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Jockey Jorge Chavez guides “Above All Odds” to the finish line first on the Mellon Turf Course at Saratog Racetrack.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

A Place in Time

Eighteenth-century Day at Saratoga National Historical Park’s Schuyler House invited visitors to step back to our nation’s revolutionary beginnings By Kathryn Lange

The Battle of Saratoga was a legendary crossroads for our fledgling nation—the decisive turning point of the American Revolution. “At Saratoga,” wrote author Richard Ketchum, “the British campaign that was intended to crush America’s rebellion ended instead in a surrender that changed the history of the world.” On the edge of contemporary Saratoga Springs, Saratoga National Historical Park serves as a hauntingly pastoral shrine to the epic battle. Eight miles north, Schuyler House, summer home to Gen. Philip Schuyler, stands with similar reverence to that momentous era. And last weekend on the house grounds, the park’s annual 18th-century day resurrected a time when beer was brewed over an open hearth and brain surgery was performed on kitchen tables.

“We passed Hudson’s River and encamped in the plains of Saratoga at which place there is a handsome and commodious dwelling house,” wrote a British officer of Schuyler House in September 1777. The officer was a member of Gen. John Burgoyne’s invading army, whose troops were resting in the small hamlet of Saratoga on their march south to capture Albany. Less than a month later the retreating general ordered the house and all of Schuyler’s mills and outbuildings burned to the ground.

One saw mill was spared from burning and, as the period-garb-clad guides at Schuyler House will point out, brushing over the iron latches of the house’s massive front door, workers were tasked with sifting through the rubble to salvage any useable hardware—in 1777 every nail and hinge had to be hand-forged by a blacksmith. Schuyler had to pay his crew three times the going rate, for fear of “redcoats,” but it took them only three weeks to rebuild the spacious country home from the foundation up. Schuyler House has been restored to its revolutionary grandeur, and this weekend, bustling with 18th-century activity (though partially quelled by the summer’s unforgiving rains), the house and grounds offered an entertaining and enlightening step through time.

Visitors to 18th-century day were greeted by the rhythmic strains of fiddle and hammered dulcimer. Husband-and-wife duo Anne and Ridley Enslow shared not only their music, but their extensive knowledge of their instruments, from their history to their construction and a little in between—did you know the flexible Pernambuco wood used to make violin bows was originally used to make sturdy barrels? It was as good an introduction to the hammered dulcimer as one can hope for: Anne Enslow played the hammered dulcimer in the Broadway production of The Secret Garden—a particularly remarkable resume credit for a particularly rare instrument—and her evocative, light touch proved why.

Another husband-and-wife team demonstrated the brewing process for a fine porter from start to finish. Always a crowd pleaser. With malted barley stewing in a cast-iron cauldron over an open fire, the brewers offered tastes of the process: a bite of malted barley, another taste of the sweet fermented mush, a look at the delicate green hops flower (added for its antibacterial properties and tasty pollen). And finally, they cracked open a keg and ladled out cups of the brew itself. The 18th-century homebrew was a definite hit, much, it seemed, to everyone’s surprise.

A few steps past the brewers, Liz G., a master gardener turned 18th-century herbalist for the day, offered tours of the Schuyler House herb garden. The compact plot brims with 42 different types of herbs, and their caretaker gave visitors an equally compact and brimming education in botany, and in the plethora of medical, culinary and household uses for the herbs. Sure, you know aloe will sooth a burn, but how about rosemary for hair loss or geranium as a styptic? If you run out of Band-Aids, try a soft leaf of lamb’s ear. For a candle wick: milkweed.

A third couple, settled on the wide-plank porch, elaborated on the herbalist’s lesson. The two have woven their contemporary careers into a mutual fascination with the history of medicine. Stuart Lehman is the education coordinator for the state Capitol and governor’s mansion; his wife, Ruth, is recently retired from nursing. Their combined knowledge of history and contemporary medicine made for a fascinating examination of the insight and errors of the past.

