Gideon who?


Saratoga's Gideon Putnam Hotel

By Mike Hare

Gideon Putnam? Sure, he's the guy they named that swanky hotel for. But who is he? And what exactly did he do to get a swanky Saratoga hotel named for him anyway?

Nothing much. He just designed the streets, established tourism and made sure the springs in Saratoga would always belong to the people.

Gideon Putnam was a visionary alright. Who would have thought that the, umm, tasty mineral water in Saratoga Springs would have made it the tourist mecca that it's become?

For some reason, Gideon Putnam did.

Shortly after the Revolutionary War, Putnam settled in Saratoga with his family. When Nicholas Gilman practically tripped on Congress Spring, Putnam was the guy who understood what he'd found. He leased nearby property and as the springs became popular, he became the town's first innkeeper.

He established "Putnam's Tavern and Boarding House" across from the spring, on property that eventually became the site of The Grand Union Hotel. Today it houses The Gap and Banana Republic.

Putnam also drew up the street plans for what was then called the "Lower Village."
The streets included Broad Street, which later became Broadway, and Phila, which
most people assume is short for Philadelphia. It's not. It's named for Phila Putnam,
one of Gideon Putnam's nine children.

As Putnam designed the town, more and more springs were discovered. His designs
ensured that all of these springs would always be on public land. The decision helped
protect the springs and the tourist trade.

Putnam's hotel became extremely popular, so he set to work on a larger one called
Congress Hall. But during its construction he fell from scaffolding, and died from his wounds.

In the 1930s when a hotel was opened in what is now Spa State Park, it was named for Gideon Putnam, the innkeeper, visionary and the father of Saratoga Springs.

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.

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