The Frederick Allen Lodge, a chapter of the International Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World (I.B.P.O. of W.), has been described to me as the “last Black establishment” in Saratoga Springs, New York. This organization, focused on community building and charity initiatives, has been a part of the city of Saratoga since 1925. For 90 years, the Frederick Allen Lodge and its members have witnessed the city of Saratoga Springs undergo many changes. Elk’s member and native of Saratoga Springs, John Rockwell shares that he speaks to non-natives that say ‘Saratoga Springs has always been a white washed town’. Rockwell, a white member of the Frederick Allen Lodge, confronts this notion with stories of Saratoga Springs when it had a thriving Black community. This “collective forgetfulness”, as described by Michelle Pacquette of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, is due in part to the lack of a visible Black presence in the Saratoga Springs community. In 1962, the city of Saratoga Springs’ Urban Renewal Board was created with Donald Veitch as its leader. For the next twenty years, the buying of property, “relocating of residents, contracting for demolition, and subsequent grading and utility work, and reparceling out the land for sale” was taking place on the west side of Saratoga Springs (Saratoga County Chamber 2010). This redevelopment removed the city’s Black neighborhood and replaced it with an apartment building, a shopping center, and other commercial buildings on Congress Street. The Saratoga County Chamber acknowledges that their Urban Renewal project wasn’t without flaws: “In Saratoga's case, Congress Street had been a vibrant African-American community for several generations, and its residents were dispersed throughout the city, losing their familiar community context of churches, businesses and homes” (2010). As of 2014, the Census Bureau has suppressed data on Black owned businesses on account of there being less than three Black owned establishments in Saratoga Springs.
Frederick Allen Lodge resides at 69 Beekman Street, but the building is more than a location for a chapter of the I.B.P.O.E. of W. The lodge is the only establishment from the Congress Street neighborhood that has survived. It is the memories of this time period that fuel the members’ desires to preserve what is left of the city’s Black community. In this sense, the Elk’s lodge is the primary vessel holding the memories of a once thriving community. Memories play an important role during the urban renewal process. Collective memory informs preservation efforts. The active members of the lodge and their many supporters value that history that lives through the stories, artifacts, and charity traditions of the lodge.
Posted by Eileen Nardoza '15
Anthropology of the body and mostly focus on what is applied to the skin in terms of body paint, tattoos and piercings. These perspectives of the body and skin allow one to understand the cultural methods behind these actions. Yet, the anthropology of skin has less focus on how an individual manages the skin’s condition. The act of caring for skin is essential to understanding the role skincare plays in health and individual cultures. To understand cultural aspects of skincare, I explored skin rituals at spas in Saratoga Springs. There are many rituals behind the ways in which people go about taking care of and maintaining the quality of their skin. Human skin is a representation of the body it covers, and whatever goes on inside the body and whatever is applied to the skin itself is reflected through the condition of one’s skin.
Saratoga Springs, New York has been a destination known for its spas and mineral bath/water treatments. For over a century travelers have been coming to Saratoga to bathe and drink in the mineral waters for positive and health beneficial effects on the body and its organs. I felt studying the presence and practice of skincare in an area known for spas and skin treatments was very relevant in understanding the anthropology of skincare and skin. I conducted my research at The Roosevelt Baths and Spa in the Gideon Putnam Resort, Saratoga Botanicals and the Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness. The Roosevelt is the oldest spa in Saratoga, still practicing the mineral bath treatments. Saratoga Botanicals, a relatively new, creates their own products from organic and holistic ingredients. Saratoga Botanicals encourages the holistic lifestyle based both on what an individual puts in his or her body and on the skin. Complexions Spa, also a new spa, is both a spa and salon, emphasizing the connection between wellness, beauty and health. Their available treatments incorporate these aspects together to create an understanding in maintenance of the body in a spa setting. By researching these three spas I was exposed to the similarities and differences in old and new skincare traditions in the spa destination of Saratoga Springs.
Within the location of a day spa, skincare is a daily practice. People go to the spa to receive professional treatment for their skin and learn more about how to care for their specific skin condition. The spa acts as a transitional space for someone seeking treatment in a relaxing environment that removes them from the outside world. Engulfed in a dimly lit atmosphere with relaxing music, individuals become separated from distractions from participating in a relaxing, healthy treatment. The spa acts as a space to allow an individual to access their well-being and relax the body into a healthy state as stress or anxiety within the body may cause negative side effects to the body’s functions and condition.
Posted by Emma C. Weitzenkorn '15
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