When expensive retreats to rural medicinal spas were fashionable for a certain class of New Yorkers, Sharon Springs was a destination.
Today the town’s sulfur baths and springs are closed, but the town is still open, groomed and quite hospitable for those who care to stop. Its inherent charm is perhaps the last and truest vestige of Sharon Springs’ tourist economy, that is, until one peeks deeper into the overgrown hills that line Pavilion Street.
Behind a street sign that incorrectly reads ‘Alder Ave’ rests the last of the town’s great resorts, one that dates back to 1927. Painted above the door are the words: Hotel Adler & Spa. Splashed across the building, however, are signs of neglect.
I wouldn’t have guessed it only closed in 2004.
As horse racing at Saratoga Springs, NY grew in prominence and popularity, as did the vacancies in Sharon Springs, NY. Sharon’s simple sulfur springs found it difficult to compete; sulpher bubbles up naturally through some of the town’s natural water springs. Bathing in sulfur water was thought to relieve the symptoms of back pain and some skin disorders. The fumes would also be inhaled for medically vague reasons, though the practice was very popular in the early 20th century. In spite of its loss of much of its clientele, the town soon found a niche market.
After the 1940s, some hotels in the area began offering Kosher menus to great effect; soon, all the hotels in Sharon marketed themselves to Jews. Hotel Adler’s 150 rooms were again filled. But the economic downturn of the early 2000s hit the vacation industry very hard, closing all of the great hotels in this “Historic Spa Village,” as the National Historic Register now calls it.
Hope for Development
Hope came to the town when a Korean-American company purchased The Adler along with local sulfur baths and a handful of smaller hotels. They announced plans of a massive effort to repair and remodel the town’s historic buildings and image, restoring the image and economy of the now-too-quiet town. Work was supposed to commence in 2008—now it’s 2012 and nobody in town has seen a single contractor trailer or dump truck.
Standing in the Adler drop-off zone, a local couple drove up to check in on the building and expressed to me their dismay that the buildings were being left to rot when they could be repaired. Fortunately for all parties, it’s not too late to stabilize the Adler; the $250,000 in 1927 went a long way when the resort was built… heck, the roof is even in decent shape from what I saw.
Hopefully as the economy turns around there will be a more reliable reinvestment in historical properties such as this, and Sharon Springs wake up and go back to work as a famous little tourist destination. May I also suggest that the new holistic medicine movement could be exploited, should the sulfur springs be reopened.
Hell, maybe I’ll even book a room for the Adler’s centennial! Well, only if they leave a room for me with the hypnotizingly reflective wallpaper and lipstick-red shag carpet.
If you’re in town, I highly recommend the local Sharon Springs museum, too. It’s just down the main drag from Hotel Adler and had many interesting pieces documenting the tourism booms and busts and their impacts on the town over the last century.