Indomitable spirits are reviving the resort culture of Sharon Springs, in Schoharie County. Long known for its magnesium water, iron-rich water, sulfur water and bluestone water for healing the eyes, Sharon Springs is taking on a 21st century approach aimed at succoring well-being and relaxation.
In and around the village, vestiges of the old landscape — where magnificent large hotels are now defunct — can still be seen. But, a closer look reveals a pleasing transformation.
It has been said that the spa heyday began in year 1825, when David Eldredge established a boarding house near the mineral springs, sparking an interest in the area. More boarding houses and large hotels were built. The elite swarmed to the spas for pampering.
By the second half of the 19th century, Sharon Springs was home to more than 60 hotels and rooming houses. More than 10,000 visitors would flock to the village each summer to relax in a bathhouse, receive a mud bath, or take a hike through the woods.
A series of events culminated in plummeting business in Sharon Springs in the 20th century. With the advent of the automobile, visitors drove elsewhere to new resorts. Scientific discoveries revealed improved treatments. Society was taking on the habit of eating processed food and going to the local gym to work off the calories — too busy to drive to Sharon Springs.
The bustling village de-bustled.
But again, a series of events culminated and has caused a return of businesses to Sharon Springs. The results of scarfing down fast food and sitting too much in front of the TV went against the grain of well-being. The minds of society started waking up to the fact we need to get out in the great outdoors. We need to know where our food comes from. We need to get to know one another and appreciate our talents.
THOUGHTFUL FOOD FOR THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE
Dr. Holly Shulman, owner of Ceralink, based in Troy, took the afternoon to visit Sharon Springs. “I met a friend from Delhi at the Black Cat Café,” Shulman. “It’s been a while since my friend and I have seen one another and it was time to catch up, without distractions. So we met in Sharon Springs.”
The Black Cat Café menu boasts Lebanese potato salad, homemade corned beef, applewood-smoked bacon and curried chicken. Vegetarian and vegan foodstuff, along with tempting desserts, bring in those who wish to satisfy their appetites with wholesome ingredients and conversation.
Sharon Springs exudes a casual welcoming atmosphere. Also at the Café was heard, “Our friends, Joan Schwarz and Lorna Eaker invited my wife and me to lunch after church today,” said Art Durham, guest minister at Kingdom Hall on county Route 5. Along with his wife, Jeanett Durham, everyone was discussing godly wisdom in a scientific world.
After lunch, Shulman walked to the newest store, Sustainables, and purchased lamb and honey. Sustainables, owned and operated by Caroline Foote, sells a stash of items aimed at healthy living. “Local farmers bring their organic and grass-fed meat in to sell,” Foote said. Sustainables also offers granola, honey, nuts, dairy and even pottery. The store targets a traditional-food market where the customer can learn the origin of the food they are purchasing.
THE BEEKMAN BUZZ
Next door is the Beekman Boys 1802 building. After losing their jobs in New York City during the 2008 economic crunch, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell riveted their attention on prospering in Sharon Springs, buying and fixing up an old farmhouse. Eating what they grow and making food from scratch has become their forte. Staunch, clean-cut and a whirl of activity, the self-styled “Beekman Boys” rapidly became famous for goat-cheese items, blogging and cookery.
“Recipe development for all our cookbooks and the Beekman1802.com website come from the farmhouse kitchen,” Ridge said. “Product development often starts in the commercial kitchen which is a part of our cheese aging facility.”
The cheese that started it all for the Beekman Boys is the Blaak cheese, an Italian style semi-hard cheese made from a 60/40 mix of goat and cow milk. The mix provides a mild yet distinct flavor. This rare cheese is aged for three months in caves and coated with ash at each turning to promote ripening of the wheel.
One of the top three sellers, Blaak Drizzle, is a reduction of balsamic vinegar, figs and the native elderberries that grow wild around Beekman 1802 Farm and all over New York state. “It’s wonderful drizzled over our Blaak cheese but is also fantastic on salads, vegetables, fresh berries, and even ice cream,” Ridge said. “There’s almost nothing that a customer has not tried it on and reported back.”
The Beekman Boys are gathering garden seeds and will start planting in the basement the seeds for those plants that need longer growing seasons. “We use a system of growing lights and heated pads,” Ridge said.
In 2012, the Beekman Boys competed in and won the grand prize on CBS’s reality television show “The Amazing Race,” traveling a 45,000-mile race around the world through 12 cities in nine countries.
Unafraid to tackle wellness in the 21st century, residents have made the conscious decision to impact the health of the people and the health of Sharon Springs in the post-modern era.
Higher levels of spa treatments have developed over the last century, bringing a new fresh look to Sharon Springs. Spring House Spa, owned and operated by Cheryl Rosen, licensed massage therapist, reinstates traditional therapy with products of the highest quality, containing as many natural and organic ingredients as possible to reduce the toxic load on the body.
With gift certificates in hand, Sandi and Jami Sherman walked into the Spring House Spa as clients. “We signed up for a facial and massage,” Sandi Sherman said. “The treatments feel good.”
Spring House Spa uses items such as Herbal Organic Skin Care products to nourish, strengthen and protect skin.
Services also include facials, sports massage, mother-to-be massage, deep tissue and aromatherapy massage. Body wraps, reflexology and hydrating foot treatments and so on add to the mission of supporting clients to maintain a low stress and healthy lifestyle.
Inside the Spring House Spa is a gallery with photos from the past displayed professionally on the wall, showing the village’s picturesque history. History books, produced by The Sharon Springs Historical Society, were also for sell.
RESCUING THE PAST
Near the Spring House Spa is the American Hotel, established in 1847, but abandoned 30 years ago. At the end of the 20th century, partners, Garth Roberts and Doug Plummer, purchased and saved the property from almost certain demolition. After four years of extensive renovation, The American Hotel and Restaurant reopened summer of 2001.
Going through an album of before-and-after pictures, Plummer said, “The roof was collapsed, the foundation was in terrible shape, and toilets had fallen through floors.” Undaunted, the men cleaned up and hired contractors to renovate. “Black walnut trees had to be cut down for the driveway and the wood was used to build the new bar,” added Plummer, who also mayor of Sharon Springs.
Plummer said, “Investors from South Korea are set to restore the Imperial Baths on Main Street and the Columbia Hotel. Also, California investors have signed a contract to purchase the Roseboro Hotel and begin renovation this spring. Then, along with other investors, Garth Roberts and I will be transforming the Klinkhart Hall into the Sharon Springs Center for the Arts once a 501 (c) status is granted.”
The Klinkart Hall was built in 1889 and contains an auditorium upstairs, with a movie area downstairs that seats 350.
Also on Main Street is Cobbler & Company. Plummer said, “The owner, Maureen Lodies, has been here 20 years.” Cobbler & Co. is a 12 room eclectic gift shop, with items for family, friends, home, garden and entertainment.
There is more to see in historic Sharon Springs. Temples, museums and an old schoolhouse. Interested in more active pursuits? There is hiking, bicycling, dog training courses and planned runs. You can also partake in the village’s self-guided historic and architectural walking tours. The 1800s may be long gone, but the Sharon Springs of today has plenty to offer for 21st-century visitors.