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 1980 Winter Olympics.
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, reforming the land law and reflecting 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, which 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 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 and 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, although nearby Saranac Lake had hosted an international winter sporting event as early as 1889.
By 1921, the area could boast a ski jump, speed skating venue and ski association, and in 1929, Dr. Godfrey Dewey, Melvil's son, was able to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Lake Placid had the best winter sports facilities in the nation. The Lake Placid Club was the headquarters for the IOC for the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.