Ballston Spa’s Brookside Museum in need of Christmas spirit

Official 'guardedly optimistic' after recent funding
Hats by the Winsome Wench and Annie's Originals are among the many gift items for sale at the Brookside Museum.
Hats by the Winsome Wench and Annie's Originals are among the many gift items for sale at the Brookside Museum.

Categories: Life & Arts, Saratoga County

If you enjoy mixing your holidays with some history and hats, the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa is the place to be.

Home to the Saratoga County Historical Society, Brookside Museum is currently experiencing some financial difficulties, but executive director Michelle Arthur is hopeful the historic home on Charlton Street in the village of Ballston Spa won’t have to close its doors.

The SCHS announced in October that it was in danger of closing Brookside, originally built as a hotel in 1792, if it couldn’t raise $50,000 by the end of the year. Since then the towns of Ballston and Milton have each voted to make $20,000 contributions to the museum, and that’s helped Arthur remain hopeful for the future.

“We have had an upwelling of community and municipal support, and have achieved our Phase 1 fundrasing goal of raising $50,000 while we create new business and strategic plans,” she said. “Work is underway with community and strategic partners to create a new business plan going forward that addresses the long-standing issues and changes that contributed to this situation. We will roll that out in the first quarter of 2020.”

Arthur said SCHS has raised $60,000 of the $100,000 it needs to keep Brookside open. Along with the municipal and community support, Arthur is hoping the public will visit the museum over the next week and purchase items at its annual Artisans’ Market. There are a variety of gifts for sale inside Brookside, including hats by Annie’s Originals and the Winsome Wench.

“The proceeds from the Artisans’ Market help support our programs and general operating expenses,” said Arthur. “We receive 40 percent of every purchase made. The rest goes to the local artisans and makers who participate. People can really help us by shopping at the Artisans’ Market and by becoming a member. A $100 membership will also give you membership to the North American Reciprocal Museum, NARM, which gives free admission to over 1,000 museums in the U.S. and Canada.”

Along with being a hotel, Brookside has served as a boarding house, a sanatorium and an apartment building. In 1970, it was purchased by the Saratoga County Historical Society and turned into a museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

“We have struggled financially for many years, operating at a deficit and finding a way to just barely keep going until we finally could not do so anymore,” said Arthur. “Policy-driven cuts in county and state funding over the past decade further exacerbated our deficit. But we continue to work with municipalities and we appreciate their support. Our overall outlook right now is guardedly optimistic.”

Brookside Museum will be open during the holiday season on Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For information about Brookside, visit

Santa at ESAM

The Empire State Aerosciences Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, but the real excitement will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. when Santa Claus makes a visit to the Route 50 facility in Glenville.

ESAM president Peter Russo said Santa’s visit — along with another special event, the “Candy Bomber Drop” — has attracted families to the museum for 14 years.

“It’s a very popular event and the kids love it,” said Russo. “We make an announcement when he arrives and then we bring him inside for the photographs with the kids.”

The “Candy Bomber Drop,” held with Santa Claus inside the museum, will conclude the special events around 1 p.m., but ESAM will remain open until 4 p.m.

Admission is $20 per family or $5 per person. For information, visit

Open house in Esperance

The Esperance Historical Society in Schoharie County will hold its Museum Open House on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The museum, decorated for the holiday season, is located in a historic schoolhouse at 123 Church St. in Esperance. Along with viewing the museum’s library and its various exhibits, visitors can also check out the Old Stone Presbyterian Church located next door. Society volunteer Andrea Oliver will be playing the organ inside the church sanctuary at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cookies and hot drinks will be available. The event is free and open to the public.

For information, visit the Esperance Historical Museum on Facebook.

Festival, tea on tap

Holiday events will continue throughout the next week at the Schenectady County Historical Society and Albany County Historical Association.

The SCHS, located at the former home of Dora Jackson in the Stockade section of Schenectady, currently has its annual Festival of Trees on display through Dec. 22. The event is held in conjunction with the YWCA of Northeastern NY, which has its own Christmas trees on display at its neighboring facility on Washington Avenue.

Admission is $8 for adults. Children under 12 are free. For information, visit

At the Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany, home to the Albany County Historical Society, a holiday tea will be held Saturday from 1-2:30 p.m. and again from 3-4:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Tickets are $20.

Ten Broeck Mansion will also host a free Children’s Story Hour and Art Project on Dec. 21 from 10 a.m.-noon, and the Musicians of Ma’alywck will perform in concert on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets for the concert are $20 for ACHA members and $25 for nonmembers. For information, visit



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