In-between places: Ballston Spa

in between ballston spa composite

By Casey Normile

The Capital Region is full of cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. And some of these places -- like Albany or Saratoga Springs or Troy -- get lots of attention. This series isn't about those places. It's about those other spots -- the "in-between" places.

First up: Ballston Spa.

If you haven't visited in a while -- or have never been -- here are a bunch of facts, tips, and highlights to get you started...

Location: Saratoga County, less than a mile southwest of Saratoga Springs on Route 50. The village is on the Milton/Ballston town line. It's the county seat for Saratoga County.

Population: 5,417

ballston spa sidewalkSome numbers:

+ The village itself is only 1.6 square miles.
+ The median household income of the village is $43,767, and the median age of residents is 38 years old.
+ The average travel time to work for residents is 21 minutes.
+ Though tiny, the village is a hot spot during the weekday -- its population increases more than 21 percent due to commuting. That's the fifth highest percentage increase in the Capital Region core.

History
The village is named after the founder of the partially surrounding town, Reverend Eliphalet Ball -- "Ball's Town" (There's a story that he paid his brothers a barrel of rum for the right to name the town after himself). He not only has a cool first name -- he was also said to be third cousins with George Washington.

The village was first settled in 1771 and grew in popularity with the discovery of mineral springs there. People would travel from all over to take advantage of the pure mineral water, though it was never quite as popular a destination as its neighbor, Saratoga Springs.

In the nineteenth century, it became home to the West Mill Complex, used by George West to manufacture his somewhat-important invention: the square bottom paper bag. He became known as the "Paper Bag King." (Falling somewhere behind the paper bag in his list of accomplishments, West was also a Congressman.)

abner doubleday birthplace ballston spa
Birthplace of Abner Doubleday

Ballston Spa was the birthplace of Abner Doubleday. He was born on the corner of Washington and Fenwick St. Doubleday was a Union general in the Civil War and fought at Gettysburg. He's also said to be the inventor of baseball -- but probably wasn't. The house where he was born still stands today.

Today
Ballston Spa is making a name for itself as more than just a sidenote to Saratoga. New restaurants are making it a nice place to visit and the Victorian homes and location make it a nice place to live.

Places to eat

iron roost waffles ballston spa

The Iron Roost: A new gourmet waffle and coffee stop that opened last year. They offer the standard waffle, but they also offer a French toast waffle, breakfast sandwiches on a waffle AND a BLT on a waffle. It's quirky and casual.

Sunset Café: It has a wide menu of southwestern cuisine and was suggested by Ballston Lake resident Matthew Carefully. "It can satisfy folks on a $15 beer + quesadilla tab, or on a $40 steak + wine + dessert night. "

Fifty South: A restaurant focused on using locally-sourced ingredients, and aims to appeal to wide variety of diets -- gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, soy free. Or just someone looking for a burger (it'll be "all natural organic, humanely slaughtered, grass-fed" beef).

The Factory Eatery & Spirits: It's housed in the historic paper-bag-factory-turned-chocolate-factory and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Spots to highlight

+ Front Street and the surrounding area are pedestrian friendly and have a quaint village feel. You can grab a bite to eat, shop for antiques, and browse art galleries and stores.

+ Also on Front Street: The Whistling Kettle. The Ballston Spa mainstay draws tea lovers from all over, and still manages to remain relaxed and welcoming.

Bottles at National Bottle Museum
At the National Bottle Museum.

+ The village is home to The National Bottle Museum -- as well as the Brookside Museum, which chronicles the history of Saratoga County.

+ The Saratoga County Fair grounds are in the village. The fair is July 16-21 this year.

+ The 6th annual Ballston Spa Film Festival is this August 2-3 this year. The festival screens short films both from local filmmakers and from around the world.

+ The village also has some gawk-worthy Victorian homes. They're spread throughout the village, but if you stroll down East High Street, you'll find an entire block of homes from a different time.

