Melville Dewey. A name synonymous with libraries everywhere. For of course, anyone who has ever gotten a book out of the library has seen the little numbers on the binding, even if they don’t know it’s part of the Dewey Decimal System, copyrighted by Mr Dewey in 1876.
Yes, copyrighted. Possibly developed. Not quite created, or at least that is debatable. Many people argue that Dewey based his system on Sir Frances Bacon’s concept that knowledge can be categorized into memory, reason, and imagination which in turn produced history, philosophy, and fine writing. However Dewey was influenced, the most important thing is: what in the world does this have to do with the Adirondacks and Lake Placid?
In a word, nothing. The Dewey Decimal System itself has nothing to do with the Adirondacks, but Melville Dewey does. Melville was born on the Western edge of the Adirondacks in 1851 and attended the local rural schools. He grew up wanting to be an education reformer, which might explain his passion for a new library classification system.
He, along with his first wife Annie, founded the Lake Placid Club in 1895. The first Lake Placid Winter Olympics, 1932, were arranged with the help of Melville and his son Godfrey (the second, being held in 1980, were arranged without their help). When he went to Florida, in 1926, he founded the first Lake Placid Club there, and died in Lake Placid, Florida five years later. To say he was fond of Lake Placid would be an understatement.
But the strangest influence Dewey had on the area might also be the one that is the longest lasting of all. Dewey was one of the principle proponents of Spelling Reform, to the point of changing his own name from Melville to Melvil. While Dewey was part of the original Lake Placid Club, the one in New York, the Club purchased property originally owned by Henry Van Hoevenberg. Hoevenberg had previously opened on that property the first Adirondack Lodge, which had completely burned down in 1903. The Lake Placid Club decided to rebuild it, and Melvil, as a main officer, convinced them all to call it the “Adirondak Loj” in the interest of simpler spelling.
The original dinner menu for the Loj featured Hadok, Poted beef with noodls, Parsli or Masht potato, Butr, Steamd rys, Letis, and Ys cream. There was a note with the menu, advising that “All shud see the butiful after-glo on mountains to the east just befor sunset. Fyn vu from Golfhous porch.” I hope there wasn’t an after dinner spelling test, just before the ys cream.
In 1957, the Adirondack Mountain Association bought the Adirondak Loj from the Lake Placid Club, and the ADK still owns it today. They haven’t changed the spelling back, it’s part of the history not only of the Loj, but of Lake Placid and the Adirondacks. Trouble is, whenever I see Loj, I want to say “loj”, not “lodge”, but then that’s just me. And if you are wondering about “ADK”, I am pretty sure that has nothing to do with Melvil Dewey. The Adirondack Mountain Association probably just decided on ADK because the acronym AMA was already taken.