Mission & History
The name Paul Smith has been synonymous with the best of the Adirondacks — outdoor adventure, nature conservation and experiential education — since 1859. That was the year Apollos A. “Paul” Smith and his wife Lydia built the stately Paul Smith’s Hotel on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake.
The hotel was the Adirondacks’ first wilderness resort, growing to include 255 guest rooms, housing for 60 wilderness guides, a boathouse, a casino and a bowling alley. In its heyday, the resort drew high-profile guests including three U.S. presidents and 19th-century luminaries like P.T. Barnum.
Born in 1825 in Milton, Vermont, Paul Smith fell in love with the Adirondacks at an early age and purchased 50,000 acres of pristine wilderness in 1858 on which to build his dream hotel, a “primitive” lakeside resort serving outdoor enthusiasts. Smith was not only owner and proprietor of the hotel, but its chief wilderness guide and educator.
When Smith died in 1912, his son Phelps continued to operate the hotel until it was destroyed by a fire in 1930. By that time, the Paul Smith name adorned a railroad, a telephone company and a regional electric company. Even the village that sprung up around the hotel was called Paul Smiths.
Founding of Paul Smith’s College
Phelps Smith died a wealthy man and bequeathed the bulk of his estate to the foundation of a college in his father's name. Paul Smith’s College was established in 1937 and the original campus was built on the very same site as the former hotel. The first class entered in 1946, largely composed of WWII veterans and local high school graduates. Nearly 70 years later, Paul Smith’s remains the only baccalaureate-degree-granting institution in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.
Paul Smith’s is unlike any college in America. Our location and historic legacy offer students unparalleled opportunities for hands-on learning in the fields of environmental stewardship, forestry management, hospitality and more. Our unique approach is to combine experiential and traditional learning, using the classroom as a launching point for fieldwork, laboratory research, internships and on-the-job experience.
The results are Paul Smith’s graduates leave with the solid academic background, confidence and real-world experience to thrive in their chosen field.
Paul Smith’s College actively educates students to become productive citizens by combining experiential and traditional instruction through our commitment to discovery, discipline and creativity. Our Paul Smith's College community, residing within the Adirondack Park, promotes economic, social and environmental sustainability.