History of The Woods Inn
The Woods Inn began as Hess Camp, built in 1894 by Fred Hess in the West Central Adirondacks at the end of Fourth Lake on the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Fred Hess owned several other successful hotels in the area including a lodge on Cedar Island, also situated on Fourth Lake.
Philo Wood, who managed two hotels for Fred Hess, purchased Hess Camp in circa 1900 and re-named it The Wood Hotel. Over the next 20 years, The Wood Hotel underwent expansion, tripling the number of rooms and adding new cottages to the hotel grounds. In the early years, canvas tents on platforms provided even more rooms for summer lodgers.
Philo Wood enjoyed a long run of success, filling The Wood Hotel with guests who arrived by steamboat with trunks and stayed for months of relaxation and comfort. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing by hiring well-known Inlet Adirondack Guides such as Wellington Kenwell, C.D. Kirche, Milo Leitch, Frank Loson, R.D. Norton, John J. Rarick, F.L. Tiffany and E. J. Van Aerman.
The Wood Hotel was re-visited year after year by guests and their families returning for annual stays. Each spring The Hotel was opened, aired and cleaned awaiting the arrival of the summer season’s first guests. The air turned from crisp to a perfect mid-day breeze just as the Steamer arrived at the pier with weary travelers looking forward to the solitude offered by The Wood.
In 1946, William Dunay, an Air Force First Lieutenant returning from World War II, purchased The Wood Hotel. The Wood flourished under Dunay’s direction and the dedication of his siblings who signed on as The Hotel’s staff. The Dunays brought polish and new energy to The Wood, and fortunately changed little of the original Adirondack historical structure.
The Wood Hotel closed in the 1980s, with the tavern remaining open until William Dunay’s death in 1989. The contents of The Hotel were auctioned and the response was surprising. Many generations of guests had great memories of The Wood Hotel and wanted to purchase a piece of it. The property sat empty for years while the Dunay Estate received many offers to purchase it. Most perspective buyers had plans to demolish the original buildings. The Dunay’s waited patiently hoping for buyers interested in restoring and re-opening The Wood.
Joedda McClain and Jay Latterman, purchased the property in 2003 and began the challenging task of historic designation and restoring the property to current building codes. Fortunately, Joedda and Jay brought years of restoration experience to the project. Restoration involved winterizing the original structures, new plumbing, septic system, heating, complete re-wiring, sprinkler system and holding tanks. Much of the exterior porches and stairs were replaced precisely as they once were.
This was just the beginning…the “bones” of the old hotel were still solid and charming. Memories of great times echoed in every room. The Wood hotel re-opened as The Woods Inn in June of 2004. The hotel restaurant and tavern, The Laughing Loons, re-opened in May 2004.
The tavern, dining room, great room and lake-side cottages are still as they originally were when The Hess Camp was first built. The wrap-around porches still boast a truly panoramic view of Fourth Lake and the Adirondack Mountains.
The decor and generous ambiance is in the “Adirondack Great Camp Style”…rustic and comfortable with antiques and modern amenities.
In 2014 Charlie and Nancy Frey purchased the Inn with the intent to keep it operating for the public to enjoy. Charlie and Nancy have created a new Lakeside cafe platform tent similar to the Inn’s popular Guide tents, rebuilt the fire damaged Lakeview cottage and added a permanent event pavilion for all to enjoy. Most importantly, the new owners want The Woods Inn to be a fun and stress-free place.
Prior to World War II, the town of Inlet boasted fourteen Adirondack hotels. The Woods Inn is now the only historic hotel remaining open year round.