Month: August 2015

Stereoview of the High Rock Spring in Saratoga Springs

The High Rock Spring Flows Back to Life

Stereoview of the High Rock Spring in Saratoga SpringsThe High Rock Spring is one of the oldest and most enduring symbols of Saratoga Springs. According to local lore, healing properties of the mineral-rich waters drew the Native Americans of the region to take advantage of its strengthening properties. Some time during the 1700s, white men added their own part to the spring’s legend. The first documented white man to take the waters was Sir William Johnson in 1771. Wounded in the Battle of Lake George, Johnson was carried to spring by members of the Mohawk tribe. He drank the waters over the course of several days and experienced a remarkably quick recovery. Legend says he walked all the way home to Johnstown, though it’s more likely that he perhaps walked only part of the way (a distance of 30 miles). Regardless of how far Johnson walked, he quickly spread the word that the waters in the Saratoga area held unparalleled healing powers.

In 1773, the first structure was built near the High Rock Spring (now the location of the Olde Bryan Inn). Many notable men passed through the area, including future President of the United States George Washington in 1783. Washington (then Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army) was so impressed by High Rock Spring that he later attempted to purchase the land; unfortunately, the land was already owned by Henry Livingston and Henry Walton, two early Saratoga-area landowners.

The spring itself is rich in iron and relatively low in carbon dioxide. As it bubbled up from the earth over thousands of years, it created a mineral deposit “hump”. Pictured at the above left is a stereoview showing the High Rock Spring in its heyday of the late 19th century. During the Victorian era, taking the waters at Saratoga Springs was medically approved. The unique mineral content of each spring was recommended for different types of physical and nervous complaints. Not only could visitors improve their health by taking the waters, Saratoga Springs was also already known for its entertainments: the glittering social scene included dancing and parties, as well as horseracing and gambling. High Rock Spring sterling silver souvenir spoons - Saratoga Springs, NY

High Rock Spring became one of the most recognizable symbols of Saratoga Springs. It is depicted on the city seal, and also shows up on antique souvenirs like the late 19th century sterling silver souvenir spoons pictured at right. The sheer popularity of the springs ultimately led to their decline. The Saratoga waters were bottled and sold as patent cures. Natural gas companies also began bottling the carbon dioxide that emanated from the earth. Eventually this process damaged the water table to such an extent that by 1911, the High Rock Spring stopped flowing entirely. Of the 200 springs originally found in the area, only 17 have survived to today.

However, the High Rock Spring has been brought back to life for the city’s centennial celebrations. Over the last year, the Centennial Committee has been working to bring the city’s most notable spring back to life. The spring has been newly drilled to reach the water’s source, and plans are in the making for renovating the spring’s pavilion. The city plans to celebrate the revitalization of High Rock Spring on Saturday, September 12th, 2015 with a ceremony in honor of this unique symbol of Saratoga Springs.

Antique Japanese Swords: 19th Century Japanese Katana

A Brief History of Antique Japanese Swords

Antique Japanese Swords: 19th Century Japanese Katana

Inspired by swords imported from China and Korea, Japanese swords first appeared after 200 CE, the finest of which emerged in approximately 700 CE under the direction of Amakuni, a legendary swordsmith from the Yamato Province. In reaction to civil wars, skirmishes to attain and retain leadership, invasions from Korea and China, and Japanese invasions of Korea and China that necessitated exceptional weaponry, Amakuni and his fellow swordsmiths passionately dedicated their lives to designing the most effective, deadly blade. As a result, the long-used chokuto, or straight sword, gave way to tachi, or curved sword. Whereas the straight, single-edged chokuto could not be swiftly drawn from the sheath and was limited in the number of angles from which it could be thrust, the curved blade of the tachi could be drawn quickly and proved more efficient at attacking foes from multiple angles and while on horseback.

When battles on foot and individual conflict eventually replaced battles on horseback, however, a shorter, slightly less curved version of the tachi (the katana) was developed. Katana usually range from between two and four feet in length and are favored for their ease of use. Furthermore, the shortness of their blades allows them to be drawn more quickly and to pierce adversaries from the sharpest of angles. Katana were first crafted during the Muromachi period (1392–1573).

When purchasing an antique Japanese sword, authenticity is the foremost factor to be determined. An original will have visible grain in the steel of the blade, a true temper line made by differential tempering of the blade, a blade that is sharpened all the way to the base where it joins the hilt, and rusted tangs (projections on the blades), whereby deep black rust is indicative of the oldest swords. In other words, while rust is a detrimental feature on other types of antiques, the right kind of rust is highly-esteemed on the tang of antique Japanese swords and thus should not be tampered with.

We’re always interested in seeing antique Japanese swords and their accessories like tsuba or menuki. Please feel free to contact us if you would like us to take a look at one for you.

Antique Japanese Sword: 19th century katana temper line
The temper line can be seen on the blade of this 19th century Japanese katana
Antique Japanese Sword: inscribed tang of 19th century katana
The tang of this 19th century Japanese katana has been inscribed with a signature
William Aiken Walker - After

Restoring the William Aiken Walker Painting

William Aiken Walker - BeforeAn uncommon William Aiken Walker painting was the show-stopping surprise of our speaking event at the Malta Community Center in May this year. The painting is a beautiful example of Walker’s larger works on canvas and was a really nice find to end the day. As happens with many antiques, however, the years had not let the painting escape entirely unscathed. The William Aiken Walker painting had darkened and yellowed over the years. Oil paintings are typically sealed with a varnish that can become discolored with age. Moreover, our client’s painting also had a large four-point rip through the canvas (the damage can be seen in our image to the left). The owners of the painting approached us for advice on how best to restore it to its original beauty and we were happy to help.

Painting restoration is a very delicate process. The skill and experience of a conservator is paramount because even a “simple cleaning” is irreversible. When a rip or tear is repaired, sometimes a technique called in-painting will be required: literally repainting over the damaged surface to repair its appearance. Conservators must have years of formal training and practical experience, as well as a thorough understanding of art, art history, chemistry, and materials science.

The William Aiken Walker painting was meticulously evaluated and restored for our clients. The conservation team did a beautiful job, as you can see from the photo below:

William Aiken Walker - After
Do you have a painting you would like cleaned or restored? You can read more about the process here on our blog and on our website. Contact us via email at or call us at 518-587-8787 to set up an appointment to evaluate your painting for restoration.