In 1876, people went to Saratoga Springs for the waters. (Unlike Sam in “Casablanca,” they were not misinformed.) “Its mineral waters flow in exhaustless abundance from year to year; and, though given away freely to all who care to ask for them, and, in bottles or barrels, sent to every State, and half over Europe, they run to waste in countless thousands of gallons. Upon these free-flowing rivers, bubbling from the hillside, or spouting in snow-white fountains half a hundred feet into the air, Saratoga has built her faith and her hotels, and has not been disappointed. While the waters flow, Saratoga will flourish and bloom in all the glory of splendid palaces.” The springs were explained in geological terms, a collection of water percolating through porous strata of Laurentian rock to a fault, where the combination of water under pressure and carbonic acid gas forced the water to the surface. “If shut off for a moment, the gas will collect in the top of the pipe-wells in such quantities, and under such pressure, as to blow a steam-whistle….
“When first dipped from the wells, the water is limpid and pearly, and full of bubbles. That from the spouting wells gushes forth in creamy whiteness, and resembles soda-water in color and action. The gas quickly escapes, and the still water has a wonderful purity. When allowed to stand open in a glass or uncorked bottle, the transparent water becomes cloudy, a fine white skin forms on the surface, and, in a time, a reddish-brown precipitate is formed. A glass left empty, and not properly wiped dry, becomes coated with a white film of salts; and round the base of the spouting wells a white incrustation soon forms on the ground, where the spray shivers and spatters on the stones….
“In cooking, the spring waters are worse than useless, unless made into that great American insanity known as ‘hot cakes.’ None but the stupid ever eat them.”
There were at least a dozen well-known springs: Champion Spouting Spring; Crystal Spring; Empire Spring; Excelsior Spring; Geyser Spouting Spring; Hathorn Spring; High Rock Spring; Pavilion Spring; Star Spring; Triton Spring, and Union Spring. Even today, Saratoga boasts 17 public springs.