UNION GABLES, Saratoga Springs, NY

Somewhere in Time

By Lead Travel Writer Renee Fontaine

12-gardens-2“Come back to me,” were the words brought to mind upon entry into this historic property. These famous words, spoken by Elise McKenna, played by Jane Seymore in the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, set the stage for a journey back in time. In the film, Richard Collier, played by Christopher Reeves, accepts Elise’s invitation and travels back to 1912 where they fall in love.

Entering this grand historic 1901 mansion conjured up feelings of romantic interludes and visions of scenes from an earlier era. So, I accepted the invitation “come back with me” letting myself be transported to “somewhere in time.”

The Mansion

I arrived on a cold January evening. A thin layer of new snow dusted the steps leading up to the spacious front porch.  My eyes were drawn to the large cozy chairs with side tables perfectly placed throughout the porch.  I imagined times past where men and women had sat on a warm summer evening lingering over a game of chess while taking pleasure in silhouettes of flowers in the landscaped gardens.

Pulling open the large wooden door, I entered the grand foyer.  My mind and spirit were drawn back to the turn of the 20th Century by the architectural perfection of this Victorian Style mansion.  Fine wood details throughout make for a graceful and historic appeal.  Ceiling beams, crown molding, a grand staircase, and the fireplace mantel, unite in artistic symmetry forming an elegant frame for this work of art.  Within the frame is a rich montage of red, green, blue and gold colors.  Antique lamps, accessories and furniture amalgamate creating a feeling that I had merged and become a part of this fine masterpiece.  I was drawn by the warm glow of the fireplace on the far wall.  Two perfectly placed chairs face the flames forming an inviting alcove on the cold winter night.

Like an elegant fan, the entry foyer flows into three inviting sections of the home. To the left, I spotted the billiard room. An Integrity carved wood pool table with red cloth top is perfectly placed in the room’s center. Paintings depicting horse racing themes accent the walls. To the right of the entry, the spacious dining area and den are combined into one warm and welcoming room. Fine antique tables, lamps, and chairs are strategically placed to create cozy nooks for guests to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea. An extravagant fireplace framed with two plush wing chairs accent the far wall.  In times past, this portion of the mansion was originally divided into two rooms:  a formal parlor for greeting guests and the family parlor.

The focal point of the main foyer, a grand staircase, leads to two full floors of guest rooms. At the base of the landing, is a finely carved antique wooden rocking horse. Ascending the grand staircase, I admired the small cozy coves on the periodic foyers – some overlooking the gardens and others, a quite hideaway to read from a favorite book.

Entering the suite, I was welcomed by the warmth and glow of the fireplace.  Every detail of the room from the antique bed frame to the artwork on the walls is authentic to the era.  As I relaxed on the large plush bed, my mind returned to the movie Somewhere in Time.  In the film, the leading man is only able to travel back in time if there is nothing of the present day in his surroundings. Observing the suite around me, I realized that the authenticity of the room is complete.  I felt as if I had indeed traveled back in time.

A Rich History12-gardens43-400x265

The next morning at breakfast the property hosts shared with me the story of this remarkable home and the area. I learned that one hundred and fourteen years of rich history permeates from this luxurious mansion. Built in 1901, the architectural design was crafted to place the windows for sunlight to brighten different sections of the mansion from dawn to dusk. The soft natural lighting throughout the day provides the perfect complement to rich woodwork and antique décor.

After servicing as a private residence for three decades, the mansion was used as the Skidmore College Dormitory for forty years. The mansion first opened as a bed and breakfast in 1992.  Major renovations in 2004 added vacation rental suites to the property. Plans are currently underway to add an outdoor swimming pool as a compliment to the meticulously landscaped gardens.

Horse Track

Each day relaxing in the Mansion was a peaceful romantic haven. My boyfriend and I would take a leisurely breakfast in the dining area, visit the sites around town, and return to play a game of pool in the billiard room in the late afternoons. Each day, I admired the various antiques and paintings on the wall recognizing the theme related to horse racing.  We learned that Saratoga Springs is best known for the Saratoga Race Course. Founded in 1863, this thoroughbred track is the oldest continuously operating sporting event of any kind in the United States.  Top horses, jockeys and trainers meet in Saratoga six weeks every year for major stakes races.

