Early Buildings in Saratoga Springs, NY
From: Reminiscences of Sratoga
Compiled by Cornelius E. Durkee
Reprinted from The Saratogian 1927-28


The first buildings erected in Saratoga Springs over a hundred years ago were entirely of wood, cut from the adjacent land, In fact the ground on which our city now stands was at one time all woods. Very few, if any, of the old original trees are left today.

These wooden structures erected so readily, however, easily submitted to fire; for then we did not have the up-to-date fire deoartment that the city now possesses.

Practically every building on the east side of Broadway between Grove street and Congress Spring Park in the old days at some time has been completely destroyed by fire.

The Bryan Stone House

Alexander Bryan was considered the first permanent settler here, after the close of the American Revolution. Dr. John H. Steel in hid analysis of the mineral springs of Saratoga has called him such. Bryan located himself near the High Rock Spring in 1787, buying land of Gideon Morgan, the land previously owned by the son of Samuel Norton and built there a large log house which he opened for the accommodation of visitors.

Mr. Bryan had five sons, Daniel, Jehiel, Robert, John, and Alexander. John was a farmer and merchant in Saratoga and built the stone house on the corner of Rock street and Front street, now Maple avenue, supposed to be the identical spot where his father’s loghause stood. Robert, a son of John lived in the house until his death.

I have no record of the building of the stone house, although I am sure it was one of the early residences of the community and one of the few still standing.

A monument standing in Greerridge Cemetery bears this inscription:

“In memory of Alexander Bryan, who died April 9, 1825, aged 92 years. The first permanent settler and the first to keep a public house here for visitors. An unpaid patriot who, alone, and at great peril gave the first and only information of Burgoyne’s intended advance on Stillwater, which led to timely preparation for the battle of September 19th, followed by the memorable victory of October 7, 1777.”

Walworth Mansion

The Walworth Mansion, known as Pine Grove is one of the oldest houses in the city. It was built by Henry Walton in 1815 and he and his family resided there until he built the large residence at Woodlawn. In 1823, he sold the property to Reuben Hyde Walworth, later Chancellor of the state of New York.

In these early days it was a much more secluded place than it NOW is and was exceedingly beautiful.

The railroad had not then marred its proportions and a delightful wood which bounded It on the rear extended up westward beyond the present Woodlawn avenue, and to the Waterbury orchard and farm. Almost the entire block opposite was then used as a public park, and was the favorite resort for both the villagers and summer guests, being traversed by fine walks.

It enclosed a ten pin alley which was much resorted to; swings hung down between the tall pines and in this grove the Indians sometimes encamped offering for sale their manufactured wares, And here, too, the militia sometimes met on training days.

In 1828, the chancellor removed to Albany but in 1833, tiring of his residence there he returned to his former home in Pine Grove and lived there until his death, which occurred on the 28th day of November, 1866. While residing in Flattsburg, the chancellor married his first wife, Maria Ketchum Averill. She died at Pine Grove, April 2, 1847. By his first wife, he had six children, Sarah who married John M. Davison; Mary who married Edgar Jenkins, Eliza, who married the Rev, Dr. Backus. His sons were the Rev. Father Clarence Walworth, and Mansfield Tracy Walworth.

April 16, 1851, the chancellor again married, his second wife being Sarah Ellen, daughter of Horace Smith and widow of Colonel John 3. Hardin. She brought with her to Saratoga, three young children of her first marriage, two boys and a daughter. The daughter married Mansfield Tracy Walworth and their daughter. Miss Ellen Hardin Walworth living in Albany, spends every summer here in the old house at Pine Grove The second wife died in April, 1874. The chancellor died Nov. 28, 1866,

About 1860, the original house was very materially changed in itd outward aspect. The roof was changed, rooms were enlarged and added to in the second story, but the ground floor rooms were not disturbed and remain as they were when the great Chancellor hell Court there,

The original building was a plain square building with a north and south wing. The north wing was used by the chancellor as an office, the south wing being a parlor, A stone building located now on the corner of Van Dam and Woodlawn avenue was occupied by the coachman having been built by Henry Walton for his coachman, The house is now standing on the corner of Van Dam street and Woodlawn avenue and is occupied as a grocery Store,

The Walworth Mansion has sheltered many national leaders in the time of Chancellor Walworth, and was one of the great show places at the community. The movement of Saratoga Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution to place a bronze marker upon the house, indicating its great historical wortn, is a most worthy one and deserves the commendation of all Saratogians.

The Davison House

The Davison House, one door north of the Warden Hotel, was built on or before 1819; for in that year, Gideon M. Davison and family were living there and that year Mr. Davison began the publication of the Saratoga Sentinel, which, in 1845, was merged in The Republication, started in 1844 by John A. Corey,

The house is now the resideace of Dr. and Mrs. David C. Nolan.

