Congress Spring, Saratoga, 1849
The mineral springs in upstate New York were valued by Native Americans for their medicinal properties. In 1767, the Mohawks revealed the location of High Rock Spring, which they regarded as sacred, stirred by the god Manitou,
Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the northern colonies suffered from pain resulting from a bullet wound at the Battle of Lake George in 1755, drank some of the water, felt his health notably improved, and afterwards wrote to a friend: “I have just returned from a visit to a most amazing Spring, which almost effected my cure; and I have sent for Dr. Stringer, of New York, to come up and analyze it.” William Leete Stone, Reminiscences of Saratoga and Ballston (New York, 1875)
As settlers drank the water, accounts of its healthful benefits spread. The 1st permanent dwelling was built around 1776. An inn was constructed above High Rock Spring, and, in 1802, a 3-story tavern was built across from Congress Spring.
Some 16 miles to the west, the mineral springs at Ballston Spa were noted by surveyors in 1771. The 1st tavern was built there in 1787, & a hotel was added in 1792. In 1803, the impressive Sans Souci hotel was built at Ballston Spa. Guests included Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, James Fenimore Cooper, Franklin Pierce, & Andrew Jackson.
Elkanah Watson stayed at the more impressive Sans Souci in 1805. We seated ourselves at a sumptuous table, with about a hundred guests of all classes, but generally, from their appearance and deportment, of first respectability, assembled here from every part of the Union and from Europe…. This is the most splendid watering place in America and is scarcely surpassed in Europe in its dimensions, and the taste and elegance of its arrangement. The building contains about one hundred apartments, all respectably furnished. The plan upon which it is constructed, the architecture, the style of the outbuildings and the gravel walks girted with shrubbery,—are all on a magnificent scale...