Sharon Springs

12/20/2014 2 albums Share: , , Album RSS
Sharon Springs is a sulfur bath resort town in Central NY. Development as a mineral water spa began in 1825 with the establishment of David Eldredge's boarding house. Several large hotels and boarding houses were built and by 1841 the village had become world famous. Helped by the building of a turnpike system and the Erie Canal, Sharon accommodated over 10,000 visitors per summer, and had an influx of European and Judaic visitors.

As spa turnover, financial difficulties, and fires damaged the resort town, new owners who were not as attached to the town as the previous owners contributed to the village's decline. Prohibition and the Great Depression also had their own effects on the town, hurting the hops market of the surrounding area. After the Depression ended, the popularity of the automobile hurt Sharon again. Motels and motor courts established along major highways catered to the independent automobile culture, and eliminated the need for "all inclusive" packages that the resort hotels offered. The village continued to decline through the rest of the 20th century.

The Sharon Historical Society received a grant in 1994 for historical recognition of the spa area. Approximately 180 buildings have been granted National Historic Place status. Today, Sharon Springs continues to operate as a mineral waters spa with a small clientele of primarily Hasidic and Russian Jews, however on a much smaller scale than in the glory days of Sharon Springs.

Chalybeate Temple
The Chalybeate Spring Temple, built in 1910, simple in design, is located a few hundred feet south of the sulfur and magnesia springs. The Chalybeate Spring contains iron and was especially beneficial for treating anemia. The Chalybeate waters reputedly had enough iron salts to turn one's teeth brown, nevertheless it was bottled and sold for its medicinal use. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Temple has been renovated and summer concerts are held in the park.

Sulphur Temple
In 1927, Alfred Gardner built the beaux-arts style White Sulphur Temple that replaced an earlier one. This elaborate, classical, and octagonal temple features eight fluted columns topped by plaster Corinthian capitals, which support an elaborate cornice decorated with brackets shaped like acanthus leaves and dentils. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the temple is open to the public; there is no charge to drink the mineral water. The sulphur water is 48 degrees Fahrenheit and flows freely year around.

Magnesia Temple
The most unique of Sharon Springs temples is the elaborately ornamental, domed Magnesia Temple. In 1860, a man of wealth, Henry J. Bang, began beautifying the grounds around the springs by building arbors, temples and laying out walks. The Magnesia Temple, ca. 1863, is the only remaining structure of the Congress Hall complex which once included bathhouses, a bandstand, and gardens. The triangular pediment, dentils in the cornice, and Corinthian columns identify it as Renaissance Revival. Stone steps lead to the fountain where famously refreshing and medicinal magnesia waters once spouted from the mouths of the twin stone lion heads. Over 140 years later, the temple, although in need of repair, still symbolizes the spa's glorious past. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the temple is located on the grounds of a private residence.

Imperial Baths
The Imperial Bathhouse was opened July 1, 1927. It is located in the center of Sharon Springs Historic District. It offered sulphur baths, massages and mud treatments to relieve pain and as a cure for a variety of illnesses. As many as 5000 treatments could be given in a single day. It was still open during the summer of my first visit in 2004, but it appears abandoned now. Although in advanced deterioration today, one of the original 1876 bath-houses remain, the other having been demolished in the early 1960’s. The architectural historic integrity of the remaining bath is remarkably intact with most of its tubs and oiled hardwood walls.

Adler Hotel
The Adler Hotel was the last large hotel built in Sharon Springs. It opened in 1929 and cost $250,000. The Adler Hotel has a capacity for 150 guests. It has a ballroom and its own mineral bath facility. It is a four-story mission style building with a large center gable. The Adler was supposedly still used in the summer of 2004. However it is now abandoned.

My personal connection: In frequent trips from Buffalo to Albany my parents would exit the highway and drive down to Sharon Springs. As a kid we walked through the town that smelled like rotten eggs, among the ruins and cracked uneven sidewalks. 20 years later I remembered these trips and wondered if it was still mostly abandoned. I took my mom on my "urbex" vacation and we paid another visit (and props to mom for immediately starting to tell a big elaborate lie of a story to the cops who found us at Adler). It was interesting to see and compare it to what I remembered. However we couldn't decide which building my mom had taken me into as a 4 year old to use the bathroom, where none of the people spoke English - they all spoke Hebrew - and who all assumed I was Jewish because of my name. Ah the good old days...



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