Saratoga Springs, also known as simply Saratoga (though not to be confused with the nearby town of that name), is a city in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population was 26,586 at the 2010 census. The name reflects the presence of mineral springs in the area. While the word "Saratoga" is known to be a corruption of a Native American name, authorities disagree on the original term and its meaning. The city is near the center of Saratoga County in upstate New York.
The area was occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Mahican Indians before they were pushed out by European settlement, both Dutch and English colonists. They eventually moved east and became allied with other remnant peoples and became known as the Stockbridge Indians, as they settled near Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The English built Fort Saratoga in 1691 on the west bank of the Hudson River. The current village of Schuylerville, New York was settled about a mile south by English colonists shortly after the fort; it was known as Saratoga until 1831. In 1767, William Johnson, a British soldier who was a hero of the French and Indian Wars, was brought by Native American friends to springs about 10 miles (16 km) west of the village. They treated his war wounds, as the spring was thought to have medicinal properties. Now known as High Rock Spring, it may still be visited today. In 1756 Johnson had been appointed British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northeast region due to his success in building alliances with the Mohawk and other Iroquois tribes. He had learned the language, and created many trading relationships. He achieved great wealth from trading and landholdings, and was knighted for his service to the Crown with the Iroquois.
The first permanent European-American settler built a dwelling about 1776. The springs attracted tourists, and Gideon Putnam built the first hotel for travelers. Putnam also laid out the roads and donated land for use as public spaces.
The Battle of Saratoga, the turning point of the Revolutionary War, did not take place in Saratoga Springs. Rather, the battlefield is to the southeast in the Town of Stillwater. A museum dedicated to the two battles is located on the fields where the battles were fought. The British encampment before the surrender at Saratoga took place east of the city, in Schuylerville, where several historical markers delineate points of interest. The surrender of the sword of battle took place where Fort Saratoga had been, south of Schuylerville.
Saratoga Springs was established as a settlement in 1819 from a western portion of the Town of Saratoga. Its principal community was incorporated as a village in 1826 and the entire region became a city in 1915. Tourism was greatly aided after 1832 by the arrival of the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad, which brought thousands of travelers to the famous mineral springs. Resort hotels developed to accommodate them. Patronage of the railroad increased steadily after the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company assumed control in 1870 and began running the Empire State Express directly between New York City and the resort.
In the 19th century, the noted doctor Simon Baruch encouraged developing European-style spas in the United States as centers for health. With its wealth of mineral waters, Saratoga Springs was developed as a spa, generating the development of many large hotels, including the United States Hotel and the Grand Union Hotel. The latter was, in its day, the largest hotel in the world.
In 1863, Saratoga Race Course opened, moving to its current location the following year. Horse racing and its associated betting greatly increased the city's attraction as a tourist destination at a time when horse racing was a popular national spectator sport. In addition, the Saratoga Springs area was known for its gambling, which after the first years of the 20th century was illegal, but still widespread. Most gambling facilities were located on Saratoga Lake, on the southeast side of the city.
After the closing and demolition in the 1940s and 1950s of many of the town's premier hotels, including the Grand Union and United States, and competition from other destinations as more people used cars to travel widely for vacations, Saratoga Springs suffered a significant economic downturn. During the 1950s, the state and city finally closed the famed gambling houses, which further damaged Saratoga Springs as a destination.
The city's rebirth began in the 1960s with the completion of the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87), which allowed visitors from the north and south much easier access. In addition, the construction of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the late 1960s, which features classical and popular music and dance, furthered the city's renaissance. The New York City Ballet performed there for numerous summer seasons, together with other high-quality dance groups and musicians. In the early 21st century, there has been a boom of building, both residential and retail, in the west side and downtown areas of the city.