About the Building
The Visitor Center at the Drink Hall is where your Saratoga Experience begins. Friendly volunteers & staff, local maps & brochures, information kiosks, tour guides and a short video presentation will introduce you to the history and attractions of the City and its environs. From here you are invited to take guided tours, as well as self-guided walking, biking or driving tours.
The Visitor Center was built in 1915 as a trolley station for the Hudson Valley Railway Company. The New York City architectural firm of Ludlow and Peabody designed the stucco building as a “gateway” to the City. Its Beaux-Arts design incorporates a symmetrical facade with pediment doorways framed by Doric columns and a barrel-vaulted interior ceiling. On the front of building are two bas-relief murals. The one on the right depicts the legend of Sir William Johnson being brought to the High Rock Spring in the hope of curing an old ailment. The mural on the left commemorates the surrender of British General John Burgoyne to the American forces under General Horatio Gates following the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.
The trolley system in Saratoga Springs had already reached its zenith when this station was built, offering thirty-five different trips daily from 1914-16. However, the increasing popularity of automobiles resulted in the abandonment of local routes after 1926, although service to Schenectady was maintained until 1941. The chestnut benches, brass chandeliers, ticket booth, and rear trolley platform area are reminders of the time when the building served as the most elegant station on the eastern seaboard.
New York State purchased the building and by 1941 had converted it into a “drink hall,” where after entering through a turnstile, visitors could buy bottled, state-owned mineral waters. Different waters were recommended at various times of the day. Closed in 1965, the building was finally deeded to the city. The wall murals depicting the springs, the “romance map” of the city, and a large electric icebox that stood behind the bar are artifacts from the drink hall days.
In 1974 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and was also designated a City Landmark. By the mid-1980s Saratoga Springs was designated by the State to be one of several statewide Heritage Areas. Major renovations, including interpretive exhibits, were carried out in 1991-92, resulting in the welcoming building we have today. Stocked with maps, brochures, and event calendars, the Visitor Center is an important part of any visit to Saratoga Springs.