Thursday, December 29, 2011

On the Road to Cooperstown…(Part 2)

Our late summer road trip continued…

Vestiges of the past, whether they’re old buildings or towns, are usually very interesting and sometimes they are quite sad… Our drive from Rensselaer NY to Cooperstown NY on US 20 took us by one such town, whose glory is long past but which is struggling to recover…

This is the former Imperial Baths spa in Sharon Springs New York.  It was built in 1927. 

The population of Sharon Springs in 2000 was 547 and as of 2011, it was 519.  If it wasn’t for the old dilapidated or ruined buildings that are still standing, it would be hard to believe that this little town once had 60 hotels and rooming houses that accommodated over 10,000 visitors each summer.
Back in the 19th century, Sharon Springs was a highly fashionable spa, thanks to its plentiful sulfur, magnesium and chalybeate springs.

This is a postcard of the Imperial Baths, (shown in the previous photo), back in the days when it was still operational.  At its peak, this spa could provide up to 5,000 ‘treatments’ per day.  As recently as 2001, the Imperial Baths was still open for spa treatments and massage services. 

During its heyday, Sharon Springs hosted members of the Vanderbilt family, a number of South American Ambassadors and a number of rich overseas clients.  Oscar Wilde gave a lecture at the now-demolished Pavilion Hotel back in 1882.

This is the pavilion that belonged to the White Sulphur Springs Spa.  We found it sadly attractive. 

The town of New Sharon was originally named New Dorlach.  Its current name was derived from the hometown of the first Colonial settlers, Sharon CT, and the important springs in the village.  Development of the town into a mineral water spa began in 1925 when a boarding house was built near the springs.  By 1841, the town had become world famous as the social elite came ‘to take the waters’.  Huge and magnificent hotels and fabulous parks graced the village landscape. 

Here’s an old postcard showing the White Sulphur Springs Spa with the pavilion shown in the previous photo. 

Sharon Springs lost the ‘fashionable social register clientele’ to the new horse racing attractions of Saratoga Springs New York.  The good news for this town was that wealthy Jewish families of German origin were unwelcome at Saratoga due to the social bias of the time.  Consequently, they filled the void at Sharon Springs, making the town and spas a refuge of their own.

This is part of the lower bath which belonged to the Pavilion Hotel.  It was built in 1876…with the arcaded entryway being added in the 1930’s.  The old baths was divided into 2 parts.  It had 52 suites for men and 40 for women.  Each ‘suite’ came with a ‘modern’ slate tub for soaking. 

This small pavilion is part of the White Sulphur Springs Spa.  However, this is also a source for one of the springs and, back in the day, a dipper was kept here so that visitors could sample the water.  It was supposed to be good for cronic skin ailments.  To view a much more complete series of photos and additional information about the town and spas, go to

Given the ghostly appearance of the spring shown above as well as the decay evidident in parts of town, it seems appropriate that almost all of the 1970's cult horror movie classic, “I Drink Your Blood” was filmed on location in Sharon Springs.

This is the old Hotel Roseboro.  This is an official description of the Hotel from relatively recent times.  The Wasserman Family - Hosts. Modern, comfortable, delightful, reasonable and friendly! Elevator service; fireproofed with automatic sprinklers; dietary laws strictly observed; superb American style cuisine; famous for super-cleanliness; our spotless double kitchen the showplace of the mountains; just five hours from New York on Route 20 or Thruway Exit 29; forty-five miles west of Albany; in a setting of unparalleled scenic splendor and beneficial climate; our White Sulphur Springs are famous for treatment of rheumatic, arthritic, nervous and skin disorders; fully equipped bathhouses, attendants, physicians on premises.”

From what we could ascertain, this big old hotel is being worked on but is currently in use only for weddings, a restaurant and some retail space.  It is home to Mercantile, the retail store for Beekman 1802.  A lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802 was founded in Sharon Springs in 2008 by Dr. Brent Ridge and author Josh Kilmer-Purcell.  For more information, go to

Even more stunning is the shuttered hulk of the 150 room Hotel Adler.  We didn’t take any photos of this hotel…must have been down another road just outside of town.  Check out these additonal photos…this huge old hotel was the last big hotel built in Sharon Springs…back in 1927, and it was just abandoned in 2004.  Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, bused tables at the Hotel Adler back in 1946.

There is hope in Sharon Springs!  A Korean investment group purchased the Adler Hotel and several additional properties.  To date, nothing substantial has resulted from this purchase other than a couple of different plans…but there is the possibility that this resort town will make a comeback.

Pictured above, the American Hotel on Main Street was a collapsing, abandoned building in 1996 when it was purchased.  This 1847 structure has now been converted into a functioning hotel and upscale restaurant.  Have a look at the official website to see what this classy hotel has to offer: 
The American Hotel plus “The Fabulous Beekman Brothers” business and their reality series on the Planet Green cable network with guest appearances by Martha Stewart and other celebrities…combined with other restored bed and breakfast operations, stores and restaurants as well as being featured on shows with Rachel Ray and Charles Kuralt…should bode well for the future of Sharon Springs.  Only time will tell…but for now it an interesting dicotomy…both a decaying and yet promising place… No matter what, it is a curious place, a time capsule that is definitely worth visiting. 
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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