Sharon Springs, New York
||This article is written like a travel guide rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (July 2015)|
|Sharon Springs, New York|
|• Mayor||Doug Plummer|
|• Total||1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)|
|• Land||1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||1,102 ft (336 m)|
|• Density||299.5/sq mi (115.6/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0964946|
Sharon Springs is a village in Schoharie County, New York, United States. The population was 547 at the 2000 census. Its name derives from the hometown of the first Colonial settlers, Sharon, Connecticut, and the important springs in the village. Sharon Springs, Kansas likewise was settled by former residents of this Upstate New York village. More information is in the book, "Sharon and Sharon Springs," written by village historian Nancy DiPace Pfau and published in 2015 by Arcadia Publishing in its Images of American series.
The Village of Sharon Springs sits in the northwest part of the Town of Sharon, New York, approximately 50 miles (80 km) west of Albany, the state capital. Surrounded by rolling hills and nestled in a winding valley, the tidy village is near some of New York State's most popular attractions. Howe Caverns is 15 miles (24 km) to the south while The Mohawk River and Erie Canal are only 10 miles (16 km) to the north. The Adirondack Park is further north, about an hour away. Cooperstown, New York, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The Farmer's Museum and The Fenimore Art Museum, is 22 miles (35 km) to the west and the Catskill Park is 50 miles (80 km) to the south.
Sharon Springs, recognized by both the National Register of Historic Places as well as New York State's Register of Historic Places as a historic spa village, boasts some attractions of her own. Many of its historic spa-related structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 as the Sharon Springs Historic District. In addition to the collection of fully and partially restored 19th century structures and ruins which can be accessed year-round, Sharon Springs also plays host to these seasonal events: the Garden Party festival in May, the Father's Day Tractor & Antique Power Show in June, the summer concert series every Wednesday night in July and August, the Wee Wheels Tiny Car Show in August, the Harvest Festival in September, and the Victorian Festival in December.
Since the middle-to-late 1980s, Sharon Springs has gained increased local attention and prominence in Schoharie County. As entrepreneurs from outside the region started businesses and restored its structures, regional and New York City media have tracked its progress. It then gained the attention of Korean spa investors with large, still unrealized plans. Businessmen and women continued to come to the village. As a result, Sharon Springs was recently featured on a cable reality television series, and provided a backdrop for a memoir. Although Sharon Springs, Inc. has begun work on the baths, and there is progress on renovating Clausen Farms, and the Roseboro Hotel.
Prior to being claimed and settled by Great Britain as part of its Province of New York, Sharon Springs was frequented by the indigenous Iroquois population for its healing waters. Following Britain's Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Crown formed Tryon County, New York in 1772, which lay at the westernmost reaches of the original Thirteen Colonies. Sharon Springs, then known as the town of New Dorlach, was settled around 1780. Stretching from the Adirondack Mountains to the Delaware River, Tryon County boasted a pre-Revolutionary War farming community of 10,000 and was known as the "Breadbasket of the Colonies".
During the American Revolution, the Town of Sharon, New York saw limited fighting. The Battle of Sharon was fought on July 10, 1781. After burning down 12 homes in a small Canajoharie River settlement and claiming victory in the Battle of Currytown on July 9, approximately 300 British and Iroquois troops commanded by John Doxtader encamped later that day at the Sharon Springs Swamp, near the present-day intersection of Route 20 and County Road 34. Colonel Marinus Willett of the American forces headed to their camp with a force of 150 men, attacking the redcoats in the dense swamp, killing 40. Doxtader's men fled and Willett claimed The Battle of Sharon as an American victory.
During and after the Revolution, Sharon Springs was part of the Town of Schoharie in Tryon County. In 1784, Tryon County was renamed Montgomery County, New York to honor General Richard Montgomery, an American war hero who gave his life trying to capture the city of Quebec. In 1791, Otsego County, New York broke off from Montgomery County, and in 1795, Schoharie County, New York was formed from adjoining parts of Otsego and Albany Counties. The Town of Sharon was formed shortly after in 1797, and Sharon Springs set itself apart from the Town of Sharon in 1871 by incorporating as a village. In the process, it absorbed the neighboring community of Rockville.
