About Saratoga Springs

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In the 1700s the Saratoga region was an exposed frontier, territory traversed seasonally by Mohawk tribes. It was far from any urban center and difficult to get to. The early village grew slowly, having a population of about 1,100 in 1820. The coming of the railroad in 1832 spurred a huge expansion, both in goods and visitors. The Civil War disrupted the growth of the village but by the 1880s its residents numbered 14,000 – about what it also was in 1970!

Although established as a summer spa resort, it was the year-round residents who provided the base for its success. African Americans were integrated into the settling of the Saratoga region, initially as slaves and later as free men and women, largely serving the resort industry. Eventually, they were supplanted by a steady influx of Irish with whom they had to compete for jobs. During the 1840s the Irish population increased dramatically, forming a cohesive neighborhood known as “Dublin” on the west side of town. By the turn of the century, most blacks had moved elsewhere for better opportunities.

Meanwhile, as the Irish moved out into the broader community in the 1880s, their old neighborhood was inhabited by Italian immigrants. Some of them were stonemasons or railroad workers, but some established small businesses, including restaurants, barbershops and grocery stores.

After WWI another neighborhood developed, this time east of Broadway in a low-lying valley, affectionately called “The Gut.” It was a lively enclave of Jewish stores, markets, hotels and boarding houses that catered to NYC Jewish spa-goers who sought out kosher dining and familiar practices. Saratoga’s Jews, in turn, relied on this summer trade to see them through the winter, and savored the downstate contacts that enriched their lives. Until 1960 this area was, indeed, the city’s Jewish heart and soul.