If the headstones that fill Greenridge Cemetery could speak, they would tell stories about war, crime and advances in medicine and technology.
From Civil War soldiers to wealthy doctors and politicians who passed away in the area, the cemetery shows off the rich history that exists in Saratoga Springs.
As part of its summerlong efforts to keep that history alive across the city, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation held a guided walking tour Sunday, leading members and non-members of the foundation through the historical cemetery, where many of the area’s most prominent figures are buried.
The tour guides told the group of about 20 stories of the people who are buried on the grounds. Some led very interesting lives while others were said to have a spotty past.
One man was accused of beating his wife, another was arrested for killing his father. One of the people on the tour remarked: “You can’t make this stuff up, the truth is almost stranger than fiction.”
While walking on the tour, Ageo, a Saratoga Springs resident who preferred not to give his last name, was amazed by some of the decorated Civil War soldiers who are buried in the cemetery. He also took time to admire the craftsmanship that went into creating many of the markers, some of which stand at least 30 feet tall.
“These are more like monuments,” he said. “This is such a neat place.”
Ageo’s mother and father are both buried in the cemetery. His father, whom Ageo describes as a boisterous man from Austria with socialist sentiments, is buried 20 feet away from Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist famous far beyond the city’s borders.
“Now if that doesn’t show that America is truly a melting pot, I don’t know what will,” he said.
As Ageo looked at many of the names on the headstones, he saw that they were mostly of English, Irish or Scottish origin and wondered if that will change in the near future.
“If we come back in 100 years, will the people be from parts of Asia or Latin America?” he pondered.
The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation conducts 14 “Summer Strolls” through different parts of the city throughout the summer. Each is guided by a volunteer of the foundation who is armed with facts and information about the city.
Tickets are $5 for members and $8 for non-members. The money helps pay for the efforts of the foundation to preserve the city’s landscape and architecture.
Susan Brooks, a foundation volunteer, believes the tour is an inexpensive way for people to learn about the city they live in.
“These tours inspire interest in the city,” she said. “If someone can come away with one new piece of information then we did our job.”
Bob Rivers and his wife Susan Rivers have lived in Saratoga Springs for nearly two years. They see the tours as a way to learn about the city and find little nuggets of information they would have never known.
“Some of the things I find out about on these tours make me want to go the library and research them,” he said. “This is truly only the tip of the iceberg.”
“This town has some wonderful history,” she said. “The tours are a wonderful way to avail yourself of that information.”