“Saratoga is the wickedest place in the United States.” Nellie Bly

 

Enter if you dare.

Enter if you dare.

Wicked maybe, but beautiful too. Oh, for the days of such wickedness! Before the CIA promoted ugly art causing president Truman once to remark, “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.”

Gambling was illegal when Mr. Morrissey, a tough prize-fighter from Troy rolled into Saratoga and set up his Gentlemen’s Club (aka casino). The Saratoga mineral springs had attracted rich Southerners before the war who liked to flaunt their wealth and Paris fashions, but after the war a more democratic crowd filled the hotels and rubbed shoulders with the wealthy. That was fine all day, but when evening came . . .

Perfectly respectable wickedness.

Perfectly respectable wickedness.

Morrissey recognized the need for gentlemen to have a luxurious place to have a bit of gambling fun and so the casino began. Nellie Bly, Spencer Trask and others bemoaned the gambling being done at the club and then at the track (Morrissey realized vacationers would get bored of mineral water before noon and needed afternoon diversion so started the races with the backing of richie-riches like Travers, Jerome and Vanderbilt ).

Okay, so drinking, drugging, betting and adultery are wicked pursuits, but the seasons at Saratoga were beautiful–as was the casino.

Exhibit 1 Beauty

Exhibit 1 Beauty

Exhibit 2 Can anything truly wicked happen in a room like this (the High Stakes Room)?

Exhibit 2 Can anything truly wicked happen in a room like this (the High Stakes Room)?

Exhibit 3 Give me gambling like this any day over the riff-raff jingle jangle Atlantic City casinos!

Exhibit 3 Give me gambling like this any day over the riff-raff jingle jangle Atlantic City casinos!

The Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, US Grant and Mark Twain ate club sandwiches (invented here so not all wicked) while they gambled the night away. That must have been fun and here’s the sideboard where the stacks of refreshments where kept ready for hungry wicked people.

Club sandwich, Mr. Twain?

Club sandwich, Mr. Twain?

But what about the wicked women? Nellie Bly found the women trashy, but they don’t look too bad to me–though maybe a little pale as they read magazines, sip tea and play tunes on the piano in the reading room of the casino (some probably fretting a small bit about fortunes being squandered up above.

Fa-la-la to hell we go!

Fa-la-la to hell we go!

The casino today still looking pretty great though no longer all that wicked.

The casino today still looking pretty great though no longer all that wicked.

 

When People Get Nice On You

I was just popping in for a few minutes at the library when one of my new favorite librarians hailed me over to see what she’d found at a garage sale?!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

I come from a long line of people who want to trust others, but just don’t. It’s an affliction we wear with humor and secrecy. I’m not a rock or an island. I’m a small time farmer/writer so I don’t get out much, but when I do I’m always surprised at how well I’m treated, especially at the Saratoga Library.

When on an ordinary day you suddenly have all of your questions answered about a little piece of the world you’re creating for your characters handed to you in a single brilliant bit of happenstance you have to wonder about the hidden workings of the universe (or as we old-fashioned Christians might say–God). I believe God hands out talents, but that’s for another day.

This librarian stacked five crumbling out-of-print books on my table before remembering that she’d purchased this hotel booklet. Buck Crenshaw has an eventful stay there in the summer of 1889. I’d been gathering bits and pieces but what great delight I felt when the librarian who hardly knows me said I could borrow from her personal collection this perfect book! (she also gave me the email for the contact person holding a rare house tour at Yaddo  who is looking for volunteers–who will get in for free–and the email for a lady who volunteers her time doing FREE proofreading for local authors!). What a day!

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I think God may be telling me to act nicer to others . . .

Explore Your City with Bird’s Eye Maps

Saratoga!

Saratoga!

The big picture!

The big picture!

This map is a dream come true for me. How lucky to have my character Buck Crenshaw visit Saratoga in the very year this map was published! Find your city and explore the way it used to be at the Library of Congress Panoramic Maps Collection! You can zoom in and out and have a whole lot of fun!

http://www.loc.gov/collection/panoramic-maps/about-this-collection/