With the changing of the seasons, the brilliant foliage, and Halloween upon us, this seemed an appropriate time to explore our very own Saratoga Springs History Museum, located in the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. I met recently with Jamie Parillo, the director of the museum, who shared with me some facts about the museum, as well as the story of Reubena Walworth who is said to haunt the museum.
“People say they see a woman in white who goes from room to room, and many of us believe that it’s Reubena Walworth, the daughter of Ellen Hardin Walworth. She was a nurse who took care of American soldiers during the Spanish-American War in the typhoid camps down on Long Island. She contracted typhoid, passed away and then was brought back to Saratoga and buried with full military honors here in Greenridge. The Walworth house was on Broadway and, when it was torn down, there was one last family member who was living in there, Clara Walworth. Clara was Ellen Hardin Walworth’s granddaughter. When Clara was passing away, there were two nurses taking care of her and, on the night that she was dying, a third nurse came in, put her hand on Clara’s chest, and the other two nurses looked at her like, “who are you?” Clara took her last breath and passed away. The nurse stood back, pushed her blond hair aside, and the other two knew who Reubena was from photographs. They said she was in an old nursing uniform, that it was Reubena, and she disappeared when Clara died.
So now we think, with all these Walworth family possessions here [in the museum], that it’s possibly Reubena who roams from room to room. A number of people have seen her in the hallways and moving up and down the staircases. I have never seen her, I have never seen a ghost in the building, but I’ve been touched. I’ve had doors fly open and closed.”
Photo of Reubena Walworth, provided by the Saratoga Springs History Museum
The Museum was founded in 1883 as the Saratoga Historical Society. One of the founders was Ellen Hardin Walworth (mentioned in the story above), who was one of the original founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
All information here was obtained from the Saratoga Springs History Museum website and any quotes were taken directly from the site.
The museum occupies three floors, and is located within the Canfield Casino, a designated National Landmark. The first floor contains the Orientation Gallery, which guides visitors through the history of Saratoga, and discusses the topics of Geology, Settlement and Development, Commerce and Transportation, Community Life, and Recreation/Entertainment.
Moving up to the second floor, guests enter the Canfield Casino High Stakes Gambling Room. The Casino was built in 1870, and the gambling room was added in 1871. “When the Canfield Casino was in operation, the High Stakes room was for the elite of the elite. Bets in this upstairs parlor ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, the High Stakes Room is preserved with much of the original furniture from the Casino.”
Also located on this floor is the exhibit entitled, “Death Becomes Her: Victorian Mourning Rituals Expressed Through Art and Design,” which covers the years 1852-1915 and focuses on the costume and artistry associated with middle and upper-class mourning etiquette. Across the hall from this exhibit is “Internationally Famous: An Exhibition Celebrating the Creative, Bohemian Lives of Celebrity Photographer, Cris Alexander, and his Husband, NYC Ballet Dancer, Shaun O’Brien.” This exhibition features over 230 celebrity photographs by Cris Alexander, portraying their lives together for 65 years.
Photos of "Death Becomes Her: Victorian Mourning Rituals Expressed Through Art and Design
Photos of "Internationally Famous: An Exhibition Celebrating the Creative, Bohemian Lives of Celebrity Photographer, Cris Alexander, and his Husband, NYC Ballet Dancer, Shaun O'Brien"
New to the museum as of July 2019 is the permanent exhibit, "Taking The Waters: The Mineral Springs of Saratoga." Located on the third floor, this is an eye-catching room of vivid blues that chronicles the history of the famous Saratoga spring waters through descriptive stories, photos, memorabilia and glass bottles.
Beyond this lies the Walworth Memorial Museum which documents the history of the Walworth family and tells the story of a lifetime of tragedy (a son killing his father), as well as the joys and accomplishments of the family. When Clara Walworth (the last occupant of the mansion) passed, the legacy and memory of her family were preserved via a provision in her will. All of the family furnishings and possessions were relocated to the Canfield Casino and the Walworth Memorial Museum opened in 1955.
The museum is currently open Wednesday-Sunday from 10-4 (open daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day), and admission is $8/adults, $7/seniors and $5/students. For additional information, head to their website, or call 518-584-6920.