In a few words
Says resident Matthew Carefully: "I feel like there's an unpretentiousness about the town that is simple, hopeful, and yearning to grow. It's small but full and teeming with energy. Ballston Spa has nothing but potential with a solid sector of good businesses in place. There are some gorgeous homes and nice neighborhoods just up and to the east of where 50 and 67 meet in the center of town. There's a ton of traffic that flows through on Route 50 and I think the opening of Iron Roost is a sign that we will see unique new businesses not even bother with Saratoga Springs and make their homes in Ballston Spa."

Comments

I think it is within the Village, but Spaw City Social Club indoor dog park...it is a life saver when you have a high energy dog and its too hot or cold to have your dog safely play at the outdoor dog parks.

http://spawcity.com/

I was up there on Saturday and grabbed breakfast at the Good Morning Cafe, it was delightful! http://www.goodmorningbreakfast.com/

Such a cute little area.

The Sunset Cafe has REALLY good margaritas and their pull-pork quesadillas are a huge hit with our kids (who are normally meat-adverse and very, very picky).

While you are strolling around B Spa, be sure to check out Front Street Home & The Bundle Store -- two of our more recent additions to the shopping category.

This is a fantastic idea for a series of posts. Thanks AOA!

I have lived in the Village of Ballston Spa for 27 years, raised two boys here, and wouldn't want to call any other place home! I frequent the many restaurants and shops throughout the village. A couple of places not mentioned on Front Street are Strata, with delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and the Front Street Deli, with a vast variety of yummy sandwiches, quesadillas, and breakfast sandwiches. There is a new home decorating store called Front Street Home as well. The Brickyard Tavern on Milton Avenue (Route 50) in the middle of the Village has pub foods, pizza, and lots of TV's for sports fans. There is also the Coffee Planet on Milton Avenue with coffee, tea, bagels, sandwiches, and even ice cream! You can also stop in at the White House on Milton Avenue (no, not THAT White House!) for a great breakfast. There are many lovely little shops, such as Corina's jewelry store, C'est La Vie with home goods, Two If By Sea with gorgeous vintage lighting, Victoria's Corner with beautiful things for the home and interior design services. We even have 'art alley' on Washington Street just off of Route 50. And don't forget about our antique shops that are all over the village! You can find map guides at businesses throughout the Village to find your way, so park your car and take a stroll through the Village - you will come back again and again! No, I did not get paid to write this!!!

Also, probably my favorite thing about Ballston Spa--it's the inspiration for a great town setting in Richard Russo's novel Nobody's Fool.

From the New York State Writers Institute: "The novel is set in the fictional upstate New York town of North Bath, a former mineral spa whose springs dried up abruptly. North Bath is the sickly sister city of Schuyler Springs, a prosperous resort. Capital Region residents recognize North Bath as Ballston Spa, and Schuyler Springs as Saratoga."

If you need gluten-free, Fifty South in B Spa is a great option:

http://blog.timesunion.com/glutenfree/ill-have-what-shes-having-fifty-south/1689/

Another fun place to visit is Excellent Adventures which sells comics and collectibles. Brings out the child in me every time I visit!!!

No one mentioned that the Union Mill Complex was also used for chocolate! manufacturing--in fact I've always heard it called 'the chocolate factory' even though I knew about the paper bag and textiles that preceded it. Here's a link for more info:
http://www.ask.com/wiki/Union_Mill_Complex?o=2801&qsrc=999

I think that it's just great that local entrepreneurs saved it and have successfully 're-purposed' without changing its look!

I've lived in Ballston Spa for long time and loved to see how it's evolved--better and better all the time thanks to lots of people invested their time and energy to make things happen.

yes we have a great village . I own annas flowers and our business is over 100 yrs in he village. My grandfather had 6 children (including my dad) and they all attended ballston spa school. The Hannah have had over the years several business in the village and even today I own several business and bldgs. in the village. Ballston has become a diamond and hopefully we won't junk it with box stores which only bring traffic that cwill close on our strolling village. Help save our diamond of a village that our ancestors worked so hard to preserve

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