Waters of Saratoga > Saratoga "Springs" History
The Lure and Mystery of Saratoga Mineral Water
Among the few naturally carbonated springs in the country, Saratoga mineral water is steeped in legend and lore. Drinking and bathing in the waters of Saratoga Springs was regarded as medicine by the Mohawk and Iroquois Indians hundreds of years ago, who celebrated its strong healing and curative properties. 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, and tried unsuccessfully to purchase High Rock Springs in 1783!
"Taking The Waters"
Over time, the extraordinary and sensational claims regarding the benefits of Saratoga mineral water multiplied. “Taking the waters” was reputed to cure kidney and liver complaints, rheumatism, diabetes, heartburn, scrofula, dyspepsia, cancer, malaria, hangovers and, last but not least, “weakness of women”. (Thank goodness!) Were these claims true? Well, it couldn’t be proven...yet people kept coming!
By the middle of the 19th century, Saratoga had become “The Queen of Spas”. During the 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s, it was the “in” place to see and be seen…the gilded age saw prominent guests such as the Vanderbilt's, the Whitney's, JP Morgan, and “Diamond Jim” Brady frequenting Saratoga. Actress Lillian Russell spent time here, and top-name performers such as Bing Crosby and Sophie Tucker played to packed crowds in downtown Saratoga Springs hotels.
During this glitzy era, the aura of pampering included the presence of a “dipping boy” at Flat Rock Springs, whose job was to fetch and serve a dipper of mineral water to eager summer visitors seeking its benefits.
The Hall of Springs and its three bubbling fountains became a popular evening gathering place for the “Who’s Who” of vacationing Saratogians. Not just for drinking, bathing in the Saratoga Springs mineral water was reputed to ease tension and a host of ailments…the bath houses, including the Lincoln Bath House and Roosevelt Baths were popular, and filled with patrons. There remain two locations for Saratoga mineral baths: The Roosevelt Baths and Spa at the Gideon Putnam Resort (located within the Spa State Park) and the Crystal Spa on South Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. Today, each bath house consists of individual rooms with bath tubs where you can soak privately in the effervescent water. Tip: a massage, facial or body treatment is the perfect accompaniment to your mineral soak.
Tasting The Waters
Today there are approximately 17 mineral springs in Saratoga, located at various points throughout the city, each one varying slightly in its chemical makeup and flavor. The springs also taste different depending on the season.
For all the positive references made regarding the benefits of mineral water, first-time tasters are often a bit surprised. It tastes nothing like what comes out of your tap, and may be a bit disconcerting to the uninitiated! Some describe the odor as being akin to rotten eggs, and the taste, well…unusual. Go on your own private tasting!
For those that subscribe to its healthful benefits, it’s delicious! Whatever the actual benefits may or may not be, the waters of Saratoga continue to draw the faithful, skeptical and curious here to sample and savor its mineral essence.