Saratoga Springs

Published: July 21st 2021
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Saratoga Springs with

The British built Fort Saratoga in 1691 on the west bank of the Hudson River. Shortly thereafter, British colonists settled the current village about a mile south; it was known as Saratoga.

In 1910, woodcarver Marcus Charles Illions carved 28 horses to craft a carousel with the intention of "wowing" children of all ages. Illions is widely considered to be one of the greatest carousel carvers in the world, and his ponies are most known for their dazzling heads (each one carved by Illions himself) and well-decorated bodies. These 28 horses even featured real horsehair tails! For 77 years, children of all ages enjoyed riding Illions' carousel.

In 1987, the future looked pretty unpromising for these gorgeous horses. At that time, Kaydeross Park home to ponies, was unfortunately being sold for development. Eventually, it was decided that the carousel was going to go straight to the auctioning table and the horses would be released from their paddock one by one.

Before these purebred horses were released into the wild, local townspeople and the former Department of Public Works Commissioner, agreed to present a bid to keep the gang in
Saratoga Springs.

Volunteers went into town to local stores and residents to see if they could raise the necessary funds. In a few weeks, the Saratoga Springs community raised close to $120,000. The community offered the auctioneers $150,000 for the complete carousel, including the 28 horses.

After some negotiation, the bid was accepted and the carousel found its new home in Congress Park.The carousel underwent restoration after its move from Saratoga Lake and reopened in 2002.

We could only see inside through the windows but it looked quite magnificent.

The springs are the result of a geological fault that allows water trapped in shale layers to surface. Historically, Mohawk and Iroquois tribes drank and bathed in Saratoga waters to celebrate the waters' supposed strong healing and curative properties. Local lore says that the Mowhawks called the area "Serachtuague" to refer to it as a "place of fast moving water." Early settlers may have mispronounced this word, leading to the anglicised "Saratoga."

Once discovered by settlers, accounts of its healthful benefits caught on in a big way. Even George Washington was an advocate of its restorative powers.

Over time,
the extraordinary and sensational claims regarding the benefits of Saratoga mineral water multiplied. Doctors recommended "taking the waters" to cure kidney and liver complaints, rheumatism, diabetes, heartburn, scrofula, dyspepsia, cancer, malaria, hangovers and "weakness of women." Although none of these claims could be proven visitors kept coming to enjoy the waters! Even the first part of Saratoga's slogan - "Health, History, Horses" - specifically references the supposed value of the waters!

The village - then town - grew and evolved into the City of Saratoga Springs - and the waters were always the main attraction. By the mid-1800s, the city was the summer home of many wealthy Americans and internationals, and a hotbed of both tourism and gambling. The American Civil War (1861-1865) was little distraction to those who sought refuge from the heat of cities like New York and Boston, and so, Saratoga Springs grew.

On August 3, 1863, gambler, casino owner, ex-boxing champion, and future congressman John Morrissey organized Saratoga's first thoroughbred meet a month after the Battle of Gettysburg. At the old dirt track on Union Ave., later known as Horse Haven, Morrissey staged a four day meet. Over 5,000 people came to
watch and wager on the eight races.

After the successful meet ended, Morrissey was prepared to expand further into this new venture. He enlisted his friends, the wealthy John Hunter, Leonard Jerome, and William Travers, to form the Saratoga Racing Association. The next step for Morrissey was to purchase 125 acres of land on the other side of Union Ave. and build an all new grandstand. As a result, Saratoga Race Course was born.

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