The Village of Lake Placid is near the center of the Town of North Elba, southwest of Plattsburgh. Lake Placid, along with nearby Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, comprise what is known as the Tri-Lakes region. Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid also hosted the 1972 Winter Universiade and the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games.
Lake Placid was founded in the early 19th century to develop an iron ore mining operation. By 1840, the population of "North Elba" (four miles southeast of the present village near where the road to the Adirondak Loj crosses the Ausable River) consisted of six families. In 1845, Gerrit Smith arrived in North Elba and not only bought a great deal of land around the village, but granted large tracts to former slaves. He reformed the land law and demonstrated his support of Abolitionism.
The abolitionist John Brown heard about Gerrit Smith's reforms, and left his anti-slavery activities in Kansas to buy of land here. This parcel later became known as the "Freed Slave Utopian Experiment," Timbucto. Shortly before his execution in 1859, John Brown asked to be buried on his farm, which is preserved as the John Brown Farm State Historic Site.
As leisure time increased in the late 19th century, Lake Placid was discovered for resort use by the rich and famous, who were drawn to the fashionable Lake Placid Club. Melvil Dewey, who invented the Dewey Decimal System, designed what was then called "Placid Park Club" in 1895. This inspired the village to change its name to Lake Placid, which became an incorporated village in 1900. Dewey kept the club open through the winter in 1905, which aided the development of winter sports in the area. Nearby Saranac Lake, New York had hosted an international winter sporting event as early as 1889, and was used year-round by patients seeking treatment for tuberculosis at sanitariums. The mountain air was considered good for them.
By 1921, the Lake Placid area could boast a ski jump, speed skating venue and ski association. In 1929, Dr. Godfrey Dewey, Melvil's son, convinced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Lake Placid had the best winter sports facilities in the United States. The Lake Placid Club was the headquarters for the IOC for the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.