Gideon Putnam: A Citizen of Saratoga Springs

The Promise of a New Nation

Congress Spring 1792 1789 was an important year for America- and for Gideon Putnam.

Gideon Putnam and his wife Doanda arrived in this area during the same year that George Washington took office as America’s first president.  At that time the “town” consisted of a handful of rude log cabins in the forest near the large mineral dome that marked High Rock Springs.

Putnam erected a sawmill and began harvesting the area’s plentiful timber, shipping barrel staves and shingles down the Hudson River towards New York City.

During the 1790’s, Gideon and Doanda’s family rapidly increased in size, as did Gideon’s wealth.  In 1802 he purchased land near Congress Spring (in what is now the city center), and constructed the Putnam Tavern and Boarding House.

Success at filling the tavern’s guest rooms had convinced Putnam by 1810 to enlarge the building further, resulting in a renovated structure, which he named “Union Hall.”  He then commenced work on a second hotel called “Congress Hall.”

Quite A Tale

Putnam and the Wolf The sign outside Gideon and Doanda’s tavern actually celebrated Gideon’s cousin Israel, who once extracted a predatory wolf from its den near his boyhood home.

This memorable sign apparently helped plenty of visitors find their way to lodgings at the Putnam Tavern.

A Vision for Saratoga Springs

Overview of Broadway Gideon Putnam saw the potential for building a great community around a natural attraction.

By the time of his untimely death at age 49 in 1812 (from injuries suffered during construction of Congress Hall), Gideon Putnam had built a tavern, enlarged it into a hotel, tubed and improved several springs, laid out a main street, and donated land for a church, a school, and a cemetery.

He believed fervently in the future of Saratoga Springs.  Ironically, he was the first individual to be laid to rest in the burying ground he created.

Gideon’s widow Doanda and several children remained in the community, completing work on Congress Hall and continuing to operate Union Hall.  Meanwhile, other entrepreneurs built rival hotels, and more amenities intended to draw visitors appeared.

Despite serious competition for a time from nearby rival Ballston Spa, Saratoga Springs had emerged by midcentury as one of the nation’s most popular resort attractions - success that would have astonished even Gideon Putnam.

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"It was a lovely and gracious resort and I wished that I had more time there. It was very convenient to the town of Saratoga Springs and the Victorian street festival was a bonus. I live in an area that has mostly national retailers and it was refreshing to be able to shop in so many unique local retailers."  ”

– Eileen