Saratoga Springs City Hall ceiling yields old papers
‘Secret library’ may hold senator’s insights to history
SARATOGA SPRINGS Nearly 90 years after his death, the powerful former state Sen. Edgar T. Brackett is still leaving his mark on Saratoga Springs — or is at least leaving a fine layer of dust on Charles Wait’s latex gloves.
This week, Wait, president and CEO of Adirondack Trust Co., and Michael King, the city’s receiver of taxes, unearthed a trove of century-old files stored above King’s office ceiling in City Hall.
The files were Brackett’s, stashed high on shelves and hidden when the city installed a drop ceiling in the 1960s in what is now the tax office but used to be Brackett’s law office.
King knew about them, and always planned to do something with the files.
“I’ve been kind of the keeper of the secret library,” he said.
With just a few days to go before his retirement today, he and Wait climbed up on Tuesday to retrieve the 50 or so books from decades of dust.
“We were filthy,” King said.
About five years ago, King pulled down one box and gave it to Wait, who spent the entire weekend reading.
“He went through every single letter and read every one,” King said. “He was really interested in it.”
Wait has a professional interest in the files because Brackett founded Adirondack Trust Co. in 1902. So Wait wants to know whether any of the papers give historical insights into the company.
Brackett’s local legacies are many.
As state senator for 15 years, he wrote the legislation that established Saratoga Spa State Park. He arranged for Saratoga Springs to take over Canfield Casino and make it a public building, Wait said.
He brokered the deal to bring the Van Raalte Knitting Mill on High Rock Avenue to Saratoga Springs, giving residents year-round jobs.
A Wilton native, Brackett also founded McGregor Links Country Club in Wilton and envisioned the community that would someday surround it,
In his day, Saratoga Springs was nicknamed “Brackett Town,” Wait said. Brackett headed the Saratoga Springs Republican Committee and the Saratoga County Republican Committee.
As a private lawyer, he successfully argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brackett’s law office in City Hall — which would be unethical today but was accepted then — had its own elevator that allowed him to access his archival files in the basement and rise to the court upstairs without using the public hallways or trudging up and down stairs.
“He pretty much got to do what he wanted, I guess,” Wait said.
It was in that office that his files sat for more than 100 years.
The papers, some typed and others handwritten in looping cursive script, date from between 1897 and 1905 and include professional correspondence and legal files.
There’s also a stenographer’s notebook or two filled with notes.
“It’s a type of shorthand they stopped using in 1915,” Wait said.
In addition to the papers, the treasure trove contained two old embossing stamps: a 1900 stamp for the Saratoga Messenger and Cab Co. and Brackett’s notary public stamp.
Wait doubts the papers will mention his grandfather, Newman E. Wait, who started working for the bank in 1919 and became president in 1937.
Before Charles Wait became president in 1984, his father, Newman E. “Pete” Wait Jr., was president.
Wait has removed Brackett’s files to the company’s archives in the South Broadway office, where Adirondack Trust archivist Peter Hammell will comb through the thousands of pages looking for anything on the bank.
He also will digitize the documents and preserve them by placing them in acid-free boxes. When that is done, the bank will give the documents back to the city.
He wants to make the eventual digitized files available to the public, probably through the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
“There’s a year’s worth of work here, to do it right,” Wait said.
Hammell will no doubt have help, as his history-buff boss won’t be able to keep his hands — gloved, to protect the paper from skin oils that could damage it — off the files.
“We’re going to have fun with this,” Wait said.