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Richfield Springs Village

Richfield Springs Village Hall is located at 102 West Main Street, Richfield Springs NY 13439; phone: 315‑858‑1710.

Beginnings [1]

Richfield Springs incorporated as a village in 1861 with a permanent population of approximately 400. In 1870, a branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was brought to the southern edge of the village to facilitate transportation to the resort from major urban centers in the Northeast and Midwest. The railroad heralded a new era of growth and wealth in the village which continued into the first decade of the twentieth century. New hotels and boarding houses were built to accommodate the 2000-3000 guests which arrived each summer, and expensive summer estates were built in and around the village by prominent industrialists and businessmen, including Cyrus McCormick of McCormick Harvester Co., forerunner of International Harvester. By 1890, the year-round population of the village had increased four-fold to more than 1600 residents. Although the medicinal qualities of the sulphur springs continued to be a significant attraction, the village became an important part of the summer social scene for individuals of wealth. Among the more prominent summer residents and guests of the resort were Richard C. Croker, the infamous boss of New York's Tammany Hall, generals George McClellan and Joe Hooker, Admiral George Dewey, inventor Thomas Edison and writer Oscar Wilde. In addition to lavish private entertainment, social activities included the track, a daily coaching parade, tennis, cycling, rollerskating, golf, baseball, card playing, dancing, music and summer theatre. At least one hotel, the Spring House, maintained a landscaped pleasure ground and arboretum for strolling.

The sulphur springs around which the village of Richfield Springs developed were well-known to the Iroquois who used the Ganowauges (stinking waters) as a curative to treat frostbite and other ailments. The springs are believed to have been discovered by Europeans in 1754, however, the location did not become the focus of permanent settlement until the 1790s. In 1791-1792, William Tunnicliff built a sawmill and gristmill near West Main Street, and a short time later, C. Robinson established a store at the corner of West Main Street and Elm Street. The extension of the Third Great Western Turnpike through the settlement in 1808 brought greater exposure to the springs and encouraged additional development at this location including the construction of a the Richfield Hotel on West Main Street in 1816 (demolished 1955).

  1. Peckham, Mark, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, East Main Street Historic District, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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