Monday, June 24, 2013

Friends of The Saratoga Hotel, Caldwell, Idaho

JTR Collection
I had an email exchange this past week with a fella named Bert from Caldwell, ID. Bert has this cokamany idea about rebuilding the historic Saratoga Hotel that burned down in 1990. Crazy? Maybe. Seems a little far fetched but can't say as I haven't dreamed of seeing the Saratoga's resurrected across from the Steunenberg Block building on the corner of 7th & Main. It seems Bert even has a Facebook page going to support the idea. Check it out and make a comment. Click "Friends of the Saratoga" on the Facebook link below.
Friends of The Saratoga mentioned you in a comment.
Friends of The Saratoga wrote: "Welcome aboard John T. Richards Jr., thank you for chiming in and for giving us some inspiration through your writing and passion for our history."
Below is a excerpt from my trip to Boise and Caldwell for the Premier of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century at the Egyptian Theater on November 7th, 2007. Just happens I was sitting upstairs in the then Acapulco Restaurant that occupied the top floor of the Caldwell Bank & Trust building where my great grandfather Frank Steunenberg had his office. Here I am dreaming too as I gaze out the widow imagining Frank doing the same and the Saratoga right where it use to be across the street.

John imagining the Saratoga.
"For dinner Caley and I headed for the Caldwell Bank and Trust. Well not a bank anymore and the arches and nice brick work were long ago covered. It is now home to the Acapulco restaurant. The bank makes up part of the Steunenberg Block. We wanted Mexican food and this proved to be a good stop to feed both the historical and hunger needs. The downstairs where the bank was located remains vacant, hopefully the future home of a thriving business as efforts to revitalize old Caldwell and complete the Indian Creek project continues. I have an old cabinet photo of the inside of the bank with AK Steunenberg standing at the cashier’s window. It is hard to picture it now, but it looks like the original ceiling remains in tact. Upstairs in the restaurant is where Frank Steunenberg had his office and would have sat surveying the then major intersection of activity in a growing Caldwell. As we sat in the window booth staring out, I imagined the Saratoga Hotel still across the street (regrettably burned down in 1990) and Harry Orchard watching out the window from room #19 in December of 1905 with a clear view of the Governor’s office."
Caldwell Bank & Trust on the left and Saratoga Hotel on the right along with the Caldwell Band. Library of Congress.
The link below from Google maps shows the corner today where the Saratoga had been located. Click on "view larger map" and pivot the street view around to view all four corners and the train station. Nice parking lot.

View Larger Map
Just remember Bert, I have sat upstairs in the Caldwell Bank building where my great grandfather Frank Steunenberg had his office. If you ever get the Saratoga rebuilt, I would like to sit by the window there too and am putting in my reservation now for room #19 where Harry Orchard stayed while keeping his evil eyes on the governor's movements and planning his dastardly deed. I never got to do that before the Saratoga burned down. Sounds pretty crazy I know, but I like to retrace the footsteps of history as close as possible. A couple guys can always dream—can't they?

I will keep following the Indian Creek red brick road and see if it ever again leads to a Saratoga Hotel in Caldwell or just to a parking lot on an empty corner. 

Related blog posts & other links:
Monday, January 28, 2013
7th Avenue, Caldwell, Idaho pre-1906

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Caldwell Commercial Bank/Bank & Trust Co. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011
7th & Main Street Caldwell, Idaho - Panorama

Friday, August 1, 2008
Automatic Teller Bank from the Caldwell Banking & Trust Co. Ltd.

A Brief History of Caldwell

Saratoga Hotel (after the third floor was added)

Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century (you can still buy the DVD & visit the website).

Teaser: Coming soon—a few pieces of Saratoga Hotel souvenir china. I might even part with a couple if I can ever find the Saratoga Hotel again.


Tara A. Rowe said...

To begin, the only thing I could seem to say was: FOR REAL?! Luckily I have moved on to more thoughtful words.

Now, I'm not always onboard when it comes to recreating historic architecture, I'm all for preservation when possible, but the more I think about this idea the more I like it. I'm not a Facebook person; I'll have to see if I can check out the page without having an account.

John T. Richards Jr. said...

Thanks Tara. Yes, I think Bert figured my first response might be "is this guy nuts!" But having had similar dreams, I had to give it more thoughtful consideration. In addition to the non-existent Saratoga, I have at least fantasized on occasion about the still existing Steunenberg block building and the AK Steunenberg home in Caldwell. When it comes to these old buildings, it is often more cost effective to start from ground zero, as restoration, retrofitting and upgrading costs can exceed new construction. However, I would never favor tearing down a great old building for the purpose of building a duplicate. The ghosts and marks of history are forever lost. But re-creating a building that has been lost to fire, earthquake, etc., is not totally a new concept or out of the question. A few years back I did inquire about the listing price for the Steunenberg building, not even getting into all the retrofitting needed. I will need a big power ball jackpot for that to happen. However, I try to be supportive of investors that might have the ability to take on such projects or home buyers that can save some of our wonderful old Victorians. Ofter it is a labor of love even if not economically sensible. However, sure help if it is. The Idanha in Boise is a good example. If the Parklane Association had not turned the hotel into apartments, it might have suffered the urban renewal plight of so many other landmarks. I may not be able to rent a room there as a hotel but I still get to enjoy seeing it and can walk the halls as did my great grandfather before he was assassinated and many of the players in that story during the time of the Haywood trial. The AK Steunenberg house was also turned into apartments to make it feasible for the owners. Might not be my preference in terms of historical preservation but the house still exists and they have maintained the structural integrity and exterior architectural features. For that I am thankful.

In terms of Facebook, your interest will be noted by your comments here. Not a lot yet to see there as primarily a means for Bert to measure interest. Couple other folks have expressed the same in regards to not using Facebook and frankly I don't to any degree either. I think I have seven friends, my four sibs and three children, hardly ever respond through Facebook and ignore any other friend requests!

Guess I should have done a blog post as long winded but giving a lot of info for others benefit too. Thanks, John

Tara A. Rowe said...

I spent some time serving on the City of Pocatello's Historic Preservation Commission. My appreciation of those who pour money into preservation projects as a labor of love rather than a sound investment really grew during that period. Those who rebuild something (but weren't the reason the original building ceased to exist in the first place) are dedicated. There was a man in Pocatello who was once looking for investors to rebuild the Chief Theater. At first I thought he was crazy, but I eventually came around to the idea that these structures are so much more than just a building. They are memories to many people. They are the history of entire communities.

Are you at all familiar with Nampa? There is a current push to preserve the old Mercy Hospital. Lots of hearings and whatnot. It's a gorgeous building and it breaks my heart to drive past it and see how dilapidated it now is.

It's unfortunate that people in Idaho feel as they do about urban renewal districts.