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Illegal Gambling, Haunted Halls, and Stunning Events: The Canfield Casino’s History & Where It Is Today

The Canfield Casino is one of Saratoga Springs' most talked about and recognizable landmarks. The Casino, originally dubbed the Saratoga Club House, was built by John Morrissey in 1870 as part of Congress Hall, which was a large resort hotel that contributed to giving Saratoga Springs its fame as the Spa City. The Casino has had a long and prominent history in the city, with illegal gambling, rumors of paranormal activity, and most recently it has become one of the best wedding venues in Saratoga.

Exterior of the Canfield Casino

A Brief History of the Canfield Casino

Morrissey, a well known professional boxer and member of Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall network, first came to Saratoga in 1861 and ran a gaming house downtown. He knew there was more money to be made, so Morrissey invested his own money in building what is now known as the Canfield Casino.

Upon opening his Club House, Morrissey had only 3 rules - no ladies allowed, cash only, and no locals. These rules allowed the club to take on exclusivity that made it one of the world's most renowned gambling houses. Not even the wealthiest could get Morrissey to bend the rules, which kept his Saratoga Club House open when gambling was illegal for Saratoga residents.

A few years after Morrissey's death, Richard Canfield took a partnership in the gambling establishment. Canfield bought the venue in 1884 for a quarter of a million dollars and invested heavily in the building and the surrounding park to make the Club House even more appealing to affluent visitors from around the world.

In its heyday, frequent visitors to the casino included wealthy members of the Whitney and Vanderbilt families, famous gamblers like Diamond Jim Brady and John Gates, as well as a host of top-notch entertainers. This era of high-stakes gambling ended in the early 1900s when local reformers were finally successful in banning gambling in the city. Soon after, Canfield sold the building to the City of Saratoga Springs.

The Canfield Casino Today

Currently, the Canfield Casino is thriving as a historic venue that hosts extravagant parties, elegant weddings, and a variety of other events. This magnificent building, with its stunning architecture and rich heritage, has become a sought-after location for special occasions, and has also gained recognition as the home of the Saratoga Springs History Museum.

A Beautiful Location

The Casino is located within Congress Park, making its surroundings a beautiful backdrop for outdoor wedding ceremonies, adding to the factors that make it a popular choice among couples looking for a romantic venue. Additionally, the lush green spaces, peaceful ponds, and well-maintained paths provide a nice atmosphere for visitors and locals to make the most of their time outdoors with activities such as walking, jogging, picnics, and more.

Restoration Efforts

The inside hall of the Canfield Casino

Over the years, the Canfield Casino has undergone careful restoration efforts to preserve its historic value while adapting to modern needs. The ballroom, with its ornate detailing, majestic chandeliers, and expansive dance floor, remains a popular venue for elegant events. The smaller rooms within the casino offer a more intimate setting for gatherings and special occasions. Each corner of the building maintains a sense of timeless charm, allowing guests to step back in time and experience the casino's glamor.

Visit the History Museum

Visitors also have the opportunity to delve into the captivating history of Saratoga Springs through the Saratoga Springs History Museum. The museum showcases a collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of the city's evolution from a small spa town to a thriving cultural and recreational destination. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, highlighting the casino's role as a hub of social life and its impact on the community.

Haunted Happenings at the Canfield Casino

Many think the Canfield Casino is haunted by the glamorous men and women who partied the night away in the grand parlor or spent the evening betting on the various games of chance in the posh casino. The occasional spooky event has taken place at the casino for decades, but these have really escalated in the past 20 years.

Some say an exhibit of clothing worn by the famous ladies of Saratoga was the catalyst for the increase in paranormal activity. Tales of the hauntings include sudden drops in temperature, objects being moved in the night, and apparitions of women dressed in Victorian clothing. There was so much activity from 2007 to 2010 that Ghost Hunters sent a team out in late 2010 to investigate.

Is the Canfield Casino really haunted? Experience the building for yourself with a trip to the Saratoga Springs History Museum.

With such a storied history, the Canfield Casino is a true landmark building in Saratoga Springs.

Learn more about Saratoga Springs history >>

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