Timeline: 1880-1889



By MICHAEL VEITCH, author of Foundations of Fame—Nineteenth Century Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga Springs, and turf writer for The Saratogian

An expansion of the summer race meeting in Saratoga Springs that had been gradual in the previous decade accelerated in the 1880s. The season was 34 days in 1880, or 22 days longer than in 1870, and in 1882 it reached its 19th century peak of 40 days. The meeting gradually scaled back to 30 days by the end of the decade. On the track, the high quality of sport that marked Saratoga from the start continued.

One of the greatest campaigns in racing history was that of Luke Blackburn in 1880, when he won 22 of 24 starts. That summer at Saratoga the future Hall of Famer won the Summer Handicap, United States Hotel Stakes, Grand Union Hotel Stakes, and Kenner Stakes. 

The incomparable Hindoo, another Hall of Famer, nearly duplicated Luke Blackburn the following year. In 1881, he won 18 of 20 starts. Four of them came at Saratoga: the Travers Stakes, Sequel Stakes, United States Hotel Stakes, and Kenner Stakes.

A foal of 1880, Miss Woodford, won two of America's top prizes for fillies, the Spinaway Stakes in 1882 and the Alabama Stakes in 1883. Miss Woodford, also a member of the Hall of Fame, retired in 1886 with earnings of $118,270. She was the first horse bred and raced in the United States to top the $100,000 mark in earnings.

Hanover and Emperor of Norfolk both appeared at Saratoga in 1887, and both were on their way to the Hall of Fame. Hanover, as a 3-year-old, captured the United States Hotel Stakes and later, at 5, the California Stakes and Merchants Stakes. The 2-year-old Emperor of Norfolk captured the Saratoga Stakes, Virginia Stakes, Kentucky Stakes, and Tennessee Stakes.

The great Kingston, yet another member of the Hall of Fame, was also at Saratoga during this decade, winning the Excelsior Stakes, Beverwyck Stakes, and California Stakes in 1888. He started 138 times and won a record 89 of them, finishing worse than third only four times in his career.

As the decade neared its end, developments off the track were warning signs for the future. A movement against gambling was in its early stages and gaining support among Saratogians. Monmouth Park, in New Jersey, was gaining support among wealthy owners with its high purses. And Saratoga would soon become controlled by a controversial principal owner named Gottfried Walbaum.


August 12, 1880

Luke Blackburn wins the Kenner after winning the Summer Handicap, United States Hotel, and Grand Union Prize. After losing his first race as a 3-year-old, he won 23 of his next 24 races, his only loss coming when he fell while in the lead.


August 19, 1880

Hindoo finished second to the filly Thora in the Day Boat Line. A champion at two, three, and four, he eighteen races in a row from April through August of 1881.



Woodlawn Park was created by Judge Henry Hilton. (the present day location of Skidmore College). Hilton built a large mansion and many buildings along with maintaining a park of open space, forest and wetlands. He died in 1899 and the estate was broken up and sold off in 1916.


Congress Hall adds 50 private bathrooms. This was a new luxury not known to many travelers.


July 28, 1881

Memento wins the first Spinaway.

August 11, 1881

Hindoo wins the Kenner after winning the Travers, Sequel, and United States Hotel.



Electric lights were first introduced to Broadway and Congress Park. It would be a number of years before gas was completely replaced as the means of illuminating Saratoga Springs.


Photo circa 1890's.


Spencer and Katrina Trask buy land that is now Yaddo. The Trasks made Yaddo their home and endured tragedies including a fire that destroyed the original mansion and later, the pre-mature deaths of all of their four children. The Trasks turned the estate into an artist retreat in 1900.



Railroad services from and to Saratoga improved in this period.  Saratoga Lake Railroad was built bringing visitors from town out to the Lake. Direct rail service to Boston in 1882 and expanding a trouble-track to the Schenectady railroad in 1884 increased the accessibility of Saratoga Springs and met the demand for an ever increasing tourist base.



Telephone service begins.

August 19, 1882

Miss Woodford wins the Misses' Stakes after winning the Spinaway. She was the first horse in America to amass over $100,000 In career earnings.



Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde lectures in Saratoga Springs.


August 7, 1883

Miss Woodford finishes second to Empress in the Pocahontas after winning the Alabama.



Historical Society of Saratoga Springs is organized by many prominent citizens to discuss history and share their collections. The society has evolved into the Saratoga Springs History Museum.



Home delivery of mail begins.

August 4, 1885

Racing cancelled in memory of recently deceased Ulysses S. Grant, whose body was transported that day by wagon from Wilton through Saratoga to Albany, where it would be shipped by train to its final resting place in New York City.


August 11, 1887

Hanover wins the United States Hotel. He won 32 of his 50 career starts, and was out of the money only twice.


August 19, 1887

Emperor of Norfolk wins the Tennessee after winning the Saratoga Stakes, Virginia and the Kentucky. He won ten stakes as a 2-year-old, and eight more at three before retiring with an injury.



YMCA organizes with its first home at 363 Broadway. The Y moved to 272 Broadway in the 1970's before building the current facility on West Avenue.



First appearance in town of Salvation Army.


Saratoga Athenaeum opens as Saratoga Springs first library. Patrons had to pay a fee for membership to be permitted to use the facility.



Blizzard of 1888 buries Saratoga under 50 inches of snow. This storm lasted three days and paralyzed the entire north eastern United States.


August 10, 1889

Hanover wins the Merchants' Stakes after winning the California and finishing second to the filly Los Angeles in the Excelsior.



Armory construction begins on Lake Avenue. This served as the home for Saratoga Springs' guardsmen who trained for and were sent to the Spanish American and World Wars I and II.