summer place to be still holds secrets, along with some mysterious
people and places
By Shawn Stone
who has been in the area 15 minutes likely knows the basics
about Saratoga Springs. There’s the world-famous, first-in-the-nation
thoroughbred track, the presence of which makes Saratoga Springs
the oh-so-trendy epicenter of August activity. There’s a performing-arts
center, which hosts a major classical orchestra, a big-time
ballet company, touring rock bands and an annual jazz festival.
The center sits in the middle of a beautiful state park, which
also hosts a luxury hotel, a theater, a golf course, an auto
museum and a health spa of the sort that put the city on the
map in the first place. The downtown area is thick with stylish
shops and fine restaurants that, in summertime, are packed
with stylish, swanky folks (including, as seen and noted on
a recent Saturday afternoon, a few men of a certain age dressed
in their best Mary Lou Whitney finery). There are a few people
and places you might not be familiar with, however:
Longtime residents and visitors may remember that the National
Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame on Route 9 (just south
of the city) used to be the Washington bath house. What you
may not know is that when the building was transformed into
a museum, one room was kept “as is,” with an original bath
and a host of weird, early-20th-century health equipment.
Reportedly, it includes items like a heat booth lined with
light bulbs—the kind that turns up in Our Gang and Three Stooges
movies, in which people once voluntarily sat with only their
heads poking up out of the box to sweat away the toxins and/or
pounds. (It’s a contraption that, while cutting edge when
FDR was in the White House, today bears a stronger resemblance
to a medieval torture device.)
The room has not been available for public viewing since the
museum opened, but there are long-term plans to change that.
According to Heather Varney, the museum’s operations and business
manager, they are in talks with the Preservation Society of
New York to restore the room to its original condition, and
open it to the public. According to Maggie Moss-Tucker, who
is involved in this project, the idea is to have the public
“actually understand what the building was used for.” While
it would not be a part of the formal museum tour—after all,
it doesn’t have anything to do with the mission of a dance
museum—it will be an interesting window on Saratoga’s spa
You’ve heard of the horsey set, but do you know the Silly
Pink Bunnies? They are neither silly nor rose-colored. Hell,
they’re not even rabbits. They are, as cofounder Greer Mirling
explains, an international skateboard gang that got their
start in Saratoga Springs. They have so much street cred,
Mirling doesn’t even mention it. With large warrens in San
Francisco, Denver and New York City (and smaller dens around
the world), the Silly Pink Bunnies love to skateboard and
listen to punk rock. There are, according to Mirling, thousands
What do they do? They skateboard. They keep it real and keep
quiet about it. They are very big in the skateboard community,
but refuse to accept any kind of corporate sponsorship. They
hold a convention every year, where they do their thing. And,
frankly, the SPBs don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks
show up places and confuse people,” Mirling says.
If you happen to stumble on one of their Web sites, you’ll
be confused all right. Just Google “silly pink bunnies”—there
are a number of locations on the Web. What will you find?
Pictures of skateboards, and pictures of skateboarders hanging
out, having fun and showing off horrendous bruises. There
is little text, and nothing that would give them away. Like
everything else about the Bunnies, the sites are as cryptic
and mysterious as a secret Masonic codebook.
When this is mentioned to Mirling, he laughs at the confused
reactions of non-Bunnies: “there’s no story—you either figured
it out or you didn’t.” They are active in the Saratoga Springs
community, too. Over the years, members have been active in
standing up for skateboarders’ rights. They were instrumental
in the construction of the new “concrete pool” for skateboarders
in the city.
While there are springs scattered throughout downtown and
on th grounds of the state park, there is only one with what
has been described as a “breathing hole.” The Hayes spring,
on the park grounds, not only has water spouting out of the
front, it has an air-release pipe sticking out of the back
which periodically emits blasts of the same gasses that power
the spring waters. While it would not be advisable to try
this, one longtime area resident attests that if you inhale
one of these emissions, “it does a number on your head.” By
this, of course, he means it cleans out your sinuses—it will
not make you high. (So to you doper types, we plead: Leave
it alone, OK?)
