From Cold River to the North Pole

by Adirondack Life | December 2022, History

Photograph from Adirondack Experience

For 33 years Noah John Rondeau, the best-known Adirondack hermit of the 20th century, lived in a crude cluster of huts and shanties along the Cold River northeast of Long Lake. High Peaks hikers sought him out for conversation and amusement; they brought him fresh fruit, home-baked treats and word of the outside world.

In 1947 he was invited to appear at the New York Sportsmens Show and gladly filled his packbasket with deer skins, handmade furniture, arrows and such for his trip to the Big Apple. There, he was the subject of newsreels and nationally broadcast radio programs and he turned a tidy profit selling autographed pictures. Rondeau also starred in an outdoor expo in Albany. He journeyed to Buffalo, Tahawus and beyond, regaling crowds with stories of his life in the woods.

In the summer of 1950 Rondeau set up a replica of his wilderness home at Santa’s Workshop, in Wilmington, and with his authentic beard, wire-rimmed glasses and engaging manner, was tapped to fill St. Nick’s boots from time to time. In his diary he wrote, “A perfect day at Santa Claus City … I do my own cooking and get along very good in a crowd of 14,000 for the day.”

That fall Rondeau left Cold River for good—the great storm of November 25 destroyed his stomping grounds. He settled on a farm in Au Sable Forks, then lived in Wilmington. He passed away in 1967 in the Lake Placid hospital.

Adapted from “From Santanoni to Santa Noah,” December 1995.

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