Here, the herbalist’s aromatic remedies were jarred and labeled, alongside more exotic specimens collected on botanical expeditions. A mortar and pestle ground cloves and willow to a sweet, fragrant analgesic. A table of unsettling medical tools sent chills up the spine: leather retractors, bullet probes, amputation saws, lances for bloodletting, even a seemingly innocuous jar of water, which, when lifted, revealed a writhing mass of hungry leeches.

Colonial doctors certainly didn’t get it all right. Abdominal surgery, no matter how minor, wasn’t attempted; patients would be lost to peritonitis. Wood and bone handles, insufficient cleansing, and a lack of germ theory made infection not a risk but a guarantee. It was, in fact, the color of a patient’s puss that determined their prognosis.

But they didn’t get it all wrong either. Eighteenth-century doctors could tackle cataract surgeries, amputations and even surgeries to relieve brain swelling. Many active elements in the botanical remedies are extracted or synthesized by contemporary pharmaceutical companies. Even those writhing leeches packed a powerful medical punch: Their bite injects an intense anticoagulant. Enough, in some cases, to alleviate a heart attack or stroke.

A musket ball mangled with tooth marks—chewed so a patient wouldn’t bite off his own tongue from the pain of surgery—was a harsh reminder of the trials of colonial life. A twilight spin through the battlefield on the trip home was eerily infused with the specters of battle: the grating of the amputation saw, the screams of surgery, hands lining worn boots with lamb’s ears to soften footfalls, ladles of porter, haunting music. The details that shaped a nation.

Saratoga Calendar

Musical history: (l-r) Ridley and Anne Enslow entertain at 18th-century day.

Photo: Kathryn Lange


SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000). Sun: Saratoga Music Festival with Bob Dylan, the Levon Helm Band, the Swell Season, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Raul Malo. Tue: the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir and Ratdog.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (Rooftop patio, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). Fri: Sonny & Perley.



THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

ALMOST SARATOGA (2839 Route 9, Malta, 587-0048). Thu: Winchester and Young (6 PM). Sat: karaoke.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic. Fri: Bill Staines. Sat: Laura Vecchione. Sun: Peach Pie.

CHEZ SOPHIE (Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-3538). Fri, Tue: Cole Broderick. Sun: Cole Broderick (10:30 AM).

CIRCUS CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Thu: open mic with Nate Solomon. Sat: A-Man karaoke. Wed: Nate Buccieri.

THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.

DOZER’S BAR & GRILL (411 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa, 587-9478). Fri: Bandolero.

FIFTY SOUTH (2128 Doubleday Ave., Route 50, Ballston Spa, 884-2926). Fri: karaoke.

HORSESHOE INN (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909). Thu: TS Ensemble.

IT’S CONFIDENTIAL (38 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 584-0130). Thu: Jeff Walton (5:30 PM). Fri: White Flag (5:30 PM); TS Ensemble (9 PM). Sat: JT Maple (5:30 PM); Groove Syndicate (9 PM).

MOUZON HOUSE (1 York St., Saratoga Springs, 226-0014). Tue: Masters of Nostalgia.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Fri, Mon: Sarah Pedinotti Band. Sat: Lee Shaw Trio.

PRIME RESTAURANT (Saratoga National Golf Course, Union Street, Saratoga Springs). Fri: Happy Daze.

ROUND LAKE RESTAURANT AND PUB (Round Lake Road, Round Lake, 899-1060). Thu-Fri: karaoke.

SARATOGA CITY TAVERN (19 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-3230). Fri: Big Johnson Blues Band.

SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). Thu-Wed: piano bar with Roger Morris.

THIRTEEN (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1316). Fri-Sat: DJ Kamikaze.

VENUE NIGHT CLUB (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D.



Cinderella Tales, Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Arts Center in Saratoga, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Through 8/17, Sat-Sun at 4 PM. $10. 438-5503.




