The Spa Park gold rush of 1932


Saratoga's Hall of Springs. No, there's no gold left.

By Mike Hare

On a hot summer day in the depths of the Great Depression, Saratogians found something other than water, and much more valuable, beneath the ground.

Excavation for the new Saratoga Spa's first building, the Hall of Springs, began with a surprise. On July 25, three workers for the Schenectady company in charge of the excavation found twenty dollar gold pieces in the ground. The news spread fast. Within an hour, hundreds of enterprising men and boys, armed with shovels, pickaxes, and hatchets, started digging. They found jars and bottles filled with gold and silver coins. Most of the coins were minted in the 1880s. Some were worth twenty dollars. All were worth their stated value, which reached about one-thousand dollars.

Many of the prospectors went home that afternoon, newly rich. Late comers kept digging through the night, hoping to unearth another lode. These miners had to settle for stray dimes and quarters.

So where did the cash come from? In the late 19th century, the Pettes family of Henry E. Pettes, a Saratoga Springs Mayor, owned extensive estates on the land. Long-time residents remembered that his mother, Mrs. Lyman Pettes, had a habit of hiding money around the house. She'd hidden the jars of coins in the basement. Family members evidently forgot about her frugal habits when the estates were demolished.

When word got out about the excavation, the State attempted to claim the coins for itself, or return them to the folks who last owned the property. Fortunately for the Saratoga gold diggers, the old "finders keepers" rule won out.

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


Finders keepers indeed. Like that one time I found my neighbors vacant backyard. It was just sitting there! The Albany Police Department didn't seem to think it belonged to me and my empty beer cans. They weren't even swayed by the fact that I stuck an American flag in the ground when I discovered it. Damn pigs. What's a person gotta do these days!?

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Blood plasma, another mixed-use project approved, that Western Ave apartment, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

Exciting Tales of the Albany Planning Board is a program recorded before a live studio audience once a month in which the fates of multi-million... (more)

Washington Park tulip dig and sale 2018

The annual Washington Park tulip dig and sale is usually the weekend after Mother's Day -- but that depends on the tulips. And this year,... (more)

Tip credit

Steve Barnes on the back-and-forth over whether tipped employees, such as restaurant servers, should be paid the full New York minimum wage: "Although [Andrew] Cuomo... (more)

The Movies Under the Stars series returns to Albany this summer

The Movies Under the Stars series of outdoor movie screenings is back in Albany this summer. Here's the lineup: June 15: Black Panther in Washington... (more)

Morning Blend

Arrests in reported Colonie road attack State Police say two people have been arrested in what the agency is calling "a reported road rage incident"... (more)

Recent Comments

Do something at a state park maybe? We had our anniversary at Thacher Park. There are a lot of logistics when you do it that way, but it's a beautiful view, there is a pavilion so you don't need a tent, and they have bathrooms so you don't need to rent potties.

One corner, many different buildings

...has 4 comments, most recently from Reader

Stuff to do this weekend

...has 3 comments, most recently from Cynthia Freedman

Suggestions for affordable wedding venues?

...has 22 comments, most recently from Eric

We've had some problems with delayed comments. Sorry about that. Here's what's up.

...has 3 comments, most recently from ChuckD

Morning Blend for May 17

...has 1 comment, most recently from StevieP