Saratoga County is enriched with historical locations and artifacts. Nothing fits this bill more than Congress Park in Saratoga Springs. Originally the location of Congress Springs Bottling Plant and the large-scale resort hotel, Congress Hall, the area helped developed Saratoga Springs’ renowned reputation as a health spa and gambling mecca of the late 19th century. First declared a National Landmark in 1987, the park now contains Canfield Casino, the only standing building left from the “the Resort Period,” and a beautiful green space that houses several historically important art pieces.
Canfield Casino received its name when Richard Albert Canfield bought the location in 1883. At the time Canfield spent a small fortune, some 800,000 dollars, to revitalize the building and bring it up to par with the thriving casinos of Europe. Modern day visitors can see many of his improvements, including the vast dining room he built in 1902 and the Italian gardens with marble statues. Canfield even installed an early version of air conditioning in the hotel for his exclusive guests, who included the families of J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Since Canfield considered his casino as exclusive as a European casino, he strived to attract some of the top gamblers and leaders of industry of the time. In 1907 when the city banned gambling within city limits, it in essence closed Canfield Casino for good. By 1913 the Casino and the surrounding area was sold to the city and turned into a park.
Visitors to Canfield Casino will find the Saratoga History Museum within its walls, in addition to the original high stakes gambling room, exhibition room, and other restored exhibits.
Adjacent to Canfield Casino is Congress Park. This beautiful downtown green space contains Grecian pavilions, Italian gardens, and various mineral water springs. Several of the springs’ waters, which are still known for their health benefits, have been rechanneled into fountains for various art pieces around the park. One entitled The Spirit of Life is a memorial to Spencer Trask, the great benefactor to Saratoga County, is a large statue surrounded by a pool filled from the rechanneled water.
The most notable attraction of Congress Park is the carousel. Just near the north entrances to the park, the carousel traces its history back to 1904 and was created by master carousel carver Marcus Illions at his workshop in Coney Island. Still operating today, it continues to bring joy to young children as it did when it was first built over 100 years ago.
Congress Park, with its many attractions and historical points of interest is a great place to spend a weekend with the family. Centrally located, the park provides a great place for a picnic and a bit of museum browsing afterwards. It is definitely worth an afternoon visit.