Written by Ballston Town Historian Rick Reynolds
Carney’s Restaurant in Ballston Lake has been a gathering place for residents of the area for more than 100 years. Its primary use has been as a restaurant and as hotel but it has had many other uses as well.
Records indicate that a deed to the building goes back to 1845 but, in reality, the initial date may go back further than that. Up until 1877, it was, at various times, a saloon, a barber shop, a grocery store and even housed a horse stable in the back for some time.
It was in 1887 that a Mr. Caldwell opened the Shendahora (or Shenandahora) Hotel. It contained 10 rooms and it was then that the hotel bar became a gathering place for locals and visitors, the latter of whom would stop there at the railway stop on their way north.
In 1896, William Egan renamed it Ballston Lake Hotel (this name lasted until 1971). He describes it well in the book, Billy’s Village, written by his wife. “Each [room] had a bed, a dresser and a chair as did the typical hotel of the era. There was a large pitcher and wash bowl on the dresser. Carefully laid out were linen towels for bathing. Since this was the days before indoor plumbing, there was a chamber pot in the washstand or under the bed. A vital item was the slops pail. Used water and human excrement were dumped into the pot which would be emptied by the chamber maid when she came to make the bed.”
“Dinner was prepared and cooked on the great coal stove. Long slow cooking made the beef or chicken stew with vegetables and dumplings to be added at the end. Pies were baked in the big oven along with bread and rolls. A huge black stove, round and friendly, heated the restaurant area. Stoves required frequent attention and a lot of dry wood or coal, after coal became available in the village at the McCain Coal Company.”
“The long front porch embraced several rocking chairs for the guests. The dirt roads that ran in front of and along side the hotel created a great deal of dust as the horse and wagons or horse and buggies went past the hotel. The children were always happy to run out to wave to the folks passing on their way to the lake. The also were preoccupied the folks who stopped at Uncle Charles’ grocery store just across the street.”
In 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, a frequent visitor to the immediate area, was in the Adirondacks hunting for bear. He was informed that President McKinley had been shot at an Exposition in Buffalo. It has been local folklore that Roosevelt took a train from White Creek and stopped in Ballston Lake for a meal. While on this stop, he used a telephone, which had been installed in the 1890’s and was one of the first in the area, to call Washington. After a meal, he travelled on to Buffalo where he was inaugurated as the new President the next evening just after the death of the President.
However, in recent years, that story of Roosevelt stopping here for a meal has been disputed. Railroad historians, interviewed for a 2011 Daily Gazette story, have said that passenger trains would not have taken that route to get to Buffalo. So, the veracity of the story is unknown for sure.
After Egan sold it, the place went by many different names. In the middle part of the last century, Katherine and Tom McDonough owned it as McDonough’s. Katherine had a “swear box” into whichyou had to put money if you exhibited “indiscrete” behavior in the bar. She was known as a very tough woman!
In 1982, Bob and Rosemary Carney bought it and owned it as an Irish pub. When they purchased it, they maintained the original oak bar back and the tin ceiling. An original trolley rail was added as a footrest around the bar. In 2013, Rosemary passed on the day-to-day operations of the restaurant to Michael and Samantha Pallozzi.
Good food, drinks, comfortable atmosphere- all traits that have been a part of this establishment for many years. And, we hope, for many years to come.