Saratoga Springs: A Historic Treasure and a Destination for All Seasons

Saratoga Springs is both historic as well as alive today with tourism and culture. Once recognized by the Native Americans for its abundant mineral springs, which were thought to hold many curative powers, became a hotbed of the tourism industry before such things as tourism were even thought of.

The Native Americans brought Sir William Johnson to the springs to help his injuries as early and the mid-1700s and later even George Washington visited this mineral wonderland.

The man who actually put the springs on the map was its first entrepreneur, Gideon Putnam. Putman developed the land he owned putting up a hotel and baths for visitors who soon were arriving at the spa in great numbers. By the mid-1830s hotels and spas had sprung up all over as rail transportation allowed easier access. With the addition of train service, visitors from New York City thronged to the spa.

Eventually, the Saratoga Race Track and Gambling Casino raised up to seal the area’s claim as the summer spot for the rich and famous. Hotels such as the Congress, the Clarendon, and the Grand Union, greeted thousands of visitors yearly and brought Saratoga to the forefront of society. You may also be interested in this review of the Historical Society of Bellport-Brookhaven on Long Island, New York

A humorous book by Eli Perkins (Melville Landon) Saratoga in 1910 actually written in 1879, gives a humorous glimpse of this era of American history with stories on all the hotels famous and their owns such as Gideon Putman, William Leland, Charles Leland, and H. H. Hathorn.

The hotels that hosted legendary balls and dances are gone – with the exception of the Gideon Putnam Resort, but the lure of Saratoga continues yearly. With the Saratoga Race Track and harness track’s summer season, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the many museums, and yes the mineral water that has been bottle there for over 100 years, Saratoga is still a humming tourism destination.

Today you can still visit the many springs both in the Saratoga Spa State Park but also around town. There are still mineral baths – now modernized, but Saratoga’s old fashion charm still wins out! As an added attraction for Revolutionary War history buffs, you can visit the Saratoga Battlefield Park just a short hop away! See also my post about when my wife and I visited Historic Fort Blakeley, Alabama.

Last November, on Veterans Day, we were in Bellport, NY, where we participated in the celebration to honor Sergeant Stubby. Before Stubby was a sergeant in WW I, he went to Yale where he mostly was wandering about the campus grounds until he met a group of soldiers. Read more here.

John Johnston House & Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum

For those interested in a bit of unusual history how about a tour of the Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum and the John Johnston House. Located a short hop from beautiful Rose Hill Mansion, the drain tile museum shows an unusual cross-section of the many types of drain tiles that have been used over the years to make wet marshes, soggy land or wetland available to agriculture.

The location for it is perfect since it is the barn of the historic John Johnston house and John Johnston is recognized as Father of American Drain Tiles. For information about Education in America in the years 1900-1910, check out this article.

Johnston was an Irish immigrant who settled on land near Geneva, New York that had proved unsuitable for successful agriculture because of its wet conditions. Remembering how drain tiles were used in his homeland of Scotland, in 1835 he sent for a pattern for drain tiles and had a local crock maker from Waterloo, named Benjamin F. Whartenby, make him some. By 1838 he had laid 72 miles of drain tiles on his farm.

Johnston eventually joined the Seneca County Agricultural Society (became its President) and arranged for the society to buy a machine for Whartenby to make drain tiles with. By 1871 there were 10 factories in the Waterloo area alone making drain tiles.

The beautifully simple John Johnston House where the museum is located is also open to the public. This early American farmhouse is a major contrast to its beautiful neighbor Rose Hill Mansion and interestingly enough the history of both places are linked via marriage. Find out how by planning a tour and by learning a bit of agricultural history that changed the face of the agricultural business of America at the same time.

The Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum is located east of Geneva, NY, at the junction of Route 96A and East Lake Road.

In the Wake of Andrew Jackson (The Forgotten Campaign)

In the period 1810-1818, the U.S. was actively looking to get hold of Florida from the Spaniards as new territory. Quite a few attempts were made by quite a few adventurous figures of which mostly are forgotten by now. One successful attempt to steal away Florida from the Spanish wad done by Andrew Jackson around 1814. Read the entire story here.