Then there are the assorted weird rumors. Supposedly, there’s
something called the “chess club.” According to my intrepid
source, this may not still exist—or even have existed at all.
This involved a group of bored kids who would go to an abandoned
hospital , and sit up all night in the former psyche ward
playing chess (“the spirits that walked around the old building
helped them play better chess.”) My source new someone who
claimed to be a part of this. There are rumors of ghosts all
over town: the Adelphi Hotel, the Bachellor Inn and the Gideon
Putnam Cemetery, on S. Franklin Street, lead the list. (These
you’ll have to check out on your own.) Also, there’s the story
that a famous race horse was buried in the middle of the Saratoga
Racehorse—for good luck. According to my source, who worked
at the track a few summers, the old timers he talked with
said it was true.
Finally, just behind Broadway, (and parallel to that main
thoroughfare) is something you might not know is there: a
fault line. Despite the fact that minor earthquakes intermittently
occur around the north country, the Saratoga Fault isn’t active.
There isn’t even any record of seismic activity. The fault,
however (which is visible at High Rock Park) is the reason
the springs exist. Simply put, it allows the water to bubble
up through the shale. No springs, no Saratoga Springs—and
no “summer place to be.”
Week in Saratoga
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State
Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/22, 8:15 PM: The Philadelphia
Orchestra, with pianist Andre Watts, performs works
by Wagner, Schumann and Beethoven. $56-$14.50.
National Museum of Horse Racing, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga.
8/22, 10 AM-noon: John Eisenberg signs Native Dancer:
The Grey Ghost. For more information, call 584-0400
Children’s Museum at Saratoga, 69 Caroline St., Saratoga
Springs. 8/22, 10 AM-2 PM: Make your own hobbyhorse
in a drop-in workshop. For more information, call 584-5540.
Celebration to Honor Funny Cide will take place on 8/22
at 7 PM at the Lodge on Nelson Avenue, Saratoga, to
benefit the Saratoga Performing Arts Center classical
programs. Admission is by reservation only, at $150.
The Fifth Annual Travers Wine Tasting to benefit the
Senior Services of Albany Meals on Wheels program will
take place on 8/22 from 6:30-9:30 PM at the National
Museum of Dance, Saratoga Springs. Rain or Shine. $75
in advance, $80 at the door. 463-4381.
Saturday, Aug. 23
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State
Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/23, 8:15 PM: The Philadelphia
Orchestra, with pianist Lang Lang, performs works by
Greig, Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Falla. $56-$14.50. 587-3330.
New York State Military Museum, 297 Broadway, Saratoga
Springs. 8/23, 2 PM: Dr. Robin D. Campbell will present
“Mistresses of the Transient Earth,” as part of the
four-part Gosling Lecture Series. 587-3241.
Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College,
815 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/23, 2-3:30 PM: Participants
in the “Sleeves and Collars” family workshop will learn
to create wearable art from hardware-store materials.
The Albany-Schenectady League of Arts will hold its
Summer Gala on 8/23 at the National Museum of Dance
in Saratoga beginning at 7 PM. $40 for League Members,
$45 non-League Members and $50 at the door. Proceeds
to benefit the Albany-Schenectady League of Arts programs
and artists. 449-5380.
Sunday, Aug. 24
Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center,
Saratoga Springs. 8/24, 2:15 PM: The Jupiter Trio and
special guests perform works by Beethoven, Bresnick
and Dvorák. $32.50, $27.50. 584-6018.
Craven Books, 441 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/24,
10 AM-1 PM and 6-8 PM: Local author Tom Calarco will
sign copies of The Underground Railroad. 583-0025.
Tuesday, Aug. 26
Cooking for Kids to Benefit Local Children’s Charities
will be held on 8/26 from 7-10 PM at the Saratoga-Wilton
Elks. Tickets are $20 and information is available at
Compliments to the Chef, 488 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.