Sharon Springs, NY
Sharon Springs, New York has grown to be one of the most diverse communities in this region. We are proud of our community that hosts an array of talented individuals. Everything from fine art to folk art can be found in this community. We have authors, playwrights, singers and performers, those who make soap and those who make scarves. Our community truly embraces our past while always looking forward.
The Village of Sharon Springs sits in the northwest part of the Town of Sharon, New York, west of Albany, the state capital. Surrounded by rolling hills and nestled in a winding valley, the tidy village is near some of New York State's most popular attractions. Howe Caverns, The Mohawk River, Erie Canal, The Adirondack Park, Cooperstown, New York, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The Farmer's Museum and The Fenimore Art Museum, Catskill Park, Glimmerglass Festival and the Arkell Museum.
In 1994 Sharon Springs, and its Spa-related structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places and Sharon Springs became a Historic District. The walking tour and the accompanying plaques were created to guide visitors through our history. The plaques showcase the many buildings, some still remaining, some long gone and put them in their historical context.
Prior to being claimed and settled by Great Britain as part of its Province of New York, Sharon Springs was frequented by the indigenous Iroquois population for its healing waters. Following Britain's Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Crown formed Tryon County, New York in 1772, which lay at the westernmost reaches of the original Thirteen Colonies. Sharon Springs, then known as the town of New Dorlach, was settled around 1780. Stretching from the Adirondack Mountains to the Delaware River, Tryon County boasted a pre-Revolutionary War farming community of 10,000 and was known as the "Breadbasket of the Colonies".
During and after the Revolution, Sharon Springs was part of the Town of Schoharie in Tryon County. In 1784, it was renamed Montgomery County, New York to honor General Richard Montgomery, an American war hero who gave his life trying to capture the city of Quebec. In 1791, Otsego County, New York broke off from Montgomery County, and in 1795, Schoharie County, New York was formed from adjoining parts of Otsego and Albany Counties.
The Town of Sharon was formed shortly after in 1797, and Sharon Springs set itself apart from the Town of Sharon in 1871 by incorporating as a village. In the process, it absorbed the neighboring community of Rockville.
Thanks to its sulfur, magnesium, and chalybeate mineral springs, Sharon Springs grew into a bustling spa during the 19th century. At the peak of its popularity, Sharon Springs hosted 10,000 visitors each summer, including members of the Vanderbilt family and Oscar Wilde (who gave a lecture at the now-demolished Pavilion Hotel on 11 August 1882).
Direct ferry-to-stagecoach lines connected New York City to Sharon Springs, followed by rail lines connecting the Village to New York City and Boston via Albany.
The most famous of the springs in the Village, then as now, was the so-called Gardner Spring, which was owned by the owner of the Pavilion Hotel. As reported in the New York Times on 30 August 1875, "So prodigious is the amount of sulfur-gas in the Gardner Spring that the waters of this creek are rendered as white as milk, and the stones are covered with a thick deposit.”
According to an article published in The New York Times (26 August 2000), Sharon Springs lost its fashionable Social Register set to the horseracing attractions of Saratoga Springs. Wealthy Jewish families of German origin, who were unwelcome at Saratoga due to the prevailing social bias of the time, filled the void and "made Sharon Springs a refuge of their own." From the 1920s to the 1960s kuchaleyans flourished. These were self-catered boarding houses, and in Yiddish the name means "cook-alones." They were a more affordable alternative to the larger more expensive hotels and were especially popular during the depression and, later, with poorer post-war European refugees. Though none operated past the 1980s, one of them, "The Brustman House" on Union Street, survives as a retreat for the owners' descendants. This house's story is typical of the kuchaleyans. As the cited New York Times article went on to explain, "After World War II, Sharon Springs got a second wind from the West German government, which paid medical care reparations to Holocaust survivors, holding that therapeutic spa vacations were a legitimate part of the medical package."
In the summer of 1946, one of the busboys at the Spanish Colonial Revival style Adler Hotel was Edward I. Koch, the future mayor of New York City. Eventually, these families moved on to other, more modern resorts, and the village began to fade economically.
Sharon Springs was also associated with several beer barons in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most American hops were grown in a belt stretching from Madison to Schoharie Counties in upstate New York. Thus this area attracted brewers who summered in the area, two of which, Henry Clausen and Max Shaefer, built homes in the Village. The New York hops trade disappeared after the first world war, due to the combined effects of competition from Oregon, a hops blight, and the coming of prohibition.
The 1970s through the 1990s saw the succession of secular Jewish tourists to Sharon Springs by Hasidim and ultra-Orthodox Jewish visitors, fed in part by a parallel displacement in the nearby Borscht Belt. Their time in Sharon Springs is documented in "The Short Season of Sharon Springs," published by Cornell University Press in 1980. A host of Hasidim-owned and frequented hotels flourished in the village, bridging Sharon Springs' shining past as a world-class resort for the rich and famous and its recent ascent as a regional travel and weekend destination. A concurrent migration of weekend hunters and union trade workers discovering rural weekending from the Downstate New York City suburbs began coming to Sharon Springs and Schoharie County in the 1970s. As suburban and urban hunters chased the deer, they also introduced the once-endangered wild turkey to this and other rural areas. Unlike the Hasidim tourists, who have mostly moved on to other destinations and have dwindled in numbers, the first wave of suburban weekenders have added to the community by building their families and relocating their full-time lives to their former part-time escape.