December 23, 2012 DPR

Saratoga Springs’ Special Tour

“Health, Horses and History,” a petite woman boasts as she explained the reasons she recently sold her Atlantic City beachside apartment to move here. Yet, every visit to Saratoga Springs (New York) seems to share a more interesting view.

Spa City is Saratoga Springs. Within the Capital District of upstate New York, its history is rich with stories of famous regulars, including dignitaries dating back for hundreds of years. But its rich history is not what attracts me. My interests have always been visual. It’s not even the popular horse racing or all the colorful regalia that follows close behind. Gambling has never been entertaining for me, especially since the odds are always against the wager unless, of course, the fix is in.

Life healing springs that are found spouting from fountains everywhere is this city’s namesake and are special considering their origin. And the parks! The talents of Frederick Law Olmsted helped create Congress Park, which threads itself through the city. It provides a sanctuary in a metropolis like its larger sister, Central Park in Manhattan.  It also was a swampy lowland before Central Park’s architect transformed it.

There’s also a lively art scene. Yaddo, a 400-acre artist colony,  has hosted thousands of well-known artists since the purchase of the land in 1881. In 1900, venture capitalist Spencer Trask created the artist’s retreat as a gift to his wife after the death of their children.

What always seems to leave awe and a place in my memory are the homes and residences along Broadway and the residential areas surrounding the business district. Broadway is wide, with older trees shading the sidewalks. The planning that went into this part of Broadway purposefully encourages interaction between neighbors. It would be hard not to say, “Hey, Mr. Wilson!” because walking the sidewalk places you practically on his front lawn. Dennis, the Menace, and the nostalgic family values pervasive in 60s television come to mind as I stroll this wonderful street.

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