Wednesday, 03 July 2019 12:58

History of Saratoga - Grand Union Hotel

By Charlie Kuenzel | History
Illustrated Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Image from the Bolster Collection. Illustrated Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Image from the Bolster Collection.

As the weather finally warms, we are reminded of the many fantastic summer seasons in Saratoga history. In the 1800’s our city was the number one destination for summer travelers and as the spring season warmed, the grand hotels would open for the summer season. Hotels with names like Grand Union, United States, Congress Hall and Grand Central were well known to the thousands of summer visitors to the city.

These enormous hotels were like the cruise ships of today, offering the very best in food, music and entertainment to the top members of American society. Since Saratoga Springs was the spot to see and be seen, the large porches found at each hotel were lined with rocking chairs that provided the place to people watch on hot afternoons. In the latter half of the 1800’s, the Grand Union eventually grew to be the largest hotel in the country and occupied seven acres of property with almost 1,000 rooms. Serving about 1500 guests at one seating in the dining room, the very best in food and service was enjoyed three times daily with the help of 35 cooks, 200 waiters, and 12 meat carvers. In the summer of 1872, they served each day about 1200 quarts of milk, 250 quarts of berries, 1400 pounds of beef, 85 chickens and a large amount of fish taken from local waters.

During their stay, guests enjoyed taking the mineral waters, shopping, strolling, going to nightly balls, concerts, carriage rides to Saratoga Lake and eventually horse racing and casino gambling. Many wealthy visitors brought their teenage sons and daughters to Saratoga with the idea of them meeting other members of society to possibly marry in the future. Even today many of the activities of the 19th century are still enjoyed in the beautiful setting of modern Saratoga Springs. If you are looking for more of the “Saratoga story,” consider a visit to the Saratoga Springs History Museum in the Canfield Casino found in historic Congress Park.

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