Thanks to its sulfur, magnesium, and chalybeate mineral springs, Sharon Springs grew into a bustling spa during the 19th century. At the peak of its popularity, Sharon Springs hosted 10,000 visitors each summer, including members of the Vanderbilt family and Oscar Wilde (who gave a lecture at the now-demolished Pavilion Hotel on 11 August 1882). Direct ferry-to-stagecoach lines connected New York City to Sharon Springs, followed by rail lines connecting the Village to New York City and Boston via Albany.
The most famous of the springs in the Village, then as now, was the so-called Gardner Spring, which was owned by the owner of the Pavilion Hotel. As reported in the New York Times on 30 August 1875, "So prodigious is the amount of sulfur-gas in the Gardner Spring that the waters of this creek are rendered as white as milk, and the stones are covered with a thick deposit. All the objects which have been thrown into the stream from above—old shoes, tin pails, and other things of a similar nature—become transmuted by the mineral. Some of them become a snowy white, and others are turned to a deep black. The green weeds that grow upon the sides and bottoms of such creeks are here perfectly white, and at first one can hardly tell their nature, but mistakes them for long films of the sulphur deposit."
According to an article published in The New York Times (26 August 2000), Sharon Springs lost its fashionable Social Register set to the horse-racing attractions of Saratoga Springs. Wealthy Jewish families of German origin, who were unwelcome at Saratoga due to the prevailing social bias of the time, filled the void and "made Sharon Springs a refuge of their own." Eventually, these families moved on to other, more modern resorts, and the village began to fade economically. Other factors that exacerbated the village's early 20th century decline were Prohibition (which reduced the need for the local hop harvest) and the opening of the New York State Thruway (which routed traffic away from the area).
Sharon Springs was also associated with several beer barons in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most American hops were grown in a belt stretching from Madison to Schoharie Counties in upstate New York. Thus this area attracted brewers who summered in the area, two of which, Henry Clausen and Max Shaefer, built homes in the Village. The New York hops trade disappeared after the first world war, due to the combined effects of competition from Oregon, a hops blight, and the coming of prohibition.
From the 1920s to the 1960s kuchaleyans flourished. These were self-catered boarding houses, and in Yiddish the name means "cook-alones." They were a more affordable alternative to the larger more expensive hotels and were especially popular during the depression and, later, with poorer post-war European refugees. Though none operated past the 1980s, one of them, "The Brustman House" on Union Street, survives as a retreat for the owners' descendants. This house's story is typical of the kuchaleyans.
As the cited New York Times article went on to explain, "After World War II, Sharon Springs got a second wind from the West German government, which paid medical care reparations to Holocaust survivors, holding that therapeutic spa vacations were a legitimate part of the medical package." In the summer of 1946, one of the busboys at the Spanish Colonial Revival style Adler Hotel was Edward I. Koch, the future mayor of New York City.
The 1970s through the 1990s saw the succession of secular Jewish tourists to Sharon Springs by Hasidim and ultra-Orthodox Jewish visitors, fed in part by a parallel displacement in the nearby Borsht Belt. Their time in Sharon Springs is documented in "The Short Season of Sharon Springs," published by Cornell University Press in 1980. A host of Hasidim-owned and frequented hotels flourished in the village, bridging Sharon Springs' shining past as a world-class resort for the rich and famous and its recent ascent as a regional travel and weekend destination. A concurrent migration of weekend hunters and union trade workers discovering rural weekending from the Downstate New York City suburbs began coming to Sharon Springs and Schoharie County in the 1970s. As suburban and urban hunters chased the deer, they also introduced the once-endangered wild turkey to this and other rural areas. Unlike the Hasidim tourists, who have mostly moved on to other destinations and have dwindled in numbers, the first wave of suburban weekenders have added to the community by building their families and relocating their full-time lives to their former part-time escape.
Sharon Springs rebirth
Sharon Springs, after drifting into a rundown state by the late 1980s, has enjoyed a resurgence in the last 15 years. Much of this has been attributed to both a stabilization of the remaining historic structures (arson leveled many of the abandoned hotels) and an infusion of ambitious buyers from outside the area looking for an affordable community to start a business or to add rural weekends to their city life. The New York Times cites the revival to "the uninterruped supply of affluent, educated second-homers from New York City (3.5 hours away) and Columbia County (2 hours away)... and the exponential growth of a new travel phenomenon, heritage tourism: the quest for things historic by well-heeled tourists." Low real estate prices, early renovations and successful start-ups, positive press including back to back 'Escapes' New York Times articles in 2000, and then post-911 flight from New York City all contributed to an influx of entrepreneurs, artisans and artists, including single-sex couples and other minorities.
