Lair, but without his help. Michael Cronin, TR’s first presidential chauffeur, died soon afterward.

Aiden Lair soldiered on as a mountain lodge until the late 1950s. It has has been deteriorating ever since.

We don’t need to save every single spot where some famous character sneezed. Otherwise you get those laughable cliches like “George Washington slept here.” But that discretion will never completely salve the sting that results when unlikely places put on the map by quirks of historical circumstance pass into oblivion.

(Here is a link to Aiden Lair’s location on Google Maps.)

Aiden Lair 12      Aiden Lair 2

Aiden Lair 7      Aiden Lair 9

       
Aiden Lair 11      Aiden Lair 10

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About Ben Swenson

Ben lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is writing a book on places of historic value that have been forgotten and are being reclaimed by nature. Abandoned Country is a companion blog to that project. You can contact him at benswenson@cox.net
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5 Responses to Aiden Lair; The First Stop in a Remarkable Presidency

  1. Rich Feldman says:

    I stopped at Aiden Lair yesterday, July 14, 2015, just barely detecting the rusted historical marker as I was returning home from a canoe trip. I did not know of this place before so I was shocked by the condition of both the marker and the building, given its significance. I suppose the state is not going to make the marker more conspicuous, e.g. the standard bright blue and yellow paint, if they do not want to draw attention to the dilapidated structure.
    Thank you for providing background. I had known the overall story but not the details about TR’s route.

  2. Mkd says:

    The state or Adirondack Park association should do something to try and restore this historical building. It is such a shame to see it deteriorate so badly. It is historical and from one of our presidents’. Why can’t it be in the state registry and be kept up? Otherwise take the building down and leave the historical sign.
    I would love to show my kids the site but it is such disrepair.

  3. russell g shearman says:

    Went past it today and remember the historical marker, now nowhere to be seen. Too bad it is not at least marked. Also I see no mention of his driver, a Mr. Kellogg from N. Creek,m whose descendants still live there. Building is in very poor repair and looks like it had a fire.

  4. L. A, Livingston says:

    I am not in favor of restoring the Buildings, however, restoring the sign would be a tribute to the history New York and its importance to our great nations history. I spent many years hunting that area of the Adirondacks enjoying every minute of its beauty. I have fond memories of me and my Dad going to Aiden Lair area every weekend to hunt and enjoy the woods and the beautiful mountains.

  5. Mark Steckloff says:

    From 1959-1970, as a young summer camper and counselor at beautiful nearby Balfour Lake, I used to visit this structure and marker repeatedly. We all knew the basic story of TR’s mid-night dash from the marker. By the early 60’s, it was already quite dilapidated, but the historical marker was in good condition and stood proud. The “urban” legend at the time was that a hermit lived there, so little kids should not linger. I last saw the Aiden Lair in June 2014; even the marker appeared run-down and was difficult to spot.

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