Mission & History

Paul_Smith,_Sr._(Apollos_Smith)_ALDThe 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.

Adirondack Pioneer

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 sprang up around the hotel was called Paul Smiths.

WAC training

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. Seventy years later, Paul Smith’s remains the only baccalaureate-degree-granting institution in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.


To develop career-ready graduates through hands-on, personalized education.
To educate, research and advocate on issues that improve our planet and the lives of the people that inhabit it.
To help the Adirondack region be ecologically and economically sustainable.


We are a thriving college, broadly recognized for outstanding experiential education and an adventurous spirit.

Apply to Paul Smith’s

If this sounds like your kind of college education, contact the Admissions Office to learn more or apply today.