|UNITED STATES OF AMERICA|
Saratoga Springs is situated at an elevation of 308 ft (93 m) In Saratoga County, New York. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 26,186.
The first settlers arrived around 1776. Saratoga Springs was established as a town 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. In the 19th century, the community became famous as a spa town.
Saratoga Springs is the home of Skidmore College; Saratoga Race Course; the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (summer home of the renowned New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra); 11 museums; Saratoga Polo; Saratoga Gaming and Raceway; and more than 20 golf courses.
Saratoga is also home to Yaddo, a 400-acre artists' community. Since its inception in 1900, Yaddo has been home to literally dozens of Pulitzer Prize winning authors and one Nobel Prize winner.
The United States Hotel [right] was built after the original hotel, built in 1824, had burned to the ground in 1865. Between 1872 and 1874 the hotel was rebuilt and restyled into a High-Victorian elegant and palatial hotel. The hotel stood five stories high with a frontage of about 300 feet on Broadway and 900 feet on Division Street. The main building and cottages had broad piazzas that encircled the entire court. The guest rooms included 768 sleeping rooms and 65 suites.
Though the beautiful hotel continued to be a popular "Season" destination after the turn of the century, a slow and irreversible decline in patronage was brought on by high operating costs of the enormous hotel. World War II brought about the end of horse racing, and with it, an even greater decrease in patronage. In 1943, the hotel was taken over by the city for non-payment of taxes, and its magnificent furnishings were sold. The hotel was finally razed in 1946.
The famous Saratoga Race Course [left] opened in 1863. Since 1864 the track—nicknamed "the Spa"—has been the site of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the United States, which is the main event of the annual summer race meeting at Saratoga.
The Saratoga meet originally consisted of only four weeks but was subsequently lengthened to five weeks, and today a six-week meeting is observed, with Labor Day now being the last day of racing. In 1943, 1944 and 1945, racing was not held at Saratoga due to travel restrictions brought on by World War II; in those years, the stakes races that would have been run at Saratoga were contested at Belmont Park, just outside New York City, instead.
The Grand Union Hotel [right] was opened in the 1870s after it had replaced the old Union Hall, which had burnt to the ground in 1864. At the time of its opening, it was the largest hotel in the world. It was situated on an entire block, had over 800 rooms and contained a dining room that was 306 feet long by 70 feet wide and would seat 1,200 guests. However, the owners went bankrupt in 1870 and the hotel was shut down immediately and closed for the remainder of the season. Under new ownership the hotel was made even more palatial, modern and gorgeous than before. In 1875/76 the street frontage was enlarged to 2,400 feet. Upon completion, the hotel could accommodate up to 2,000 guests.
For the most part, the Grand Union Hotel survived longer than its rival hotels. By the turn of the century, patronage was dwindling and upkeep was rising. Several times during the first half of the 20th century the Grand Union avoided demolition as both Saratogian residents and summer guests fought to save the aging structure each time financial investors threatened its demise. However, upon state and federal investigations into organized crime, Saratoga's gambling casinos were closed in 1951, thus sealing the fate of the Grand Union Hotel. At the close of the season in 1952, all the furnishings and decorative accessories that had once embellised the Grand Union Hotel were offered at auction. After that it took a period of six months for a demolition crew to methodically level the building.
[Texts adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saratoga_Springs,_New_York; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saratoga_Race_Course; http://www.geocities.com/victorianlace22/UShotel.html]