Saratoga Springs and the Stereoscopic Heyday
People were initially drawn to Saratoga Springs for the waters. Travel was difficult, very long and tiring. The tourists who came to Saratoga Springs came for lengthy periods of time- and needed places to stay and activities to entertain them. While smaller, more intimate lodging facilities existed, all where overshadowed by the massive hotels. The mineral springs became destinations in themselves with Dipper Boys serving the waters for drinking,bath houses for relaxing and healing and bottling plants for taking a favorite flavor home. The Race Track brought the excitement of gambling. Famous and talented musicians and thespians performed for throngs. Steamboats plied Saratoga Lake and the lakehouses allowed for respite from the busy city. And all of this was captured in stereoview to be shared, once back home.
Travelling was anything but pleasurable for 19th century visitors. The addition of a train from Schenectady to Saratoga in the 1830's helped open up the area for tourism.
The larger hotels combined could accommodate almost 4000 guests. Many smaller hotels also existed, serving more niche visitors, such as serving only Jews, or Temperance advocates. The vast majority of the hotels were strictly summer establishments and had no means to heat the buildings for the long Saratoga winters.
Sulky racing began in Saratoga around 1847, at what is now called the Oklahoma Track. The new Grandstand was built across Union Ave. in 1863 and thoroughbred racing has been a major attraction since then.
As the popularity of the mineral waters grew, the springs were tubed for efficiency and the surrounding areas cultivated to create a "destination."
At nearby Saratoga Lake, small inns with restaurants began popping up and were called the Lakehouses. Moon's was one of the first. Visitors relaxed on the porches and lawns and drank in the healthful air.
Boating was a popular pastime for the Victorians. Steamboats plied the lake allowing for time on the water in some form of comfort.
Nothing could compare with the social scene unfolding every day on the piazza's of the great hotels. Some of the most popular entertainers were brought in to entertain the visitor's to Saratoga Springs. And there were the fashions to see, and who was with who...! The local newspaper announced daily who was arriving and where they were staying.