It’s Fan Friday, and we received a request to share the story of Mary Prescott for Women’s History Month! Mary R. Prescott was a young heiress from New Bedford, Massachusetts, who came to Saranac Lake to cure in 1895. At Dr. Edward L. Trudeau's urging, she made it her mission to help patients too poor to afford a cure cottage. In 1901, Prescott rented a cottage at 12 Shepard Avenue, where, along with a tent pitched in the yard, she housed four patients, a nurse and two maids.
In 1905, she opened the twenty-bed Reception Hospital at the end of nearby Franklin Avenue; in 1925, it handled nearly a hundred patients, with Mary Prescott covering the annual deficit. It was designed by the new architectural firm of Scopes and Feustmann, who entered and won a competition to design it. Prescott would personally visit every patient every Sunday evening.
The Guild maintained a center there for several years, offering business education, academic and technical subjects, including X-ray technician training in addition to the traditional arts and crafts courses. However, the development of effective antibiotic treatments for tuberculosis led to a gradual reduction in the number of patients interested in the Guild's offerings, and courses were dropped until only the X-ray school was left. On October 9, 1968, Prescott House was given to the newly formed North Country Community College; the X-ray program became part of the curriculum. However, the college decided that, due to the building's need of maintenance and its distance from the campus, it would put the property up for public auction.
On January 4, 1969, the building was acquired by Chester Fobare and Richard Yorkey, who carried out extensive repairs. The building became a girls' dormitory for NCCC for a time. In 2017, Debra Thuet purchased Prescott House and turned it into a short and long-term lodging facility and restored the integrity of the building.
Prescott died in New Bedford, MA at the age of 89. Her obituary noted that she “was a very outgoing person, with a lively sense of humor and a keen mind… She was especially fond of poetry.”
To learn more about Prescott’s life’s work and the history of the Prescott House, visit our wiki!