SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Thursday, the owners of Longfellows Hotel, Restaurant, and Conference Center officially announced that the business will be closing. Longfellows’ last day will be Saturday, January 21, 2023.
Co-owners Steve and Yvonne Sullivan, and David Powers said they accepted an offer from a group of investors/operators to buy the property. “After almost 50 years in hospitality, it’s time to step back,” said Steve Sullivan.
Longfellows, and the property on which it now stands, has a long history in Saratoga Springs. Dating all the way back to the 1700s, the land on and around 500 Union Avenue has had several different owners and hasn’t always been a hotel and restaurant.
NEWS10’s Sara Rizzo took a trip to the Saratoga Room in the Saratoga Springs Public Library to find out more about Longfellows’ history. Included in the Longfellows folder were two sheets, one about its history and one titled “Ghostly Tales,” both of which appeared to be published by Longfellows themselves, said Local History Librarian Lorie Wies.
According to Wies, the early history published by Longfellows was incorrect. She provided NEWS10 with a rundown of the more accurate history.
Its history started with the Kayaderosseras Patent around the year 1700. This patent included about 800,000 acres of land and spanned from what is now Amsterdam to Glens Falls to Clifton Park, said Weis.
Peter Schyler and Robert Livingston got a deed to the Kayaderosseras Patent in the early 1700s. However, then-New York and New Jersey Governor Cornbury rejected the deed, said Weis. In 1704, Sampson Broughton, the Attorney General for the Province of New York, asked Governor Cornbury if he could get the deed for the Kayaderosseras Patent from the Native Americans, and the governor said yes.
It took Broughton four years to get the deed from the Natives, said Weis. In 1709, Governor Cornbury signed the Kayaderosseras Patent but was soon after arrested and sent back to England. The land then sat unsettled for 50 years since no one knew what to do with it, said Weis. During that time, the Natives used the land for hunting but did not live there themselves.
During the French and Indian War in the 1760s, many soldiers going to fight in the Lake Geoge and Ticonderoga area passed through this land. Some settled there. The land was then surveyed and a lottery was held around 1771, which decided who could buy each of the 13 lots of land, said Weis.
From there, the people who bought the original lots divided and sold pieces of their land. In the Saratoga Springs area, David Abel bought 200 acres around Lake Lonely in 1795, and another 200 acres were sold to Jacobus Barhyte, which is now known as Yaddo.
Around 1850, C.B. Moon bought the land between Lake Lonely and Saratoga Lake from Abel, which is where Longfellows now stands. Across the street, he built Moon’s Lake House. Where Longfellows currently is, he built a half-mile race track called “Lake Saratoga Driving Park.”
Between 1866 and 1872, Frank Leslie bought land from Moon and Abel to build his vacation home. When he died, his wife inherited the estate and actually changed her name to Frank Leslie, said Weis. In 1895, a fire destroyed the home.
In 1915, two dairy barns were built on the current Longfellows property. It’s believed to be the first farm in New York to use the pasteurization process. In 1949, the property was bought by Louis Farone. The Farone family made improvements to the dairy barns and opened the Canterbury Restaurant in one of them.
The Canterbury also had eight rooms available for guests to sleep in. According to an article in the Times Union from 1977, the Canterbury also featured shops selling items such as leatherwork, Christmas decorations, soaps, and jewelry, a general store, as well as two other restaurants.
In 1995, the Sullivans and Powers bought the property. Longfellows Restaurant officially opened in May 1997 in the former dairy barn. In 1998, they built the Longfellows Hotel, which added 18 rooms to the existing building. In 2003, they built another building with 32 rooms and a conference center. The three also own the Old Bryan Inn, which they will continue to operate at 123 Maple Avenue in Saratoga Springs.
As for the “ghostly tales,” Weis isn’t sure they’re true at all, as she could find no other sources to confirm the information. All of the information below was published by Longfellows and may or may not be true.
When prohibition started in 1919, Doc Farone found rum was more profitable than milk. He allegedly became a “rum-running kingpin” between Canada, Albany, and New York City. The large barn became a storehouse for the alcohol. Bootleggers would then come and transport the alcohol.
Bootleggers who were allegedly caught cheating “the organization” were invited to “walk back to Owl Pond,” which was about a quarter mile behind the bars on Route 9P. It’s said that no one ever returned.
As for ghosts, Canterbury Restaurant employees in the 1960s and 1970s reported sensing “presences” and feelings of hostility in the old building. Up the road at Newman’s Lake House, a pre-World War II nightclub and gambling place, gamblers who didn’t pay their debts, some thought, paid with their lives and disappeared into Saratoga Lake. In the 1950s, a human skull was allegedly found along a fence line near the old barns.
In the mid-1990s, an elderly woman came into Longfellows and asked a waiter if there was a ghost in the restaurant. He said that several employees sometimes saw a man’s head hovering over the bar. He described the man’s face to her, and she later returned with a photo of her father who looked exactly like the man’s face. She said he owned a funeral home next door, and when he ran out of space for the bodies, he would store them in the ice house at the dairy barn until a funeral could be held.