Mayor sells historic Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn

Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin looks at trophies that his father, a former Olympic ski jumper, earned in competitions earlier this month. The trophy case, located in the main lobby of Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn, will remain on display with the hotel’s change of ownership. (News photo — Lauren Yates)

LAKE PLACID — Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn, a Lake Placid staple for nearly 70 years, has officially changed hands. Though the hotel’s ownership no longer bears the Devlin name, the new owners say they plan to carry on the hotel’s family legacy.

Mayor Art Devlin has called the Olympic Motor Inn home all his life. Like his father and namesake, Devlin was born and raised on the property. He still lives there with his wife, Sue. But earlier this month, as Devlin walked the hotel grounds, he was taking his first steps into a new era of his life. Devlin sold the motel in September, and soon, he and Sue are moving into a new home in Lake Placid.

Devlin said it was “time” for him to sell the motel. He’ll be 65 in December, and between being mayor and running a hotel, he said, “my golf has suffered.” He said it’s been hard to get help running the motel, too, with local businesses across Lake Placid and the region struggling to find staff.

Running a hotel is challenging, Devlin said — in some ways, it’s like running a farm. There’s always something to do. He still remembers growing up with buzzers all around his family’s home that connected to a guest button in the main lobby. When a guest needed something and no one was at the front desk, Devlin’s family home would be filled with a buzzing that made him tense up. As the hotel’s owner, when a hotel guest locked themselves out of their room at 2 a.m., it was always his responsibility to crawl out of bed and help out. He said he’s ready to hand over the reins to new ownership that will update the hotel’s maintenance, systems and technology.

“I think it was just time,” Devlin said. “For 32 years we had really good customers and employees — most of whom became friends. Special thanks to my wife Sue for adapting to a lifestyle that is 24/7, 365 and for 32 years of muffin-making.”

Postcard image of Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn

Hotel history

The Olympic Motor Inn, though unassuming from its street view from state Route 86 in Lake Placid, is stocked with history. That’s evident when walking into the hotel’s main building, where a trophy case on the first floor boasts over 100 trophies and awards won by Devlin’s father, a legendary Olympic ski jumper, decorated World War II veteran, color commentator for ABC Sports and vice president of the organizing committee for the 1980 Winter Olympics. But the building’s history stretches back even before the advent of motor vehicles — the building was once a horse stable, then the first home of Devlin’s grandfather. It was the place where Devlin’s father was born, the site of the first two guest rooms built on the property when it ultimately opened as a hotel in 1953, and the place where Devlin’s father died in 2004.

From the hotel’s two-room beginnings came measured growth. Devlin’s father slowly added rooms to the property, which culminated with 40 rooms during his ownership of the hotel. Devlin said that when his father decided to sell the hotel in the 1990s, someone offered to buy it with plans to convert the 2.5-acre property into a strip mall. Instead, his father sold the hotel to him. That was in January 1992, Devlin recalled, and he was 35 years old. He purchased the hotel during a stretch of especially cold winter weather — when the daytime highs were right around 0 degrees and nighttime lows dipped to below 20. At the time, only eight of the hotel’s rooms were insulated.

“I remember walking up this hill thinking, ‘Oh, this is all mine now,'” Devlin said, “and I’m thinking, ‘Am I nuts?'”

For the next 15 years or so, Devlin invested in renovating the hotel. It was in bad shape when he bought it, he said, and over time he insulated and modernized the rest of the rooms. He spent summers running the busy hotel and winters renovating the rooms. It was challenging, he said, “but we made it.” Now, the hotel has 50 guest rooms.

Devlin’s father got to see his birthplace — a room above the main building’s lobby — renovated before he died. His father loved construction, and Devlin said he got to make many of the improvements his father had wanted to do but couldn’t because of financial limitations and raising a family. His father got to watch all of his dreams come to fruition.

“We were able to do the things he wanted to do the first time around,” Devlin said. “It was really great having him here to give me the ideas.”

In September 2003, Devlin’s father went for a ride in his friend’s Porsche. Afterward, he felt disoriented and sick. He went to the doctor and found out he had a brain tumor. He died the next April at 81 years old, just a few months after the hotel’s 50th anniversary and renovations there were completed.

New blood

Andrew Milne, who owns the Sara Placid Inn and Suites and Amanda’s Village Motel in Saranac Lake, is one of the owners who will be taking over the Olympic Motor Inn. Devlin said he sold the motel for $4.4 million.

Though he’s not part of the Devlin family, Milne also grew up in the hotel industry. He worked at the front desk of a Holiday Inn while attending high school in North Carolina, and he worked his way up to being a hotel owner over the years. He’s owned his hotels in Saranac Lake for four years now.

Milne said that the new ownership at the Olympic Motor Inn will continue to display the Olympian’s medals, and they have plans to install a multimedia kiosk that tells the Devlin — and Lake Placid — story. Milne said there are plans to modernize the rooms and install some electric vehicle charging stations, but he said there won’t be a “huge construction project.” The hotel will remain open during those renovations.

The hotel’s new owners want to expand on the legacy of the Devlin family, Milne said, and part of that is keeping the hotel’s name and sign, which boasts the Olympic rings.

The hotel was originally called “Devlin’s Motel.” When the hotel first opened, Devlin’s father was still considered an “amateur athlete” and was restricted from putting his name on anything marketable. But after he retired from competition in 1960, he changed the hotel name to “Devlin’s Olympic Motor Inn” and included the Olympic rings in the sign’s design — that was just a couple of years before the rings were copyrighted, according to Devlin.

Another piece of Devlin history that will live on at the hotel’s property is in the form of two large blue spruce trees at the front of the property, planted in memory of Devlin’s father and mother, Helen.

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