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Bringing Back the Historic Hotel Saranac

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Bringing a hotel back to life isn’t easy. Especially if it’s been closed for an extended period.  Plus, ensuring the property meets the needs of the current guests while still honoring its legacy is a hearty challenge. Enter Sue Pollio, RSJ Associates, LLC, President and Founder, and an owner tasked with reinventing the Hotel Saranac, which originally debuted in 1927. Now $30 million and three years later, Pollio shares with Samuelson Furniture what the experience was like regarding her role as the project’s interior designer and procurement pro.

Vintage Photograph of the Hotel Saranac

Interview with Sue Pollio, President and Founder

RSJ Associates, LLC

What compelled you to restore the hotel? What was your driving force?

We have a strong family connection to Saranac Lake and vacationed there for years. My mom grew up there. The hotel was a place that was in need of a renovation, but still a home to people to celebrate everything such as weddings and proms.

What challenges did you meet in trying to preserve the historical nature of the hotel while appealing to today’s traveler?

There were many things we might have done differently if this was a new building and didn’t have tax credits associated with it. For example, we had to create some ADA guestrooms by transforming some traditional rooms to meet this important requirement.

Also, some rooms are tiny by today’s standards, some fewer than 10 feet wide. To get the critical tax credits that made the project viable, we could not take walls down. That meant guestroom bathrooms that are 4’x6’ remain. That was quite a challenge for the designers and construction people. There were no sprinklers or HVAC, which had to be installed. But we figured it out and the result is stunning.

Thankfully we had Samuelson to create incredible casegoods that are more like millwork pieces. There are no standard rooms here and we decided to feature headboards from floor to ceiling, hiding electric behind crown molding and within the case goods. And of course, we added electric outlets to every room.