‘Centennial’ chronicles 100 years of Saratoga Springs

Historian and author Field Horne combined forces with more than 20 local contributors to produce “Sa
Broadway, Saratoga Springs in the 1950s, from the George S. Bolster Collection.
Broadway, Saratoga Springs in the 1950s, from the George S. Bolster Collection.

Field Horne isn’t the kind of guy to let an important date in history pass by without any fanfare.

A historian, author, editor and publisher, Horne has combined forces with more than 20 local contributors to produce “Saratoga Springs: A Centennial History.”

The 425-page hardcover book celebrates the 100th birthday of Saratoga Springs’ incorporation as a city (April 7, 1915).

“It’s a very detailed story about the people in Saratoga and their way of life for the past 250 years,” said Horne, who grew up in Greene County in the Catskills and moved to Saratoga County in 1977 when he became director of the Saratoga County Historical Society (Brookside) in Ballston Spa.

“There are 31 chapters, and that number shrank and grew throughout the process. It’s a pretty big topic with a lot of information that had to be amassed and analyzed.”

A Williams College graduate who got his master’s degree in History Museum Studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, Horne began the project in September of 2012.

‘Saratoga Springs: A Centennial History’

What: Book release party

WHERE: Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino, 1 E. Congress St., Saratoga Springs

WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 22


MORE INFO: 584-6920, www.saratogahistory.org

“I approached several people, asking them if they would be interested in helping me produce this book, and then I called a meeting almost three years ago now,” he said.

“We then held monthly meetings for over two years that were like updating sessions. People had a chance to discuss what they had found and trade information with each other. I knew if I was going to get this done in three years I couldn’t do it all by myself, and I knew that there were local people out there who had done very good work on specific topics. I wanted to get them involved.”

Horne found plenty of help. While he ended up writing eight of the chapters himself, he found 23 others to contribute a chapter apiece. Nine chapters document the chronological history of the city, and the remaining 22 deal with people, schools, the economy and the community.

Lance Ingmire, a Civil War re-enactor and treasurer of the Friends Group at the New York Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, was one of the contributors, producing the chapter on Saratoga Springs and the Civil War.

“There’s no question that Field’s dedication and his command of local history far surpasses anybody else that has ever lived around here,” said Ingmire, who is a past president of the Military Museum’s Friends Group and the Friends of Grant Cottage.

“He’s got a great handle on all aspects of Saratoga history, and I know he’s a sincere writer, and a very good writer and researcher. This book has been a great collaborative effort, and Field has been the driving force behind it.”

“Saratoga Springs: A Centennial History” is being published by Horne’s own company, Kiskatom Publishing. While those costs have been taken care of by a fund-raising effort, proceeds from sales of the book will go to a new entity called the “Saratoga Fund,” an acquisition arm for the Saratoga Springs Public Library, Saratoga Springs History Museum and the New York State Military Museum.

“The neat thing about this project is that the proceeds are going to be used to acquire ephemera and other historical items that found their way out of Saratoga, and to see that they’re brought back home,” said Ingmire. “The money will be handled by the friends groups and by five people from the Saratoga community. That really sold me on the whole idea, and it was also a strong selling point to the City Council. They gave us some money to help pay for the book.”

City of Saratoga Springs Historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald, who started her position in February of 2004, produced a chapter in the book on World War II and the home front, and also got to help many of the book’s contributors in her office at the city’s visitor center. “Most of the people doing research on this book had to eventually come to the visitor center and use the primary resources we keep in our vault,” said Fitzgerald, who pointed out that the visitor’s center building was constructed in 1915 and opened in 1916. “City Hall has its own archives, but if those records are not in use at City Hall then they come here.”

Fitzgerald said she was one of the first to offer Horne help in the way of research.

“I had done a presentation on the World War II home front here in Saratoga based on 26 photographs I had from the Saratoga Springs History Museum,” she said.

“I offered all that to Field, but when one of his contributors dropped out he asked me to do it, so I expanded upon what I had already done and wrote the chapter myself. I thought the whole idea was absolutely wonderful from the beginning, and Field was the perfect one to lead such a project.”

The book, which includes 200 photographs and 20 maps, will be sold at Northshire Books at 424 Broadway and the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore on 7 Phila St., both in Saratoga Springs. The cost is $49.95.

“We tried to use images to advance the text, and in as many cases as possible use photographs that haven’t been seen before and seen again and again,” said Horne, who also got contributions from a handful of Skidmore College students and faculty. “We’re probably not going to sell that many books outside Saratoga County, but hopefully people who live here will find it interesting and will buy the book.”

He concedes there were a few aspects of Saratoga’s vast history that were overlooked or underplayed. “There were some topics, like electoral politics, that were just too big to tackle, and other things that have been pretty well covered in other books.”

“But horse racing is woven throughout the book, and there are chapters on the Gilded Age, the city’s reinvention after World War II and other subjects that tell the story of this city and its people.”

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