The restoration of The American Hotel on Main Street was among the first completed projects in Sharon Springs' rebirth. Purchased as a collapsing, abandoned structure in 1996, buyers Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts refurbished the three-story Greek Revival (c. 1847) into a functioning hotel with a full-service restaurant. Prior to The American Hotel, the former residents of New York City operated a bakery for two years, The Rockville Cafe, renting the space from Robert and Kathleen Lehnert who began renovating the dilapidated property they purchased in 1986. Plummer and Roberts also restored their home on Pavilion Avenue as well as two former Hasidim guest houses across Main Street from the American.
Renovated in 2005, one of the guest houses houses Finishing Touch, a shop for women's fashion and home decor, and McGillicuddy's Soaps, for homemade soaps and grooming products. Joe Todd Campbell, owner of The Finishing Touch, is a respected decorator who has consulted on many interior spaces in the village. Joe has also initiated and organized many village events. Debbie McGillicuddy has perfected her soapmaking craft and has helped Beekman 1802, another village business, gain traction with their lifestyle brand through their first marketed product, homemade goat milk soap. The other former guest house across from the American is home to the Black Cat Cafe & Bakery, which also offers cooking classes and cookbooks. Directly across from the American Hotel resides the Klinkhart Building which formerly housed a 300-seat theatre. There are current plans to renovate the building and develop a center for the Arts.
One of the grandest structures in the village's Spa heyday is "The Roseboro". Dennis Giacomo, owner of the Roseboro, and Dawne Belloise, a former president of the Sharon Historical Society, saved the 150-room Roseboro from demolition and began a massive restoration. While never completing the restoration, the Roseboro Hotel did afford shop space and since 2000, operated as a functioning restaurant, banquet and retail space. By 2014, its doors were closed and it was for sale again. It was bought in 2014 by Iowa and California transplant Ron Ketelsen. His plans include guest rooms, dining and a group of shops, including a home for his extensive collection of Titanic memorabilia.
A major economic engine in the village is Beekman 1802. A lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, was founded in Sharon Springs in 2008 by Dr. Brent Ridge and author Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The business, which markets artisanal beauty, food, and decor products, has been featured in multiple publications and on The Martha Stewart Show. A Planet Green cable network reality television series, "The Fabulous Beekman Boys," followed the couple and efforts to build a rural business in 2010 and 2011. The show is notable for its cameo appearances by Martha Stewart, Rosie O'Donnell and other celebrities.
One of the Giacomo/Belloise team's fully completed collaborations is the Klinkhart Homestead, the 1859 Italianate family home of a former proprietor of the Roseboro and prominent Sharon Springs citizen, restored in the late 1990s. They also fully restored the Brimstonia Cottage next door, which operated for several years as guest lodging. It is again a private home. Nearly a decade later, Giacomo brought back the large Victorian home adjacent to the Klinkhart Homestead, fully restoring it in 2003.
The 177 structures in the village appear on the National Register of Historic Places as a mineral resort. The village also won a grant from the New York State Council for the Humanities to establish a self-guided walking tour through Sharon Springs in 1997. Today, one can walk this tour by following the plaques that line Main Street. The historic photos and the informative text on these plaques help visitors to imagine the extent of the town's grandeur in its heyday, as many structures no longer stand today.
The boutique trade in bed and breakfast type inns has done particularly well for those properties situated to take advantage of the sweeping valley and rolling high geography of the community. In particular has been the magnificent although well aged Clausen Farm with its much expanded farm house from the late 18th century, its Victorian stables and carriage barns and rare gentlemen's retreat a shingle style two story "casino", erected in 1892 with an open turret on the 3rd floor to afford wide views. The casino features its own 19th century kegelbahn, a German-style bowling alley. The estate, acquired by Henry L Clausen Jr. a successful beer maker in 1890, served as a Bed and Breakfast until the end of 2008. It was one of the first successful businesses in the early years of Sharon Springs' resurgence, and had remained in the Clausen family (fifth generation) until 2009. Two other historic Sharon Springs inns fully restored to their original state include the Edwardian Edgefield at 153 Washington Street and the Victorian New York House B&B, at 110 Center Street. Several other inns, beds and breakfast, and houses offering rooms for rent are currently operating in and near the village.
