A healing past
The Episcopal Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician was completed in 1879 in response to the spiritual needs of tuberculous patients and their physicians. The founder of Saranac Lake’s cure industry and namesake of the research institute that continues in Saranac Lake to this day, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau was responsible for St. Luke’s fundraising. He also served as church treasurer and warden for thirty-eight years, until his death in 1915.
Suffering from tuberculosis himself, Dr. Trudeau had come to the Adirondacks to die. But when he got better he began a long career in medicine and research to treat patients and to find a cure for “the white plague.” Saranac Lake became a world-renowned treatment center for tuberculosis until the 1950’s, when antibiotics proved to be an effective cure, replacing the rest, wholesome food and fresh, mountain air that the Trudeau Sanitarium had to offer. Several of today’s parishioners are descendants of the patients who came to Saranac Lake seeking a cure.
Richard M. Upjohn was St. Luke’s architect. The one-story wood-frame church sits on a corner lot in a residential area over-looking Saranac Lake’s main commercial zone. It boasts pointed arch stained glass windows in the sanctuary and a rose window in the western wall. As the first church built in Saranac Lake, St. Luke’s is known for these beautiful windows that reflect the congregation’s dedication to healing and the arts.
In 2012 St. Luke’s received a Sacred Sites grant towards a project for restoration of the rose window. The present pipe organ was donated by a parish family, and its renovation is almost complete.
The Baldwin House next door to the church was bought in the 1950’s to house the newly organized Thrift Shop (now defunct), the Sunday School, and the Children’s Library. The age of St. Luke’s buildings presents its challenges as well as its charms. A recent capital campaign funded a project to make the entire facility handicapped-accessible, including an elevator to enable easy passage among the sanctuary, the parish hall, the church office and meeting rooms in the Baldwin House. The latter was joined to the sanctuary in the renovation project and serves as additional space for St. Luke’s and community group use.