Theodore Roosevelt spent a bit of time in Saratoga County, particularly in the years leading up to and including his time as Governor of New York (1899-1900).
TR would often visit a friend, Guy Baker, who lived in Ballston. He hunted on Baker’s Hawkwood estate and sometimes brought members of his family for short visits with the Bakers.
On one visit, TR brought his daughter Alice and she accidentally fell into a horse’s trough. Roosevelt picked her up, cleaned her off, and they went about the rest of their day.
Guy Baker’s brother, William Bliss Baker, was a renowned artist with a studio on Ballston Lake. William Bliss Baker died tragically in 1886 at age 26 at his father’s house in Hoosick Falls.
In 1904, Guy Baker married Louise Irene Palma Di Cesnola, known as “The Countess.” Louise Irene’s father, Luigi Palma de Cesnola, was an amateur archeologist and a veteran of the Civil War who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war, he became U.S. Consul at Cyprus and was the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Bakers made Hawkwood mansion into a grand estate: a place for entertaining on a large farm with locust trees all around the mansion. What remains of Hawkwood is in Anchor Diamond Park, at the corner of Route 50 and Middleline Road in Ballston. The park includes five miles of trails for walking or cross country skiing. Interpretive signs tell the story of the site. It’s free and open dawn to dusk.
You can see a video about an archeological dig that took place at Hawkwood in 2016 here.
Rick Reynolds has been the Ballston Town Historian since 2004. He is a retired social studies teacher at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Middle school and is the author of the book From Wilderness to Community: The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District. Rick can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo of Hawkwood circa 1900.