History of the Big Moose Inn 1903-2023 (lost in a fire on May 27th, 2023)
The Big Moose Inn and Restaurant, on the shores of Big Moose Lake, has a fascinating history. One of the last remaining Adirondack wilderness lodges with access to Big Moose Lake, it was built in 1903 for George Burdick at the cost of $1100 by E.J. Martin, the owner of the Waldheim, which is still owned and operated by the Martin Family. Burdick, a colorful but ornery character renown for his eccentricity, was a popular guide in those times. His success allowed the addition of a new wing to the Inn in 1915 Following his death, the Inn, originally known as Burdick’s Camp, was purchased by Leonard Waterman, and became known as Waterman’s Camp.
In 1946 Waterman sold the camp to Dorothy and William Ebel who renamed it the Big Moose Hotel. From 1954 to 1957, the Inn was owned and operated by Ralph E. Hutchins. The chef at the Inn was Hank Herschy, who returned on a nostalgia trip to the Big Moose Inn in 2007 for the first time since he left 52 years ago, provided a menu and brochure from 1955 which boasted, “All of our buildings are equipped with modern conveniences such as running hot and cold water, baths, electricity, and steam heat.” The menu featured Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for $ .20, Hamburgers for $ .35, and beers for $ .30 and $ .35.
Falling on hard times, as was the fate of nearly all of the old Adirondack Inns and Hotels, the Inn was sold at auction on August 10, 1957 to Frank Newman of Stag’s Leap on Big Moose Lake. The Inn was first managed for Newman by Barney and Betty Barnum, who had been operating the Lake View Lodge. Barney and Betty were longtime and well known residents of the Big Moose community. They eventually purchased the Inn from Newman and ran it for 11 years, until they sold it to the Bennett family in the late 60’s. The Bennetts successfully operated the Inn for more than 35 years. Under their management it acquired a reputation for fine dining and comfortable lodging on one of the most popular natural lakes in the central Adirondacks. The current dining room, which seats over 100, was expanded by the Bennetts in the early 90s in response to the Inn’s growing popularity. In 2005 the Inn was purchased by Robert Hankey, a long-time homeowner on Big Moose Lake. He worked diligently to continue this tradition of excellence.
In the spring of 2010 the Inn was purchased by the Mayers who have 30+ years of hospitality experience and are putting it to good use by continuing in the long traditions of warm hospitality the Big Moose Inn has become known for.
Although the Inn has undergone many additions and renovations over the years, there are still only 16 guest rooms and to this day the inn retains its rustic small country inn charm.
Big Moose Lake is popular because of its scenic beauty and its remoteness. It has also gained notoriety over the years as the setting of the infamous murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in 1906, which Theodore Dreiser used as the basis for his critically acclaimed novel “An American Tragedy.” Originally published in 1925, it is still in print today. This notorious murder was the basis for several additional books and movies. The diary of the executed killer Chester Gillette was recently discovered and donated to Hamilton College, It provided the source of inspiration for yet one more book on the subject.