SARATOGA SPRINGS is a city in east central New York State with more than one hundred natural mineralsprings. Discovered by whites in the late eighteenth century, the town offered few accommodations before 1802, when Gideon Putnam began construction of the Grand Union Hotel. Other hotels followed, and the springs rapidly increased in popularity. Incorporated as a village in 1826, Saratoga was known as a "resort of wealth, intelligence and fashion—a political observatory." Madam Eliza Bowen Jumel, Martin Van Buren, Stephen Douglas, De Witt Clinton, Daniel Webster, and Joseph Bonaparte were frequent visitors. Lavish display became the order of the day, replacing the medicinal properties of the springs in significance. During the 1860s profiteers discovered Saratoga Springs and started drilling six new springs, opened several new hotels, and ran the first horse races at the Travers track. After 1863 the annual races of the Saratoga Association for the Improvement of the Breed of Horses began to draw large crowds.
Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Saratoga Springs was the most fashionable spa in the United States. Commercial bottling of the waters nearly depleted the springs, but New York State acquired the property in 1909 and placed the springs in the charge of a conservation commission in 1916. Saratoga Springs continues as a popular tourist resort, mainly for its summer horse races and its historical sites.
Amory, Cleveland. The Last Resorts. New York: Harper, 1952.
Spiegel, Ted. Saratoga, The Place and Its People: Essays by Peter Andrews, Jennifer Dunning, and Whitney Tower. New York: Abrams, 1988.
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Throughout the twentieth century, this upstate New York summer resort—1990 population, 25,001—has jumbled together invalids, nouveaux-riche social climbers, fastidious old-money sportsmen, and both hard-core and petty gamblers. A nineteenth century health resort featuring carbonated waters, the village began promoting summer horse-racing in 1863, and the Saratoga race track is the oldest still existent in the United States. Saratoga's reputation as a distinctive American congeries was spread in such disparate works as Edith Wharton's unfinished The Buccaneers, Edna Ferber's Saratoga Trunk (movie version starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman), and E.L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate. The Kefauver investigation (1951) ended a century of public gaming, but the horse-racing continues unabated and, unlike similar resorts, Saratoga underwent a popular renaissance in the 1970s. It continues to thrive in the 1990s as "the summer place to be," entertaining an appealingly raffish mix attracted to health, history, horses, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Spiegel, Ted. Saratoga: The Place and Its People. New York, Harry Abrams, 1988.
Waller, George. Saratoga: Saga of an Impious Era. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1966.