The Poetry of the Saratoga Spa State Park

The next time you find yourself strolling through the Saratoga Spa State Park on a warm spring day, do exactly the opposite of what Meryl Streep ordered in last year’s Netflix hit Don’t Look Up. Instead of a planet-killing comet hurtling towards Earth, by gazing skyward you’ll see something a little more mundane but still intriguing: some oddly placed reading material. 

The Hall of Springs, Administration Building and Roosevelt Baths are all known for their long arcades, covered walkways adorned with arches that were built in the 1930s to provide shelter to Saratoga Spa patients confined to wheelchairs. Along those arcades are square pavilions, at which wide staircases offer access to the walkways. It’s on the upper part of those that you’ll find plaques inscribed with phrases about Saratoga’s mineral waters. “In this favored spot spring waters of life that heal the maladies of man and cheer his heart,” one plaque on the Hall of Springs reads. “Renowned art thou and to the joyous scene of health and pleasure drawest the thronging multitude,” reads another. 

The phrases themselves are borrowed from a 1817 poem written by Reverend Reuben Sears of the Ballston Center Presbyterian Church more than a century prior to the construction of the arcades. “The use of inscriptions as a form of decoration is one more characteristic of the architecture of the time,” former Skidmore professor James Kettlewell writes in Saratoga Springs: An Architectural History, 1790-1990. “This was done in imitation of the many inscriptions found on the buildings of ancient Rome.” Those ancient Roman buildings have stood tall for some 2,000 years. We can only hope the same fate awaits the arcades of the Spa State Park. 

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