Clausen Farm is located in Sharon Springs, NY, which is recognized on both the National Register of Historic Places and the New York State’s Register of Historic Places as an historic spa village. The area is home to natural sulfur, magnesium, and chalybeate mineral springs. It was settled by Britain in 1780 following their acquisition of French territory in North America at the end of the French and Indian Wars and following Britain’s Royal Proclamation of 1763, which was designed to calm the fears of Native Americans by halting the western expansion by colonists while expanding their own lucrative fur trade with the Indian Population. Sharon Springs, then known as New Dorlach, lay near the westernmost reaches of the original Thirteen Colonies and very near Indian territory.
Prior to being settled by Great Britain as part of its Province of New York, the Sharon Springs area was frequented by the indigenous Iroquois Indian population for its healing waters. During the nineteenth century, belief in the health benefits of drinking and bathing in mineral waters was at its peak, resulting in a branch of medicine called hydropathy. This interest also resulted in the development of many mineral water spa resorts, offering health treatment in an atmosphere of relaxation and social entertainment. New York was home to approximately 130 mineral springs, more than any other state with the exception of Virginia. Resort communities grew up around these springs, of which Sharon Springs was one. These mineral spas acquired a social status, and wealthy families annually toured the springs communities seeking the “water cure.”
The development of Sharon Springs as a mineral water spa began in 1825. The community benefited from its location on the Great Western Turnpike, and the Utica/Schenectady Railroad, completed in 1836, provided the first nearby rail connection. Construction of large resort hotels followed, including the large Pavilion Hotel, the Greek Revival-style American Hotel, and the Howland House (now part of the Roseboro Hotel). Sharon Springs experienced rapid growth during this period and achieved the zenith of its popularity as a fashionable resort for the nation’ s social elite during the 1870s-1880s. It hosted 10,000 visitors each summer, among them prominent families such as the Vanderbilts, the Van Rensselaers, the Roosevelts, the Macys, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde, who gave a lecture at the now-demolished Pavilion Hotel on August 11, 1882.
By the late nineteenth century, New York’s Mohawk River Valley, where Sharon Springs is located, had also become the largest hops-producing region in the United States, producing 80% of America’s hops at that time. Many year-round residents of the area were hops farmers, who took advantage of the Erie Canal to send boatloads of the cash crop to New York City, then the beer capital of the US. Hops also made Sharon Springs popular with New York City’s wealthy beer barons who came to the area to mix business with pleasure, one of whom was Henry Clausen, Jr., of H. Clausen & Son Brewing Co.
Clausen Farm was purchased in 1890 by Henry Clausen, Jr., who was also a Founder and President of the American Brewers Association. The estate was located on the Great Western Turnpike (present US Route 20) and was comprised at the time of an Italianate- style farmhouse and a small Greek revival house. Clausen, who used the retreat as his summer home, more than doubled the size of the Farmhouse and, for his male guests, built a Shingle-styled Casino, which included its own 19th century Kegelbahn, which is a German-style single-lane bowling alley, a gymnasium, a card room, guest quarters, and a three-story circular turret overlooking the Mohawk Valley. The estate grew to include Victorian stables and carriage barns, a tenant house, water tower, smokehouse, swimming pool, and tennis court.
Despite the brewers, their estates, and the natural mineral springs, Sharon Springs began slipping in social prominence by the 1900s, due to the general decline in the popularity of the “water cure” as well as the opening of rival resorts such as Saratoga Springs, which offered recreational attractions such as horse racing and gambling. In the early 1900s, Sharon Springs developed a new identity as a European immigrant resort and continued to host visitors such as Holocaust survivors, who enjoyed therapeutic spa vacations there as a part of West Germany’s medical package. Later, in the 1970s, Sharon Springs became popular with Jewish tourists visiting Hasidim-owned hotels in the village as well as with suburban and urban deer and wild turkey hunters.
The Sharon Springs area has enjoyed a resurgence in the last fifteen years due to both a stabilization of the remaining historic structures and an infusion of ambitious buyers from outside the area looking for an affordable area to start a business. There has been a steady stream of affluent, educated New York City dwellers buying homes in the area to enjoy rural weekends away from their city life. Adding to the appeal of the area is a surge of interest by well-heeled buyers in ‘heritage tourism’—the quest for all things historic. Low real estate prices, successful startups, and positive press have all contributed to the area’s surge in popularity and to an influx of entrepreneurs, artisans, and artists, including the “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” who fled their NYC life to buy a local estate and turned their win on the reality show the Amazing Race into their own reality show covering the renovation and renewal of their Sharon Springs farm.
Clausen Farm is located at the center of this rebirth. The estate remained in the Clausen family until its sale in 2010. It served as a Bed and Breakfast until 2008 and was subsequently purchased by Yvonne Gardner, who has recognized both the beauty and the potential of this historic property. She wishes to bring it back to its original splendor but with 21st century touches and event potential.