By Jill Nagy
Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center plans to expand facilities and activities, another step toward in the efforts to make Lake George a year-round tourist destination.
“It is what the whole area is trying to do,” said Kathy Muncil, CEO of the hotel complex, an 18-acre development at the southern end of the lake.
Currently, the hotel and museum are open weekends during the winter months.
“We want to change that,” she said, by introducing more activities that are not weather-dependent. Plans also include installing a distillery, renovation of the four-story carriage house and addition of a fitness center.
They plan to spend between $600,000 and $700,000 on capital improvements this year, she said.
Fort William Henry was a British fort in the 18th century. In 1757, it was captured by the French and razed. It was rebuilt in the early 1950s using the original British plans. However, in 1960, another fire, probably arson, destroyed about a third of the fort as well as the British plans and many of the artifacts, including guns and powder horns.
Plans are to re-create the original fort as closely as possible, said Muncil.
Although the fort itself was gone during the American Revolution, there was war-related activity in the area, including nearby Fort George and Fort Ticonderoga. There is a military cemetery up the street and it is believed a hospital was located upon the site, Muncil said.
In addition to the fort itself, the site includes a museum, a conference center, and an 18th century, four-story carriage house. Work on a distillery began four or five years ago. It is planned to focus on the history of distilling in New York state. Muncil said she did not know if there was a distillery in the British days, but believes that there was no shortage of distilled spirits.
She envisions the carriage house as a venue for weddings and similar celebrations. It is in an open area, she noted, surrounded by green space with views of Lake George. Long-term plans for the 197-room hotel include a chocolate and wine festival and cooking and photography schools. There have been car shows at the hotel and last August it hosted a successful lobster festival. As a winter activity, they will try ice bars.
After this summer, Muncil said, the museum will remain open year-round and feature ghost tours and other “educational and paranormal activities.”
Muncil has been the CEO of the fort business since last November, soon after her father, Robert Flacke, died. He ran the operation for 60 years. Muncil’s first job at the fort was feeding the dogs that were brought in to guard the property after the 1960 fire.
She has taken on greater responsibilities since returning full time in 1993. Her sister, Nancy Reuss, is vice president. Sam Luciano, the former vice president and general manager, is now president.
The fort employs about 300 people during the summer season and about 125, during the rest of the year.
Muncil said that she works closely with the Chamber of Commerce and village and county organizations and is involved in all local activities. She also encourages other members of her management team to become involved with local organizations.
“This is a community that works together,” she said. “The community is ripe for growth and development,” she added.
Fort William Henry opens for the season the first week in May. Their telephone number is 518-668-3081
By Jill Nagy