Diamond Dance, Saratoga Music Hall, 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/16, 7:30: beginning swing dance lesson; 8-11:30 PM: largest monthly swing dance. $15. 587-5132.




Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/14, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra will perform works by Strauss and Rossini, and, with pianist Martha Argerich, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. $18-$72.50. 8/15, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra, with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, will perform works by Roussel, Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Respighi. $18-$72.50. 8/16, 8 PM: Family Night with the Philadelphia Orchestra and violinist Sergey Khachatryan performing an all-Tchaikovsky program. $18-$72.50. 8/20, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra perform excerpts from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; also, works by Janácek and Rachmaninoff. $18-$72.50. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 9/18, 8 PM: Pianist Yuja Wang, with members of the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, will perform works by Dohnanyi, Liszt and Brahms. $36.50, $41.50. 9/19, 8 PM: Violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky, with SCMF members, will perform works by Bax, Bartók, Debussy and Beethoven. $36.50, $41.50. 587-3330.



Children’s Museum at Saratoga, 69 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs. Wacky Wednesday After-School Kids Club Wednesdays, 3:45-5 PM. Ages 6-10. Free with museum admission. 584-5540.

Radio Disney KidZone at Saratoga Polo on 8/17, 8/24. Kids can meet ponies and more. Call for info. 584-8108.

Saratoga County Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Sat, Sun through 8/17, 4 PM: Cinderella Tales. 584-4132.


Museums & Galleries

70 Beekman Street Art Gallery, 70 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 542-6688. Sporting Life: A Solo Show by Adriano Manochia. Through 9/5.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Worth a Thousand Muskets: Civil War Field Artillery. Also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during the Revolutionary War. Also, World War II: United for Victory. Also, Fiery Trial and Sacrifice: New York and the First World War. Ongoing.

Riverfront Studios Fine Art Gallery, 96 Broad St., Schuylerville. 369-3280. Summer Suite. Through 8/30.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. 25 Years of the Travers: Poster Art by Greg Montgomery. Through 8/31.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Member Exhibition Hall, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Adirondack Light and Adirondack Reflections. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Hospital Medical Library, 211 Church St., Saratoga Springs. 583-8301. Rocky Roads: Coast to Coast View. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Springs Amtrak Station, Station Lane, Saratoga Springs. 437-6877. Sen Ba: War Horses. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. 584-7860. Photographs by Andrew Derk. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Springs Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241. Saratoga Springs Alive!, oil paintings by Cynthia Whitman. Through 8/31.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Opener 15: Amy Sillman: Third Person Singular. Through 1/4/09. Also, Elevator Music 12: Jessica Rylan. Through 9/20. Also, Opener 14: Dean Snyder: Almost Blue. Through 8/31.


Farmers Markets

Ballston Spa Farmers Market, Wiswall Park, Ballston Spa. Thursdays, 3-6 PM; Saturdays, 9 AM-noon.

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.


Fairs & Festivals

Art in the Park, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/19, 10 AM-4 PM: Art and entertainment at this outdoor visual-art show and sale. 584-4132.

Fab-UU-lous Fair, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Saratoga Springs. 8/16, 9 AM-3 PM: Select from fine arts, plants and gardening accessories, used books, and hand-crafted items. 584-1555 or

Round Lake Arts & Crafts Festival, The Historic Park Grounds, Round Lake. 8/16-17. Sat, 9 AM-5 PM; Sun, 10 AM-4:30 PM: This show will feature 200 skilled artists and craftsmen, selling and demonstrating their unique products. 899-2800.


Et Cetera

38th Annual Antique Show, Canfield Casino, Saratoga Springs. 8/16-17, 10-5 PM: One of the highlights of the Saratoga summer season. The show opens 8/15, Friday evening, with a wine tasting and preview from 5-8 PM. $7 antique show, $40 Friday preview. 584-6920.

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