It all started in Schoharie County, New York, in a village that goes by the name of Sharon Springs. That part of the name – Springs – is there for a reason. Since days of old, Native Americans of the Iroquois Nation frequently visited this place for it was filled with therapeutic waters.
They believed (as many people today still do) that the natural springs were able to help a lot during a healing process, ranging from osteoarthritis all the way to a migraine. The history of this village goes back to the 18th century in a time when America was still being colonized, at which time this place was known under a different name – New Dorlach.
In those days it was a prosperous little town. Home to some 10,000 people and a place where the soil was fertile, it deservedly nicknamed the “breadbasket of the Colonies”. As the name would suggest this village was filled with natural springs. Among the most notable places people could visit to experience the healing treatments on offer were the Gardner Spring, and from 1927 the Imperial Baths.
The Gardner Spring was established in 1884 by Dr Alfred W. Gardner. It was his idea for this place to have a fountain from which gasses of sulfur are the be released into the air, thus acting as a remedy for anyone who inhales them. A new pavilion was built over the waters in the 1920s, named the White Sulfur Temple, and this still stands today.
As mentioned before, back in its days of youth there were 10,000 residents, today there a less than 600. The reason behind the sinking of this village has to do with something quite opposite from healing and relaxing. It was the gambling, the horse races that were organized at Saratoga Springs.
As the fashionable set moved over to Saratoga, Sharon Springs slowly filled with the richest Jewish families from Germany and other parts of Europe. In those days, Saratoga Springs had a different view of the world and the prosperous Jews were not on their watch list, and they were unwanted guests at Saratoga.
This was a reason enough for them to make Sharon Springs their new address and call it home. With time the world started to move forward and with it so did part of the racism and the social bias. Now the rich Jewish families were free to move on into the different parts of the world.
And they did so. Needless to say, their leaving contributed to the overall plummeting of the economy. But saying goodbye to them wasn’t the only factor. Another one in the series of several was the National Prohibition Act.
A lot of Humulus lupulus (common hop) plant was grown on the fertile land of Sharon Springs. This plant was used in the beer production and because prohibition shut down any legal production of alcohol, demand for Humulus lupulus fell, which severely effected the economy of the area.
The third blow came in a form of New York State Thruway. This new highway took all of the potential tourists and travelers in a different direction and far from the village. But amid all those problems, a new hope was born for Sharon Springs. Part of the abandoned buildings were demolished and, beginning in the late 1980s, many have been renovated to their earlier glory.
Among the renovated buildings is the American Hotel. Even the farming life in this village is coming back from the dead. Residents of New York City are in the mood of purchasing their new country home here, as a way to relax from the never ending noise.
An investment company called Sharon Springs Inc. has plans to invest in the renovation of the Imperial Baths. Their plan goes even further and it also includes the renovation of the Adler and Columbia hotels.
With time this little village is slowly returning back to its former splendor and the signs of abandonment are being erased.