Skidmore Saratoga Memory Project

Civic Life

Streets, buildings, and land divisions may be the most obvious features on a map, but each of these physical elements reflects how a community creates and uses its public and private spaces. Maps help us understand what matters to the people who live, work, and play in a town or city. The maps displayed here give a taste of some of the most enduring features of civic life – schools and voting districts, parades, and parks.

School Days

"The popular impression has been adverse to Saratoga as a place for schools--… because its educational advantages have not been adequately known."

     -- Saratoga as a National Education Center, Journal of Education, September 18, 1884, p. 187.

In 1812, the village of Saratoga Springs built its first schoolhouse, on a lot originally laid out for Gideon Putnam . Schools have been on city plans and pictorial maps of Saratoga ever since then, while maps and globes, in turn, were drawn or used in many classrooms. By constructing "one of the finest high school buildings in the state" in the 1880s, “many citizens and guests" sought to replace the “popular impression” that Saratoga Springs was “adverse… as a place for schools” with the idea that it was a “national education center.” Summer institutes as well as academic year offerings by a range of schools—the Temple Grove Seminary, Young Women’s Industrial Club (now Skidmore College), Saint Faith’s School, and Eastman Saratoga School of Business among them—suggest they had a point.

 Today, Saratoga Springs, with a vibrant public school district and private and parochial schools and as home to Skidmore College and Empire State College, still lives up to the Journal of Education’s 1884 plan, Not only are schools on city maps, but plans of school buildings and campus maps are a steady staple of Saratoga Springs' cartography diet.

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

1888 Burleigh

Commercial pictorial city maps appealed to nineteenth-century urban residents and tourists alike. This 1888 aerial view of Saratoga Springs by Troy-based lithographer L.R. Burleigh draws readers to a busy, tree-filled setting. Pictorial but realistic-looking buildings, monuments, and parks share space with an inset drawing of the Saratoga Race Track. The town water and gas works, machinery shops, a brickyard, and a cracker bakery highlight local business and infrastructure. The many religious institutions, schools, and parks emphasize Saratoga Springs’ vibrant civic institutions. Railway tracks weaving through downtown show where and how people arrived and departed on the Delaware and Hudson (D. & H. R.R.) and Falls (F.R.R.) Railroads.