Village celebrates bicentennial

Parades, formal balls, and long beards will all be part of the Village of Ballston Spa's bicentennial celebration starting in January. A committee of volunteers has been making party plans for nearly 12 months to mark the occasion for the village that is steeped in history.

We want everyone living in the area to know about the village's prominent place in local history, said bicentennial committee chairman John Mancini. "This is the time for Ballston Spa to shine, and everyone is invited to join in."

Major commerce and tourism draw

The county seat since 1816, the Village of Ballston Spa was once a major gateway to the Saratoga region. In the early 1800s, a major railroad arrived, crossing 12 downtown streets. Trains were used to ship ice and other perishables nationwide, making the village a hub for commerce and trade.

The George West and Union Bag and Paper Company provided brisk business for the village. But the village's shining stars were the elegant hotels, most prominently The Sans Souci, built in 1803 by Nicholas Low, which occupied most of the block in the downtown hub. The stately hotel drew wealthy guests not only for the luxury of the surroundings, but also for a chance to bathe, drink and relax by the natural mineral springs.

"The springs were thought to have mystical healing elements," said Mancini.

"They were known throughout the country as a place for rejuvenation, both physically and mentally. Most people think of Saratoga Springs as the historical place for mineral waters, but in fact it was our village that first drew people in."

The Medbery Hotel, once known as the Village Hotel, built in 1804, has in recent years been restored as part of a million dollar project. It has reopened as a luxurious spa and inn, owned by village residents Dolores and Jim Taisey. The inn reflects a glimpse into the village's former historic grandeur.

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