For the past two months, I’ve been working on writing interpretive signs for Saratoga Spring’s Spring Run Trail, particularly the area that runs from East Avenue to the Northway.
When I volunteered to do the signs for P.L.A.N., I didn’t realize that in order to write the signs in an engaging way, include the most relevant historical details, and think in terms of illustrations, photos and maps that I would be spending a great deal of time researching. That’s what I’ve been up to lately.
And, it has been fun. I’ve talked to dozens of experts including Saratoga Springs City Historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald who is a wealth of knowledge. She walked the trail with me informing me the entire way and showing various points of interest. I scribbled notes into my reporter’s notebook.
Our conversations led me to other experts and delights. Such as Leonard Warren, who is the grandson of Benjamin Weisbrot, the man who opened the Sulphur and Mud Baths in Eureka Park, one of the
once famous, now gone landmarks of the valley.
I also spoke to the very engaging Charlie Keunzel, who explained Saratoga’s mineral springs and how they came to be. And, I read a delightful little book – Garden Graith by Sarah F. Smiley – a Quaker preacher who – in the 1880s – lived in what is now locally known as the Brackett Cottage on Excelsior Avenue.
This charming little book – downloadable from google books – describes the flowers and birds that frequented Spring Run Trail and thanks to Lois Geshiwlm at Wild Birds Unlimited on Route 50 I was able to confirm that they still do.
I also spent time to the Saratoga Room at the Library in the good and knowledgeable hands of Victoria Garlanda and Terri Blasko. If you are doing Saratoga history, stop by.
They told me about Gino DiCarlo, who knows a great deal about the history of railroads in our area. And, I would say, is an expert on the subject.
You can see this was a big effort . . . and that was just for the text for the signs. In order to write tight text – the signs need to be concise, clear and captivating – I did a lot of interviewing, reading and research.
I am still working on the gathering of images.
I have been through several folders of Bolster Collection images and have jotted down possible inclusions. Thank you to volunteer John Connors and Jamie Parillo, executive director of the Saratoga Springs History Museum, who welcomed me.
Leonard Warren has provided images, too. And stories from his childhood of how he would ignite the waters of the Lithium Spring on his grandfather’s property to the amazement and amusement of guests.
I’m still looking for an image of Caroline Lawrence. She was the daughter of H.H. Lawrence, who owned the Excelsior Spring. In 1865, she designed a pump and bottling system that retained the water’s natural carbonation and allowed the water to be marketed worldwide. I would love to show her face on the sign and am hopefully someone in town knows where we can get one. If so, get in touch with me here.
Right now, the work I did writing the text for the signs is being reviewed by people with an in-depth knowledge of Saratoga Spring’s history.
I approached the signs as a journalist. Checking that all information had two sources, gathering stories, talking to people.
Soon, the content for the signs and possible images will be in the hands of the city and P.L.A.N. and hopefully in the very near future you will take a walk on the trail and read it’s tale.
It’s a good one that touches many aspects of our city of Health, History and Horses with stories of mud baths and trainers coming for mud to sooth the inflamed legs of thoroughbreds at the race course, celebrities soaking in bathhouses, and the perceived curative powers of the different springs water that once, and in many cases still do, bubble up from the ground.
If you know this area, called the Valley of the Ten Springs, it is not too late to share your story with me. I’d love to hear it.
And I thank and appreciate everyone who has contributed to this project.