Two arts venues in the village also operate out of fully restored structures. The Village Hall Galleries, at 187 Main Street, is run by proprietor and photographer, Leila Durkin. Ms. Durkin renovated the former fire house in 2009, relocating her art gallery from spaces further south on Main Street. The gallery fosters a growing list of exclusive artists working in the region and hosts art events throughout the year. A formal garden is being added behind the Galleries in 2011. Chartwell Studios, an operating artists studio offering drawing classes and gallery space showcasing local fine and decorative arts, operates out of a fully restored 1871 Victorian former drug store on Route 20. Peter Cozzolino and Marguerite MacFarlane won the 2007 Historic Preservation Award for Otsego and Schoharie Counties in the Rehabilitation category for their work on the Studios.
As the village gained traction and attention from its neighboring towns, and word of its rebirth spread through the county and region in the mid-first decade of the 21st century, other entrepreneurs moved to the village and town and have contributed to its continued revival. Tom Jessen started and operated Foxglove Press, a fine letterpress print shop, in Sharon Springs from 2006–2010, before relocating his operations to Maine. His cards can now be found Beekman 1802's Mercantile store, online, and in the Village Hall Galleries. Village Hall Galleries also carries other print pieces from Tom, and represents him as a fine artist, exclusively offering Mr. Jessen's paintings.
Reality show, cable TV, and movie location
In 2009 and 2010 Sharon Springs became the location for the reality television series The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green television network. During the last 10 years, Sharon Springs has also figured prominently in episodes of The Food Network's $40 A Day and Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels series. Charles Kuralt also filmed a brief segment of his On The Road series here, tracking a rare bluebird only found on the stretch of Route 20 between Albany and the Town of Sharon.
Sharon Springs provided backdrops for two feature films. The first is the 1951 comedy The Model and the Marriage Broker, which has a scene where Scott an eligible bachelor meets up in Sharon Springs with a matchmaker played by Thelma Ritter. The other, more cited movie, is 1970's horror cult classic, I Drink Your Blood, now available on DVD. Almost all of scenes were filmed on location in the village.
A postcard of Sharon Springs is featured in the opening intro of the movie National Lampoons Vacation.
Potential hotel and resort development
In late 2004, an investment group called, Sharon Springs Inc. (SSI) primarily based in New York City purchased the historic Adler, Columbia, and Washington hotels with the goal of turning Sharon Springs back into a resort destination. The Washington, in poor condition at the time, was partially demolished. The group expressed an intention to demolish the Hotel Columbia as well. In addition the group purchased the functioning Imperial Baths which were intended to serve as a key draw to their resort plans. All total the properties were acquired for $750,000. The Baths operations were closed at the end of the 2005 season marking the first time since the early 19th century that the village did not have a mineral bath tourist trade.
The 150-room Adler Hotel on the northern edge of the village with its Spanish style architecture was the last great hotel built prior to the great depression. The five-story hotel opened in 1927 and closed after the 2004 summer season.
In April 2007 the Investment group held a press conference and outlined a $12 million plan to restore both the Imperial Baths and the Adler Hotel in an 18-month project that would bring in a projected 700 visitors a day when completed. Harold Shin, project manager for Manhattan-based architectural firm DeArch LLC, described how the Adler would be restored, and how the Imperial Baths would include both traditional baths and modern spa facilities.
The plans have since changed from restoration of the existing historic hotels into "a possible $350 million plan to erect two 11-story hotels — including one with a helipad — a golf course, condominiums and a spa with a bathhouse and a day care center."
Demolition and work on the properties was planned to start in 2008 according to the principal partner, Q Sung Cho. The timeline for completion would be between five and seven years once the project begins. No work has commenced as of September 2011; the purchased historic structures are in deteriorating condition and buildings such as the Adler and Imperial Baths which were in use recently before the purchase, are now in need of immediate emergency stabilization.
In late June 2013, SSI suggested plans were back on track although approval by the Sharon Springs council would still be required. Per SSI partner AidenHan and their attorney and surveyor Joanne Crum brought details of the long-proposed SSI Imperial Baths project to the Sharon Springs Joint Planning Board on June 26.http://www.timesjournalonline.com/details.asp?id=83563 A formal application for the proposed work, which is focused solely on the Spa with no mention of the Adler, has not been presented. In the Planning Board meeting Ms. Crum said three smaller buildings at the site and the remains of a fourth will be removed, but they will be able to salvage the Imperial Baths and gazebo, both of which will be renovated and restored.