Early Houses Still Standing

The three story brIck building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Washington street was built by Nathan Lewis in 1819 and in the corner store Joseph Westcott, May 25, 1819. became a dry goods dealer. At the present date the corner store is the office and drinking parlor of the Saratoga Vichy Mineral Spring Co. The store north is that of an automobile supply co.

The Ramson Cook house still standing at number 219 South Broadway, and occupied by Mrs. Frank A. Cook, and her mother inlaw, Mrs. Eli R. Cook, is another very old house still preserved. It was bought by Ransom Cook, father of Eli R. Cook in 1822. Ransom Cook was born, Nov 8, 1794 at Wallingford, Conn. and came to Saratoga Springs with his parents when he was seven years old. His father established a furniture factory in the county. When Ransom was old enough, he began working in his father’s factory and in 1813, he came to Saratoga, then a hamlet of 300 persons.

The three story building owned by Lewis H. Hays at present on Broadway, was built by Walter J. Hendrick, in 1830 and was owned by Samuel Root, who had a bakery in the basement and occupied the store above in which he sold breads, cakes, and pies.

Alexander Hays, of Galway was employed by Mr. Root, and he eventually bought the business and the reel estate in 1850. Mr. Hays and family resided above the store. The building was damaged by fire in 1905 but was repaired. Mr. Hays died in 1899, aged 74 years. His son Lewis H. Hays, now occupies the store, the upper floors being arranged in fiats and rented.

Chapman Building

The Chapman Building, now housing the Saratoga Athenaeum Library and rooms was built in the early 1830-s and was used by Samuel Chapman as his residence. With him lived hIs n€.phew James R. Chapman, who was employed as a locomotive engineer on the Saratoga and Whitehall Railroad. Samuel Chapman was born in Saratoga Springs in 1790 and made his home in that part’ of the Athenaeum building, now number 344 until his death, May 16, 1857, bequeathing the building to his nephew.

At the entrance of the Athenaeum today, the visitor may read on a tablet, this:

“Saratoga Athenaeum, Chapman Memorial. This building, given in memory of James R. Chapman, and Elizabeth J. Chapman. 1906.

The inscriptions on the graves of the Chapmans in Putnam cemetery are as follows: “Samuel Chapman, died May 16, 1857, aged 67 years and Ruth Chapman, his wife, died, Dee, 16, 1859.”

An Early Tavern

Where the American Hotel now stands there was another tavern in the early days. kept by E. S. Monroe, but there is no record that the
house had a name. George W. Wilcox, purchased the property in 1832, and called it The York House, which name it retained until 1840 when he built the American Hotel.

Mr. Wilcox and his son-in-law E. Darwin Pitkin conducted the hotel for several years. The property was sold by Mrs. Pitkin, the only child of Mr. Wilcox, to William Bennett who made additions and improved the property.

The Perry Building was built in the 1830-s by Dr. John L. Perry. He and his family resided there and he had his office on the ground floor, Dr. Perry died Nov. 27, 1873, aged. 59 years,

The Durkee House

The residence in which I live, the C. E. Durkee, residence on the west side of Broadway, corner of Walton street was built by Judge Nicholas B. Doe, and is another of the oldest houses in the community.

Judge Doe resided in waterford before coming to Saratoga Springs and was elected member of the assembly in 1825 and made a county judge in 1826. Again he was elected as assemblyman in 1840 and 1841 and later was elected member of Congress.

In 1841 he removed to Saratoga Springs and in 1841-42, he built the brick riouse in which I live, and he with his wife resided there until their deaths.

During his life, Judge Doe maintained an office in the basement of the house. He died Dec. 6, 1856 and his wife, Gertrude C. Doe, died Feb. 13, 1864.

In 1865, Paoli Durkee, my father, purchased the property and with his family occupied the house. Mr. Durkee died, Feb. 4, 1888 and his wife, Lydia Stoddard Eldridge Durkee died July 1, 1889.

Fonda Building

The Fonda Building. still standing at 384 Broadway, was built by Horace H. Fonda, in 1846, The front has been changed and the upper stories altered. Mr. Fonda and family resided above the stores and conducted a grocery store on the street floor for a number of years. The building is now occupied by John B. Erb’s store, and Dr. John J. Boyle’s office and above are law offices.

The little cottage, standing a short distance back of the street between the residence of Dr. D. C. Moriarta and The Saratoga Club is quite old, but I have not been able to ascertain at what date it was built. In 1849, it was occupied by the late William B. Gage and family Mr. Gage was the master mechanic of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railway, now the Delaware and Hudson, and was the father of the late William B, Gage for many years proprietor of the United States Hotel, and the grandfather of Marvin B. Gage of this city. The building at the present time is occupied by Mrs. Ellen M. Kenyon, a dealer in antiques.

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