One afternoon, we visited this historic landmark. Stables and practice rings stretch for blocks on all sides of the track. The large track with a stadium on one side is still and empty during these cold winter months. Peeking through the fence, I imagined what this scene would have looked and sounded like in 1912 during summer festivities – women in long pastel summer dresses and elaborate flowered hats and men in linen suits and top hats chatting amongst themselves.  The stomping of the horses hooves are drowned out as the winning horse crosses the finish line and the crowd cheers.

The Baths

One morning at breakfast, we heard of Saratoga’s second biggest attraction: the natural mineral springs.  “The Healing Springs of the Great Spirit” is the name given to the springs by the Native Americans. Before racing began in Saratoga, the area’s natural mineral springs had been attracting summertime visitors for many decades.

Natural springs can be found throughout Saratoga.  Most of the springs are covered by small pavilions and marked by plaques. One day while passing by one such spring in the center of town, we encountered a woman who came to fill bottles with the water. She explains that her arthritis has been healed since she began drinking the water.

Others springs are less conspicuous, sometimes just a spigot in a rock. The springs are famous for their varied and distinct tastes: some are clear freshwater, other are saltier and some taste strongly of certain minerals such as sodium bicarbonate or sodium chloride. One day while walking next to the river that runs through the State Park, we encountered such a spring. We tasted the water with an unpleasant strong sulfur taste. Later we learned that even though there is a sulfur odor, mineral analysis of the water consistently shows almost no presence of dissolved sulfur because the sulfur is in a the form of a gas hydrogen sulfide, which degasses from the water  quickly.

In the 19th Century, noted doctor Simon Baruch encouraged the development of European-style spas in the United States as centers for health. Due to the wealth of mineral waters, Saratoga Springs was developed as such a spa.  The Lincoln Baths were once a place people would go to be treated with the waters. The bath house has since closed, but spa treatments, including soaking mineral baths, are available today at the Spa State Park called the Roosevelt Baths.

Ghost Stories

Wrapped in stone and colonial charm, the Olde Bryan Inn welcomed us for dinner one evening. This historic restaurant has a colorful history that dates back to 1832. The stone brick walls, wooden beams, long bar with beer mugs hanging above, permeate a feeling of the colonial era.  Our waitress, Susan, shared with us the story of the restaurant and the various families that lived on the upper floors throughout the years. The dim lighting sets the tone for the ghost stories that follow. She described that many employees and guests had seen the spirit of a woman float down from the second level in the location where the staircase once was situated. Elaborating on the history, she continued with tales of how the large rustic chandler will start moving some evenings on its own.

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While enjoying a typical colonial dinner of turkey and potatoes, we contemplated the history of this landmark and envisioned the many people who had passed through the doors, drank at the bar, and enjoyed a dinner under its roof.  In the spirit of the story, while no one was looking, we gave the chandler a slight push.  Swinging back and forth, we imaged what, if any, truth may be held in these stories.

Old Fashioned Service

The superior service offered by owner and operators Tom and Barbara made the experience of staying at this lovely property complete. They shared with me the history of this beautiful mansion and provided guidance for attractions and restaurants. Each evening they had a plate of cookies waiting on the table in the main foyer. Throughout the day, tea, coffee, and wine were available to be enjoyed in front of one of the hearths of the grand fireplaces. Each morning a full breakfast was provided in the main dining area.

Staying in the Past

In the film Somewhere in Time, Richard Collier’s stay in the past is short lived when a coin from the present breaks the spell of the past; and, he is transported back to 1980. As in the film, our stay in the past also came to an end when a present day snow storm made for an early return to New York City.  Our romantic stay in the past was as magical as the time spent between Elise and Richard in the film.  Upon leaving this historic mansion and town, we vowed to come back to journey again into the past.

Category Placement

This property was chosen for the Super Romantic Category because of the romantic appeal of the mansion and the activities in the town of Saratoga Springs. This property is also well suited for the categories of Outstandingly Located, Ultra Luxurious, and Pet Friendly.

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About Renee

Renee Fontaine is an experienced real estate/construction law attorney and international real estate adviser. She has lived for the past seven years in the Dominican Republic. Ms. Fontaine has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Caribbean and Central America. Her love for writing, languages, and travel are combined in this vacation rental travel guide. as she explores of the extraordinary vacation rentals around the world.

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