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April 7, 2013

A birthplace celebrates 100 years

SARANAC LAKE — When bricks and mortar stand for a century, what they keep isn’t just held by design in sticks and stones.

There is transience in usable space; marks left from previous use and near constant recollection in community.

The old building drew from a lot of voices when Hodson Hall turned 100 on March 11.

Built in 1913 as the General Hospital of Saranac Lake, the three-storied structure is now the administrative complex at North Country Community College. 

People born there came for cake and ice cream last month to commemorate with people who teach and learn there now. For some, their workplace is also their birthplace.

The centennial celebration was put together by Dr. Steve Tyrell, NCCC’s president, and Amy Catania, the director of Historic Saranac Lake.

A tour through zigzagging halls, where floorboards beneath worn carpet creak of wooden joints, uncovered layers of regeneration.

“I was born here,” NCCC’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Chapin said with a shrug.

In fact, his current office is the former maternity ward, which was added onto the original building in 1923.

“I don’t remember that day,” Chapin admitted.

But outside his office door, across the hall is the old “nursery,” reused today as administrative offices.

Two windows in the hallway reveal the room’s former function — the windows, now curtained by overlapping college notices, were once where fathers and family members stood for a first glimpse at newborn children.

“Now the bills are born in Bill’s office,” Tyrell quipped.

KEEPING HISTORY ALIVE

Phil Gallos is a founder of Historic Saranac Lake and also a clerk of collections at the college library. He wasn’t born here, but many of his childhood friends were.

“I find it personally gratifying that a building which had served the community for so long as a health-care facility continues to serve the community as a facility dedicated in part to the education of health-care workers,” he said, marking Hodson Hall’s centennial.

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