A Stroll Through History: 30th Annual Victorian Street Walk
Bundle up and take a step back in time during the 30th Annual Victorian Streetwalk on Thursday, December 1st from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. This is a favorite event among locals. Broadway is closed for the evening and thousands come out to kick off the Christmas season, with carolers, live performances, food and a visit from Santa.
As you are walking around town tonight, enjoying the entertainment and decorations, take a minute to appreciate the stunning architecture and rich history of these buildings. Some of them date back to the 1800s. Here are five we just can’t get enough of.
297 Broadway – Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center
Today the three grand arches of this landmark welcomes visitors from near and far much like it did when it was constructed. The Hudson Valley Railroad built this impressive Beaux-Art style trolley station in 1915 to serve as the gateway for those who wanted to taste the natural spring waters at the newly established Saratoga Springs Reservation, today known as the Spa State Park.
The trolley passed by the rear of the Lincoln Baths to allow passengers to disembark to enjoy the baths and then continued on to Ballston Spa and Schenectady. With the increased popularity of the automobile, trolley service ceased. In 1941, the building was purchased by New York State and rededicated as the Drink Hall, a place to buy the state-owned bottled mineral waters. Drink Hall closed in 1965 and was deeded to the City. After serving many uses, the building once again welcomed visitors when it was designated the Visitor Center in 1987.
As you walk up to this great building, be sure to check out the two exterior bas-relief murals – right, Sir William Johnson visiting the High Rock Spring and left, the surrender of British General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga in 1977.
25 Washington Street – Universal Preservation Hall
Many of you have seen this steeple from afar, as it is one of the tallest in Saratoga Springs standing at 129’ tall. On the night of the Victorian Streetwalk, this beautiful High Victorian Gothic building will serve as a community gathering space much like it did historically.
In 1871, the Methodist Church constructed this church for its local congregation as well as to host Annual Methodist Convention. Over 1,000 people traveled from near and far to attend the convention to hear various famous people speak – William Jennings Bryan, Frederick Douglas, and Theodore Roosevelt, just to name a few.
In 1976, the Methodist Church constructed a new church and the Universal Baptist Church purchased the building the following year. With a dwindling congregation, the building fell into disrepair. The roof started to collapse and the City condemned the building.
In the late 1990s, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation took initial steps to stabilize the building to prevent its demolition. Out of this effort, the non-profit Universal Preservation Hall was formed to adapt this majestic church to serve as a community performing arts center, a special events space, and the sanctuary of the Universal Baptist Church.
Before you leave this space be sure to check out the amazing auditorium with 44’ ceiling and beautiful abstract, non-denominational stained glassed windows.
472 Broadway – Fallon Wellness
Did you know that this space has been a pharmacy in the Ainsworth Building since 1871, when the building was constructed? Menges & Curtis Apothecary, established in 1860, is one of the oldest pharmacies in the country. Today we know it as Fallon Wellness Pharmacy, but we are still reminded of its origins from the nearly unchanged storefront to the Menges & Curtis sign above the awning.
Architect Gilbert B. Croft designed this handsome Italianate commercial block building with shops on the first floor and offices and apartments on the floors above for community leader Seymour Ainsworth.
Don’t forget to look up otherwise you might miss the date of construction in the pediment above as well as the beautiful ornate tall narrow windows with their decorative hoods.
473 Broadway – The Adirondack Trust Company
It is hard to not feel as sense of strength and stability when you walk up the white marble stairs of this impressive structure, which was exactly the intent of its architect Alfred Hopkins. Hopkins designed this impressive structure for the Adirondack Trust Company in 1916, replacing the previous building on the site that they had outgrown.
The Adirondack theme is carried throughout the building inside and out. The crowning ornament of the primary façade is a large shield with a stag’s head, signifying the name Adirondack, flanked on each side by horns of plenty and the American eagle. The bronze front doors that grace the building depict an Adirondack mountain scene with stags, considered a noble animal of the Adirondacks that symbolize strength, in the foreground. Inside, the chandeliers also feature stag heads, clusters of acorns of the Adirondacks that symbolize the storing of wealth, and the zodiac signs.
Perhaps learn a lesson or two about the virtues of honesty, industry and thrift while inside by reading the sayings highlighted in gold Roman lettering.
475 Broadway – United States Post Office
There is much more to this building than being just a convenient place to send a letter. It has impressive decorative bronze doors that open into a lovely space that is lit by natural light from the skylight.
James Knox Taylor designed this 1910 building in the popular Beaux-Art style. In 1977, the federal government attempted to close the post office. Then Mayor Raymond Watkins personally sued to stop the closer and was successful. A second attempt was made in 1993 and was again thwarted by citizens of Saratoga Springs who devised a plan to divide the space to allow for a commercial tenant to provide a source of revenue to fund the maintenance of this historic building.
Don’t miss the wonderful murals of the Saratoga Racing Season by Guy Pene du Bois that grace the interior. Trained in Paris, Du Bois focused on scenes of the fashionable life so it was only appropriate that the painted scenes of Saratoga Race Course. The murals were created during the Depression under the Treasury Relief Art Project, a program that awarded commissions to fine artist to create works of art to enhance federal buildings.