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7 Things You Never Knew About Ballston Spa

scarecrow in corn field

Trivia and Fun Facts about NY's First Spa Town

1. Did you know that Ballston Spa was actually "America's First Watering Place"? In the early to mid-nineteenth century, Ballston Spa was actually a far more popular summer destination for high society than its now more-famous neighbor, Saratoga Springs.

2. What if we told you Ballston Spa once played host to a Bonaparte? It's true! If you didn't believe that Ballston Spa used to be THE place to see and be seen, we see you and raise you Napoleon's brother, Joseph (former King of Spain). Joseph Bonaparte bought an estate in New Jersey in the early 1800s after things, ah, didn't really go his way in Europe. He and his daughters often visited Ballston Spa and, later, Saratoga Springs during the summer months.

3. How about those square-bottomed bags, though? Ballston Spa resident George West invented the first machine to produce the square-bottomed paper bags that we all take for granted every time we shop.

4. Why settle for any old water wheel? With the limited season for the spa and rising popularity of Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa needed another industry... and the Kayaderosseras Creek provided excellent water power for mills. But enterprising Ballston Spa resident, Benjamin Barber, invented a highly efficient double turbine water wheel to rival any other in production at the time (1870s).

5. So were all of the inventions in Ballston Spa successful? Depends on your definition of success. The enterprising Theodore Lipshuts, for example, almost definitely found his scarecrow that randomly discharged a firearm highly efficacious for keeping away the crows... and his neighbors.

6. Who likes chocolate? After trees became scarce in the early twentieth century (we know - it's hard to believe today, now that the forests have been allowed to replenish), the paper mills in Ballston Spa shut down, but the town was saved... by chocolate. The Bischoff family's chocolate factory survived until after WWII.

7. Why live in Albany when you could live in "a village of friends"? Today Ballston Spa is experiencing yet another revitalization. Between overflow tourists from Saratoga Springs enjoying the antiques and excellent restaurants, locals in the Capital Region choosing to move to the quiet streets of this quaint town, and Ballston Spa still serving as the seat of county government, "America's First Watering Place" is thriving, just like the Old Iron Spring.

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