Saturday, July 5, 2008

Brooklyn Road Journal: Bloody Springs and Ghostly Taverns in Saratoga

The hotel that we are staying in was spacious and comfortable, homey suites for the kids and for us. It felt a little distant from town, out along Route 50, which was a busy road bordered by Big Name stores and malls, that turned into Broadway in the the town of Saratoga Springs. We took a long walk along Excelsior Avenue, near the hotel, and were pleasantly surprised that much of this road had sidewalks, so we decided to explore. Out along the way, map in hand, we realized that we could walk all the way into town. Nearby, as we hiked, a bit of Brooklyn, as we passed a boarding school of Chasidic boys, observing shabbos with a quiet walk in long black coats and hats on a summer day.

At the junction of Excelsior and High Rock Road we came upon our first spring, "Old Red Spring" which is a bubbling fountain, covered by a small wooden pavilion. We had no cups so we took a handful of spring water and thirstily slurped it up midway on our hike into town. A little further along High Rock Road we encountered High Rock Spring, one of the oldest, which the sign indicated had once been visited by George Washington and his goombada-cheech Alexander Hamilton, along with Hamilton's father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, owner of Huge Tracts of Land upstate, especially near Albany.

The mineral source had dried up but the Peerless Spring had been piped from across the road and was bubbling fast and furious. The Peerless Spring was a bit like prosecco, definitely a bit of the bubbly in that spring. Old Red Spring, which was naturally ice cold and a real gusher had a much stronger, salty mineral flavor which one sampler describeed as "tastes like blood" -- no doubt from the heavy iron content. 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 List of the Springs in town includes:

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

We kept on trucking into town where the All-American July 4th celebration was still ongoing. It now included a cool antique car show, dozens and dozens of lovingly restored antique American cars.

We continued on past the main drag in town til we reached Beekman Avenue which is the new art district in Saratoga Springs. Numerous galleries and restaurants have opened in the last several years or so in an area that is experiencing a revival.

Later that day we visited the Frances Tang Museum at Skidmore which featured a sculpture exhibition, Almost Blue, by Dean Snyder.

Finally, we capped our day of exploration with dinner at the Olde Bryan Inn, on Maple Avenue, which is a lovely, historic, rustic tavern with roots back to the 18th century where its original owner offered a way station and inn to visitors to the curative waters of the High Rock Spring. It was a pleasant meal in a cozy ambiance although the Inn, according to our waitress and other local historians, is as haunted an establishment as they come. A lady in a green Victorian high-necked dress reputedly was seen walking down in mid-air the middle of the Inn's bar -- where a staircase used to exist.

Another visitor reported seeing the ghost of the original colonial owner, Alexander Bryan, who also was a spy for the good guys in the American Revolution, on horseback, with a lance, on the second floor off of the men's room. After a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, and while the check was on the way, I decided to venture upstairs to use the facilities. As readers of this blog may recall (see A Real Brooklyn Ghost Story > ) I am at best an agnostic when it comes to the spiritual realms. My wife and I had visited an old inn near Lake George years before, the Balsam Inn, in which we we felt extremely strange vibes until we were told that the place had the reputation of being, yes, haunted. Between the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, a lot of blood was spilled in northern New York State. Perhaps that is part of it, or it is just the result in living in regions where the tug of nature and its natural forces and its concommitent mysteries remains strong. Very strong.

Well, there were no shocks or thrills tonite, but again, there was that strange vibe, at least on the second floor off of the men's room. But the Olde Bryan Inn is definitely worth the visit. I am scribbling this while Judy is in the pool with our younger daughters and my son, 17, is pondering the commencement of his return to the NYC Summer Film Institute in Tribeca where he was accepted and where he will be studying for the next couple of months. Our older daughter, looking forward to her junior year in distant and ancient lands, is at home with summer jobs working at the Cobble Hill Cinema and babysitting. Here, Best of Clapton is playing in the background. In the back of my mind, I am anticipating the bittersweet end of our visit to Saratoga Springs this week, my return to suit and tie and cubicle, comforted by the dangling carrot of the thought of a couple of more vacation days ahead that still promise relief from my otherwise usual busy summer of business communications, and the organizational thang. But for now, Brooklyn is down there, and we are up here, and that seems as it should be.

--Brooklyn Beat

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