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Saranac Lake: At The Heart of Adirondack Healing

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Edward TrudeauSaranac Lake is a village long steeped in history, but of its many historical aspects, perhaps most intriguing is its connection to the healing arts. This connection dates back to 1872, when Edward Trudeau, a physician from New York City, arrived at nearby Paul Smith’s Hotel to treat an ailing case of tuberculosis, one that happened to be his own. The area had long been a favorite hunting ground for Trudeau, and as was par for the course at the time with these types of ailments, Trudeau was advised to seek a change of climate to help him heal.

Despite dismal expectations, the mountain air did its job, and within a few years the doctor had regained his health. After repeated attempts to return home to New York City, each of which was met with a resurgence of failing health, Trudeau permanently relocated to Saranac Lake in 1876. In 1884, he opened the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, to provide his patients with the same type of cure he had done for himself—the climate cure—and later to extensively research the disease and treat those who suffered from tuberculosis.

These “cure cottages,” as they came to be known, were open to everyone, regardless of their position or economic stature. One of the most famous visitors to the cottages was Robert Louis Stevenson, who arrived in 1887, after having suffered a lifetime of ill-health. At the time his illness was believed to be tuberculosis. Stevenson had heard of Trudeau’s sanitarium. Like Trudeau, he’d been advised to seek a change of climate. Stevenson spent a year in Saranac Lake, living in a cottage at 44 Stevenson Lane, a site that has since been made into the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage & Museum.

During the 1890s, tuberculosis became the area’s principal source of income and remained that way for many years. Visiting the area now, you’ll find many remnants of this part of the village’s past. Saranac Lake’s Historical Society, for one, is housed in Trudeau’s former Saranac Laboratory—attesting to the integral role these cure cottages and Trudeau’s extensive research played in the village’s development.

Saranac Lake Tuesday Wellness TourToday, Saranac Lake continues its longstanding tradition of the healing arts through the many healers that continue to work and reside in the area. These healing artists offer a variety of services both unique and informative. We recently had a chance to visit with some of them and sample their talents during one of the Tuesday Wellness Tours.

I can honestly say it never occurred to me that you could get a massage on a lake, let alone on a pontoon boat, mind you, but in Saranac Lake it’s possible. Needless to say, the experience is a pretty incredible one–one need only imagine what it would be like, lying amidst one of nature’s most intimate landscapes, sun beating down, aiding in your relaxation, as expert hands knead away the day’s (or week’s, or perhaps even month’s) tensions. Everyone should have this experience at least once in a lifetime. The man behind this ingenious idea is Dan Sullivan, an amiable, knowledgeable fellow, who’s family has long been ingrained in the Saranac Lake community, and as a result, he can give you a good dose of history on the area as well.

Then there’s the AMWand—another thing I had never come across before. But according to the two healers we met who use this wand as part of their practice (Todd Cunningham and Deanna Courtney), the AMWand actually aids your body in reaching something called zero point energy, which is actually the point of balance we all want to be at so that we can properly function and heal. It also apparently energizes and cleanses water. Whether it really does this or not, I can’t say, but I can say my water did taste differently after they used the AMWand on it. Their work appears to be successful though, as we met one of Todd’s clients, who through working with him, had already lost a few hundred pounds.

Due to its history (and perhaps there really is something to that Saranac Lake air), the village attracts many interesting and innovative healing artists. Some do “Life Wheels” (like Jane Bickford), some work with Reiki (Patricia Lee Jones), some do meditation inside a labyrinth (Tom Phillips), and you can also find healers here who do your more usual forms of healing, like massage, yoga instruction and reflexology. But these are all skilled and knowledgeable professionals, and if you’re in search of the true heart of Adirondack healing, I’m pretty sure that this is where you’ll find it.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Saranac Lake’s healing arts community and viewing a sampling of what they have to offer, you can visit Their contact information is also listed on the aforementioned page.

–Monica Sirignano is Co-Publisher of The Free George.

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