In our previous post about Saratoga summer reading, we highlighted several book options for learning about John Morrissey, the Irish-born pugilist from nearby Troy who founded the Saratoga track. Aside from the race course, we recently visited other sites around town that continue to honor Morrissey’s memory.
The building known as Canfield Casino in Congress Park that houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum was the site of Morrissey’s casino that he established in 1870, called the Saratoga Club House. An illegal gambling house, rules that enabled its operations included that only men could gamble, no gambling occurred on Sundays and no local residents were allowed.
On the second floor of the museum is the original location of the High Stakes gambling room for high rollers only. On this floor and in the gambling room visitors will find various Morrissey artifacts such as portraits, letter correspondence with a Saratoga Racing Association admission badge from 1877 (see photo), and monogrammed “JM” furniture, including chairs and an original newspaper rack that was from the first-floor library and reading room. Women were not allowed upstairs in the gambling room of course, but they could visit the library downstairs!
Morrissey spent his last days at the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway, passing away there from pneumonia in 1878. First opening in 1877, the historic hotel underwent a five-year renovation with a reopening in 2017 that included the addition of the lobby bar called Morrissey’s Lounge–where racing is appropriately always on the TV.
Finally, coming up tomorrow on Saratoga’s Friday, August 12th card, Morrissey is memorialized by the 3rd race: the John Morrissey Handicap, a 6F race on dirt for New York-bred three-years-olds and upward.