If you've ever traveled through Tupper Lake, you've probably spotted a row of nine charming, tidy, adorably small white cabins along Route 3. The cabins look cheerful and inviting and make you want to drop everything and move right in. Closer to the road, a jaunty neon sign — one of the only such signs in the Adirondack Park, where neon is not allowed — proclaims this to be Northwood Cabins, a local icon that has been renewed and rejuvenated for a new generation or two of travelers.
Once upon a time, America was replete with motor courts, motor lodges, and just about any other kind of lodging that implied one thing: a great road trip. All over the country, clusters of tiny cabins popped up along roadsides and near some of the prettiest places travelers might want to visit, places where you could park right in front of your own miniature place to spend the night, tuck the kiddies in bed, or have a sweet, romantic honeymoon. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, dear reader, it was. Unfortunately, over the years travel tastes changed, flying was in, road trips were out. Chain hotels were the new thing and many of the old motor courts and motels disappeared. Fortunately, the gem that is the Northwood Cabins survived, and today they're better than ever, thanks to the efforts of one dedicated couple, Renee and Brian Burns, who saw something worth preserving and attracting new visitors.
The Northwood Cabins were built around 1929 and were originally out on the Old Wawbeek Road. In the late 1930s, a few years after Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert famously did their part to promote romantic road trips, the cabins were moved to their present location off Route 3. Since the move, they've been a landmark for visitors arriving from the east, a much-appreciated place to rest after a busy day, and an important, lasting part of the Tupper Lake community. The cabins have been owned by just a few people over the course of ninety-ish years, people who have taken great pride in maintaining the cabins as restful spots with great atmosphere. For many years, starting in 1978, the cabins were owned by Nancy and Bill Cadwallader, who were always keen to be faithful to the style of the 1930s, even with modern conveniences. Today, the Burns' keep up that ideal, using hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm to keep each cabin up to date, comfortable, and clean, all while having a unique character that visitors won't find anywhere else.
Although the Burns' aren't originally from Tupper Lake, they have a long love for the Adirondacks and affection for the area. Brian's family lived on a dairy farm along the St. Lawrence and Franklin county line and spent summer vacations in the Adirondacks. Brian and Renee both graduated from nearby SUNY Plattsburgh and as they raised a family, they continued the tradition of family vacations in the Adirondacks. When retirement came along, everything came together in a magical way. As Renee explains, "When the opportunity came for us both to retire from our careers we saw this as an opportunity to do something entirely different in an area we love." The charm of the cabins and the unique nature of the property lured the Burns' to take on a new adventure. "It was definitely the neon light and the idea of bringing back to life a vintage motor court that drew us to Northwood Cabins."
Since purchasing the property, the Burns' have put heart and soul into fixing up, decorating, and overall showing love to the cabins, and the sign! The sign has been beautifully refurbished — it didn't work when the Burns' took over — and each cabin has had love, from new floors to wiring, plumbing to paint. What the Burns' have done, following in the footsteps of previous owners, is bring vibrant, new life to each cabin. As important as the structural changes, the decor of each cabin is unique and highlights the bright, cheerful colors and styles of the 1930s, and 1940s, making a difference for travelers looking for something different. Even the modern fridges look retro! Travelers are both drawn to and appreciate the nostalgic feel of the spaces, from the quilts on the beds to the welcoming sight of the porches. When asked about what makes the cabins so unique, Brian and Renee don't focus on the work they have done, but rather on the history, explaining, "Guests seem to really enjoy being a part of a place that has been around since the 1930s."
Although Brian and Renee have always found the property tranquil and inviting, they were surprised at how many guests have also felt inspired by the cabins. The cabins have been painted by artists and guests have shared poetry "written about the peacefulness of sitting on their porches and just watching the world go by. We knew it drew us to the property but are surprised that it retains that quality for others." The cabins, with their simple, effective charm, seem to draw people who want a break from the buzz of a fast-paced daily life, or who are looking for a getaway that exudes relaxation and peace in a way that many other overnight destinations can't offer. Guests may sit on their porches, or relax around the fire ring or at the gas grill.
In addition to being welcoming hosts, Brian and Renee are excellent ambassadors for the Adirondacks who love to help travelers plan new adventures throughout the area. Close to home, they recommend visits to The Wild Center, ADKX in Blue Mountain Lake, and paddling adventures on the Raquette River. "We like to encourage our guests to explore beyond the obvious," Renee explains, nothing that she and Brian share info with guests about lesser known, but no less beautiful, local hikes, and help plan out road trips to off-the-beaten-path shops, restaurants, and attractions, like the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota and the Saranac Laboratory Museum in Saranac Lake. "We want to push people out into the nooks and crannies of the park."
Northwood Cabins, in all their restored vintage glory, are open every summer, through October. The nine cabins sleep 2-4 people, and all feature private, updated bathrooms, heat and air conditioning, wifi, flat screen televisions (perfect for catching up on an old movie, if you ask me), and refrigerators. Two of the larger cabins have kitchens, which means you can stock up at the splendid local market and whip up an Adirondack treat with fresh local ingredients. As the original American vacation destination, the Adirondacks are known for comfortable hospitality and friendliness. Brian and Renee are continuing that tradition, along with the tradition of the Northwood Cabins offering a restful, unique place to stay.