Sharon Springs Inc. (SSI) received a $5 million loan was made from Noah Bank in New Jersey in September 2013 along with the SSI group tapping into the $1 million Restore NY grant. The money went towards the razing of the Hotel Washington  (in mid September) and will help fund roof work on the Adler Hotel. By the end of 2013 a decision will be made to either save or raze the Adler Hotel. Additionally the funds will go towards the long-awaited rebirth towards the Imperial Baths structures.
At the close of 2014 the execution of all such proposed plans had never materialized.
Spa and resort development reboot
In May 2015 the often discussed development plans of Sharon Springs Inc. (owned solely now by Kyu Sung 'Sam' Cho) resurfaced with new renderings and plan of action. A presentation to the town's Joint Planning Board cited the razing of the collapsed Lower Baths and Laundry and Medical Buildings which were part of the Imperial Baths complex. Additionally asbestos under the stucco of the Imperial Baths' façade was to be removed. Long-range plans, dependent on the asbestos removal as well as NY State Grants, call for demolishing the Columbia Hotel for a parking lot and even longer range, restoring the Adler Hotel.
The architectural plans for the Imperial Baths call for it to have an Asian theme in the rear but the street side exterior is to closely match the original design. Kyu Sung Cho, owns Donbu Tour and Travel Inc., a bus tour company that ferries some 30,000 Korean visitors from New York City to Niagara Falls each year. As before with the spa, Cho is looking to bring visitors from NYC to Sharon Springs.
New York State Grants
On January 15, 2008 it was announced that under New York State's $100 million Restore NY program, $500,000 was being allocated to Sharon Springs. The grant was intended for the Pavilion Cottages, which are not related to the Adler Hotel/Korean spa projects. The Pavilion Cottages, built in the 1860s, are the last remaining portion of the historic Pavilion Hotel; the one remaining structure was originally accompanied by three other Cottages which offered private suites for families traveling with servants in tow. In 2010, due to missed project deadlines, the matching grant was unfortunately allowed to lapse unused.
On September 2, 2009 Restore New York / Empire State Development's Communities Initiative - Round 3 - announced they were granting $1,000,000 for The Imperial Spa by Sharon Springs Inc. The project funding is anticipated to create 100 new jobs. The project aims to rehabilitate the historic Imperial Bathhouse (circa 1927) into a modern luxury spa. Further the project aims to re-establish Sharon Springs as a spa destination. So far, the group's standstill on the projects leaves the potential restoration of the Imperial Baths uncertain. In the mean time, the condition of the historic bathhouses continue to deteriorate.
Per the Empire State Development press release: "The rehabilitation will create spa and therapy areas of" 41,200 square feet (3,830 m2) and 6,400 square feet (590 m2) "for outdoor bathing facilities. The total renovated square footage, including amenities such as restaurants and gift shops, will be" 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2).
Sharon Springs is located at (42.794783, -74.615946).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.7 km²), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 547 people, 204 households, and 130 families residing in the village. The population density was 299.5 people per square mile (115.4/km²). There were 270 housing units at an average density of 147.8 per square mile (57.0/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 97.62% White, 0.73% African American, 0.18% Native American, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.83% of the population.
There were 204 households out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.9% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the village the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 23.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.0 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $37,969, and the median income for a family was $45,000. Males had a median income of $36,563 versus $28,125 for females. The per capita income for the village was $24,664. About 8.5% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
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- Recent photographs of the Hotel Adler
- Recent photographs of the Hotel Columbia
- Beekman 1802 site
- Village of Sharon Springs, NY
- Sharon Springs Information
- Sharon Springs Chamber of Commerce
- Clausen Farms
- Albany Times Union April 13, 2007 "Sowing seeds to help village bloom"
- New York Times July 23, 2001 "A Faded Resort Lumbers to Life"
- New York Times August 26, 2000 "Fragile Recovery for Village of Spas"
- "Shtetl to Sharon" How the Brustmans came from Russia to New York City and Sharon Springs
- Albany Times-Union January 15, 2008 "State grant to aid Sharon Springs"
- New York Times June 5, 2008 "Like the Water, Grand Plans Buoy Spirits at a Vacation Spot From a Bygone Era"
- The Freeman's Journal August 8, 2008 "Stone Gem, Discovered Overgrown, Lives Again"