SARATOGA SPRINGS — The eastern end of Madison Avenue is a quiet spot most of the year, the nearby horse barns empty except for the few days each summer when Fasig-Tipton Co. holds its prestigious yearling racehorse auctions, where future racing stars are bought and sold.
The one-family house at 33 Madison Ave. next to the Fasig-Tipton barns is just shy of a century old, but has a unique history closely tied to the auction house and its barns, which sit on land adjacent to New York Racing Association property, part of Saratoga Race Course. The location is within the Saratoga Springs East Side Historic District, designed to preserve a late-19th-century charm.
The Saratoga yearling sales are one of the premier horse auctions in the world, drawing bidders from around the globe. The Saratoga auction made its reputation when the legendary Man O’War sold there in 1918, but it has sold other horses that became household names, including 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Prices at the auctions can top $1 million for a young thoroughbed with good bloodlines.
During the brief weeks around the auction, the barns found on two sides of 33 Madison are beehives of activity, though the rest of the year is quiet.
“It’s like having a farm without having to do any of the work,” said homeowner Jane Sanzen, a real estate broker for Julie & Co. Realty in Saratoga Springs.
The two-story house — described as either American Foursquare or Colonial Revival-style architecture — has three bedrooms and and a half baths. It was built in 1921 for Emory Jones, a salesman and superintendent for Fasig-Tipton, just a few years after the Saratoga auction was established. It includes a large enclosed outdoor porch where Fasig-Tipton hosted parties for wealthy clients.
“Drinks were passed out through a window,” Sanzen said.
The 90-by-150-foot building lot was one of 56 lots laid out in 1871 by J.W. Mott of Wellington Properties, as part of a larger plan for homes on the city’s East Side close to the track. The streets involved were originally named after Mott’s sons, but were changed to Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue — after the two major avenues in New York City — because they sounded more prestigious.
Fasig-Tipton eventually sold the house and it went through a succession of owners until Fasig-Tipton bought it back in 1968, using it during the thoroughbred racing meet as a home for some of its directors as well as for entertaining. One of the company’s blood stock agents was living in the house when Sanzen and her former husband, Richard, purchased it for $205,000 in 1995 — a good price for a choice location.
“It was in terrible shape,” she recalled.
Much love and renovation later, everything about the house structure is still original, except for a kitchen modernization in 2018. The floors are original. There is lead tracery that adds a delicate touch on the top of each window, and those windows remain original, even though it means the coming of winter still requires installation of storm windows. Sanzen has also furnished the house with a number of period antiques, giving the interior a historic feel.
Like many Saratogians who live near Saratoga Race Course, Sanzen — in a normal year — rents her house out for just a few weeks during the racing season and Fasig-Tipton Sales, making a handy sum.
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As a real estate broker, Sanzen specializes in the city’s historic districts although she sells all types of real estate. The historic district system, which the city established in 1977, is intended to preserve the character of the neighborhoods that give the city its charm, including North Broadway, Union Avenue, the East Side, Broadway, and the Congress Park area.
“I convey to my interested clients that historic homes offer features you simply won’t find in modern counterparts and they connect to the larger history of Saratoga Springs,” Sanzen said. “Improvements made contribute to Saratoga Springs’ current well-being and shore up its long-term legacy. Historic homes are coveted and unique, making them less vulnerable to housing slumps.”
Homes in the historic districts are also generally within walking distance of downtown, where the dining and entertainment options are numerous.
“My clients want to be able to walk their neighborhoods,” Sanzen said. “Suburbs have really destroyed neighborhoods. People don’t know their neighbors.”
As a potential downside, people who live in one of Saratoga Springs’ historic districts do have to go through a city review process — the Design Review Commission — if they are making any exterior changes to their properties.
“Historic homes do need a lot of care,” she said.
Overall, though, Sanzen considers the investment worth it, especially given the location — within a 10-minute walk of downtown.
“It’s very peaceful over here,” Sanzen said. “You don’t even know you’re in the city.”
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