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Gay Albany Neighborhood Guide

55_Saratoga Park

Saratoga Springs, NY

Location, History, Culture and more...

Saratoga Springs is a city in Saratoga County, New York, USA. The population was 26,186 at the 2000 census. The name reflects the presence of mineral springs in the area. While the word "Saratoga" is known to be a corruption of a Native American place name, authorities disagree on what the exact word was, and hence what it meant.

The City of Saratoga Springs is near the center of Saratoga County in upstate New York.

According to historical accounts, Sir William Johnson, British soldier and a hero of the French and Indian Wars, was brought to what would become the city by native friends in 1767 to treat war wounds at a spring thought to have medicinal properties. The spring is now known as High Rock Spring, and may be visited today.

The first permanent settler arrived around 1776, and a tourist trade swiftly grew, with hotels being constructed by such Revolutionary War luminaries as Gideon Putnam.

Saratoga Springs was established as a town in 1819 from a western portion of the Town of Saratoga. Its principal community was incorporated as a village in 1826 and the entire region became a city in 1915.

In the 19th century, the community became famous as a spa that saw many hotels built, including the colossal Grand Union Hotel that was in its day, the largest hotel in the world.

The famous Battle of Saratoga, the turning point of the Revolutionary War, did not take place in Saratoga Springs. Rather, the battlefield is 15 miles (24 km) to the southeast in the town of Stillwater.

Additional facts about Saratoga Springs


The city is perhaps most famous for the Saratoga Race Course which opened on August 3, 1863. Founded by John Hunter and William R. Travers, it is the oldest continuously-operating Thoroughbred track in the United States. The track holds a summer meet lasting approximately six weeks, from late July to Labor Day, every day but Tuesdays. The track season sees a dramatic influx of people into the city. Hotels fill to capacity, and many Saratogians rent out their homes.

Also located in the city is the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, a harness (Standardbred) racetrack that includes a video gaming facility, the Racino.

The Springs

When the city was young in the 1800's people would come to Saratoga not only for the racing but also for the springs. The natural mineral springs were believed to have healing powers and people would come from all over to drink or bathe in the waters. The Lincoln Baths was one such place people would go to be treated with the waters. The bath house has since been transformed into an office building, but still exists and can be visited to this day. The spa treatments also are being continued in a new bath house in the Spa State Park called the Roosevelt Baths. Springs can be found all over town. Most of the springs are marked by a small covered pavilion with the name of the spring across the top for all to see. Some however are just a spigot in a rock where the water flows out. Many of the springs are famous for their distinct taste. Some taste of regular water and some taste strongly of a certain mineral such as sulfur. Some people even bottle the spring water to take home. The springs give the town character and a history that is very unique.

List of the Springs:

Big Red Spring, Charlie Spring, Columbian Springs, Congress Spring, Deer Park Spring, Empire Spring, Geyser Island Spouter, Geyser Spring, Governor Spring, Hathorn #1, Hathorn #3, Hayes Well Spring, High Rock Spring, Old Iron Spring, Old Red Spring, Orenda Spring and Tufa Deposits, Patterson Springs Peerless Spring, Polaris Spring, and State Seal


Superhorse, one of 34 fiberglass horses on display around downtown Saratoga Springs in the 2007 Horses, Saratoga Style street display.
Superhorse, one of 34 fiberglass horses on display around downtown Saratoga Springs in the 2007 Horses, Saratoga Style street display.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (known by its acronym "SPAC," rhymes with "track") is a covered outdoor amphitheater located on the grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park, with a capacity of 5,000 in reserved seating and 20,000+ on its general admission lawn area. SPAC is the summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet, and has hosted a weekend-long jazz festival for several decades. 2007 marks the second year of the annual Saratoga Native American Festival held on the grounds of SPAC. It is a stop for touring national recording artists: over 20 popular bands grace the stage every summer. Steps away on State Park grounds, the Spa Little Theater hosts the Homemade Theater as well as the geographically-misdescriptive Lake George Opera Festival during the summer.

There are several museums in the area, including the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. There are more than 20 golf courses.

The city is also notable for its vibrant night life. Caffè Lena was one of the first venues in the Eastern US at which Bob Dylan performed, in 1961. Arlo Guthrie played the Caffè early in his career and has returned for occasional benefit concerts. Singer Don McLean is said to have composed his "American Pie" sitting at a table in the Tin & Lint, a bar on Caroline Street. A plaque marks the table today. Numerous other establishments exist on Broadway, Caroline Street, and the redeveloped Putnam Street.

Recently, Beekman Street (four blocks west of Broadway) has become an art district, housing four galleries, a restaurant, a pub and teahouse, and a bistro. Artists live and work in co-ops and arrange social events. While many congratulate themselves on "revitalizing" a "deteriorating" area, others consider such declarations an insult to the generations of Saratogians of marginalized ethnicities that toiled in support the tourism economy of the city, and were traditionally segregated to this once-remote quarter.

Skidmore College is located in the north of the city. During the summer, Skidmore is one of several hosts for the Johns Hopkins' CTY program.

Saratoga Springs is also home to Yaddo, a 400-acre (1.62 km2/0.62 sq mi) artists' community, founded by the great Wall Street financier, Spencer Trask and his wife, the author Katrina Trask. Since its inception in 1900, Yaddo has been home to 60 Pulitzer Prize winning authors and one Nobel Prize winner. Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and David Sedaris have all been artists-in-residence. The Yaddo grounds are adjacent to the backstretch of the Saratoga Race Course.

It is believed that potato chips were invented in Saratoga Springs, by Native American/African American chef George Crum, at Moon's Lake House on August 24, 1853.

Walt Disney World Resort has a theme resort called Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, inspired by this city.

Saratoga Springs was noted in The Hipster Handbook as one of the "college towns" where hipsters often dwell.
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