Virtual Tours in History – Part 4
Minnie Bolster’s Saratoga Collection


Minnie Bolster  Photo:
Minnie Bolster

My aunt is Minnie Clark Bolster. She is a lifelong resident of Saratoga Springs.  Minnie began collecting Saratoga antiques and memorabilia in 1958. The first item in her collection was a Saratoga bottle. Minnie’s extensive collection is displayed in her Saratoga home.

There is a narrow hallway which leads to her “Saratoga Room.” The red carpeting is from the Worden Hotel which operated on the corner of Broadway and Division Street for nearly a century. The carpeting was installed in the hotel in 1942 and was salvaged after a fire in 1961. The photo below shows the Worden Hotel circa 1900-1910.

The Worden Hotel  Photo: Library of Congress
The Worden Hotel
Photo: Library of Congress

The “Saratoga Room” is filled with the antiques and memorabilia Minnie has collected. All the books, magazines, newspapers, maps, and pamphlets are somehow related to Saratoga. Minnie’s Saratoga bottles and jugs are displayed in the “Saratoga Room.”

Minnie collects anything related to Saratoga. Every drawer in the cabinets of her “Saratoga Room” holds a bit of Saratoga history. She has silverware from some of Saratoga’s grand old hotels including the Grand Union Hotel. There are drawers of alphabetized antique postcards, including one from the United States Hotel.

Some of the more unusual antiques are Saratoga inspired printer’s blocks and Saratoga souvenirs made of Scottish Mauchline Ware. Minnie even has a box full of matchbooks from Saratoga bars and restaurants. She uses a piece of trolley track from Broadway near Spring Street as a doorstop for the “Saratoga Room.”

Grand Union Hotel 1953
Grand Union Hotel 1953

Some of my favorite items are the Saratoga hotel room keys.  Minnie’s collection includes keys from the Grand Union Hotel, The Beverly, the Congress Hotel, and the Rip Van Dam Hotel. She even has a “Leave Room Key Here” box from the United States Hotel.

In addition to horse racing, Saratoga was known as a haven for gamblers. Minnie’s collection includes a “birdcage” which was used in the game of Chuck-A-Luck. She also has a Faro board from Riley’s. Faro was a card game where players bet on the order in which the cards would appear. Riley’s was one of Saratoga’s so-called “lake houses” where illegal gambling took place from the 20’s to the 50’s.

Minnie’s home is a showplace for Saratoga signs and paintings. On her porch she displays an old Broadway street sign, the original Hall of Springs sign, and a Grand Union Hotel sign which states “Chairs on this Veranda are for the use of the Guests of the Grand Union and Their Friends Exclusively.”

Minnie's Book "Collecting Saratoga"  Photo:
Minnie’s Book “Collecting Saratoga”

The Saratoga themed art in her living room includes the an architectural drawing of the United States Hotel and a painting of Convention Hall. Also in the living room are two chairs from the Grand Union Hotel. Upstairs she displays the Grand Union Hotel’s bellhop bench. Originally built as a boarding house in 1802, the Grand Union Hotel was once one of the world’s largest hotels. The Grand Union Hotel was demolished in 1953.

Minnie has written and self-published three books about Saratoga. Her 2012 book Collecting Saratoga: The Adventures of Minnie Clark Bolster is about the experience of creating her unique Saratoga collection. Her other books are 2007’s A Saratoga Original: Clarence Knapp and Those He Met Along the Way and 2010’s Saratoga: The Way We Were and What They Said About Us, 1822-1896 .

For Minnie, collecting Saratoga has been a lifelong passion.


Minnie Clark Bolster, Collecting Saratoga: The Adventures of Minnie Clark Bolster,” 2012.

The Worden Hotel, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. circa 1900. Accessed 12.13.15. “The Worden Hotel, Then and Now.” Accessed 12.13.15. “Grand Union Hotel from Congress Park 1952.” Accessed 12.13.15. “Grand Union Hotel Saratoga Springs, NY.” Accessed 12.13.15.,_New_York%29 “How to Play Chuck-A-Luck. Accessed 12.13.15. “Preservation Matters: Author unveils mystery of the burning of Piping Rock Casino at annual meeting. Accessed 12.13.15.

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