On Wednesday morning Mare and I walked through just part of the Canfield Casino with Charlie Kuenzel and learned so many new things we had never known before. We were only there for an hour and a half and wish we could have spent the entire day. There is so much history in the Canfield Casino that so many people do not know about… us included! Now we know just a tid-bit more, we are so lucky to have a friend like Charlie who is willing to share his knowledge with us. I wanted to share little bits about the Canfield Casino over the next few weeks. The history museum is such an amazing spot that so many people, visitors and locals alike, have never even heard of!
One of the first things Charlie pointed out to us was the age of the bricks on the outside of the building and where they came from. The original part of the building, the main “square” when looking at it from East Congress Street, was built with “Saratoga Brick”. Since this entire area used to be a lake the soil was a great clay resource and bricks could be made right here to be used on the new buildings. This clay ended up being much softer than expected and could be ruined if pressure washed today. The parts added by Canfield, the dining room and ballroom, are made with “Mechanicville Brick”. Another locally sourced resource this brick is harder and held up better.
Many of the buildings in Saratoga Springs were first built with wood frames but after a spell of horrible fires the buildings were rebuilt using bricks. If you are ever out walking around downtown with a friend and they ask “When was this building built?” if it is brick you are probably safe to say “Around 1871” since that is when most of the buildings were rebuilt or built for the first time with brick.
I should point out that the Canfield Casino was first called the Saratoga Clubhouse and was built by John Morrissey in 1870. He had a prime location on the corner of Putnam and East Congress. Anyone who was headed to the Lake or the Race Track after their morning meal had to pass by his casino. Morrissey passed away in 1878 in the Adelphi Hotel and by 1890 Canfield took over the operation, taking it to a whole new level of greatness.
Morrissey’s Clubhouse had awnings covering the windows for two purposes. One was so the men inside did not know what time it was, keeping them there longer. The other was so the people outside did not know what was going on inside. The Three floors of the Clubhouse served different purposes. The first was the entry and the small games, there was also an office. The second floor was the high stakes, only those with the proper assets were allowed on this floor. There were rooms for private card games as well as the large High Stakes Room where many of the original furnishings and artifacts can be seen today. The third floor has always been in question but it is said the rooms were used for those addicted to gambling. They would go up to the small rooms and rest then come back down to gamble again. That way they would not have to leave the casino. This idea, of keeping the men at the casino is just one of the many things I will share with you that Las Vegas later adopts.
Tune in for the next section of The Canfield Casino, Saratoga’s Unknown Gem where I will be talking about the furnishings and details in the architecture!