Any hotel construction takes time. Add in the fact it’s a full-scale restoration of a Victorian-age hotel and the process becomes even more painstaking.
When Richbell Capital LLC bought the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway in Saratoga Springs in 2012, the process was meant to take two years. Then, as developers began to peel back the layers, the project grew.
Richbell president Toby Mildé said if this was a ground-up project, his company could have built three hotels by now. But the Adelphi restoration is an intricate process that has required hiring masters in their trades to do each part.
“You have a lot of structural problems that we ran into,” Mildé said. “So, in short, what we had to do was build a two-story, steel-frame in the hotel and then hydraulically lift all of the floors back into place, and then reframe the hotel. So what you end up with is a building that will last for another 150 years.”
Richbell has already converted the ground floor of the old Rip Van Dam Hotel at the corner into a steakhouse called Salt & Char, which opened this summer. The company also purchased five more parcels of land down Washington Avenue.
The plan now is to open the Adelphi in the late spring of 2017, along with the properties on Washington Avenue. Richbell is OK with extending the project to preserve such a location.
“Obviously, we have taken the time to do it right, protect integrity of the historic property and really design something that we’ll be proud of, people will be excited to come stay at and will be an asset to the community and the tourism industry that comes into Saratoga,” Mildé said.
The project is receiving 40 percent of its funding through federal and state historic tax-credit programs. Without the financial help, Mildé said, the project would have been impossible to complete, but it also means they must restore the building under certain specifications.
For example, they must remake all of the original moldings around the hotel. They will also be making the front windows using the original glass and frames, and restoring the front canopy.
“The goals of the program are to preserve historic buildings, stimulate private investment, create jobs and to revitalize communities,” said Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, in a statement at an event when the federal program was announced. “We do this in partnership with the IRS and with the state Historic Preservation Offices. Sustainability is an absolute high priority of mine, and the preservation of historic buildings is a key to sustainability.”
The project has become more than a hotel renovation. Now, upon its completion, the corner of Broadway and Washington Avenue will once again become a destination for visitors to enjoy all the amenities of a resort within a bustling upstate city.
“Saratoga is lucky to have a period hotel of this stature,” said Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, president of the New York state chapter of the American Institute of Architects, in an email. “The Adelphi will be restored and enhanced to take its place as Saratoga’s crown jewel. This is a project all architects would jump at the opportunity to design.”
In the company’s original plans, the hotel would have a spa in the basement of the Adelphi. Now, one of the Washington Avenue buildings will be turned into a spa.
Richbell will also add a garden, behind the hotel, along with a ballroom for banquets and larger events, and a commissary kitchen and back offices taking up the rest of the Washington Avenue property.
Hotels along Broadway would have had most of those amenities during their heyday in the late 19th century.
However, Richbell will also be looking to update the hotel as well. The project will convert the guest rooms into suites, add a resort-style swimming pool, modern bathrooms and replace the plumbing and electric.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have some of the world’s greatest interior designers involved in this to help us really achieve that,” Mildé said. “There’s a fine line between modern comforts and ruining the integrity of the hotel. We believe we’ve been able to capture both and we have a very exciting plan for the hotel.”
Beyond interior designers, Richbell has also brought in a team that Mildé describes as first-class. Chef Gray Kunz, Chief Operations Officer Michel Ducamp and Christophe Chatron-Michaud — who Mildé described as a food-and-beverage, front-of-the-house guy — are all experienced working for hotels and restaurants around the world.
“We really are reaching out to bring in this top-notch team,” Mildé said, “as the owners and developers of the Adelphi and Salt & Char, our objective is to give them the tools and the facilities they need to be successful.”
Right now, the crew working on the project is still finishing the framework. The interior of the building is still mostly a vast sea of wood and steel beams.
But Mildé can already picture where everything will be once The Adelphi opens. He can point out where the front desk, a new restaurant and bar will be.
Soon, workers will begin to lay concrete and the project will start moving faster. For now, it’s about doing it right.
Many legends have come to the Adelphi during its 139-year history. John Morrissey, a 19th-century prizefighter and state senator credited as the founder of the Saratoga Springs horse racing meet, was a regular at the hotel before dying there in 1878.
Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in American history, made stops there as well, as did Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway.
Richbell is hoping to raise the hotel back to that status, starting in its 140th year. Hotels like the Rip Van Dam and the Grand Union are gone from Broadway, but one still remains to remind visitors to the Spa City of the era when it truly blossomed.
“Saratoga has a wonderful history of the grand hotels,” Mildé said. “It’s where people came from New York, and the same markets that we’ll be tapping back into, to come up here and take on the waters and come to the spas. It was this destination that had the largest and most expensive hotels in the world, and there’s only one left.”